Pune: Logistical Challenges for PMC’s 30,000 Tree Planting Initiative Along Mula-Mutha River Bank

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Pune, 13th February 2024: The Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) has embarked on an ambitious tree planting initiative as part of the Mula-Mutha river bank conservation, revival, and beautification scheme, despite grappling with space constraints. With a budget of 5 crores rupees allocated for this project, the PMC has initiated the tender process. However, concerns have emerged among environmentalists regarding the feasibility of tree planting given the limited available land.

The PMC’s proposal, submitted to the Maharashtra State Environment Impact Assessment Authority, outlines plans to plant 30,000 trees under the scheme. However, a revised report acknowledges the impact on 22,150 trees within the river’s green belt, with 11,000 trees marked for removal and an equal number set for replanting. This raises logistical and feasibility questions about executing such a large-scale tree-planting initiative, especially amidst rapid urbanization and diminishing land availability.

Despite the Maharashtra Forest (Conservation) Act mandating the planting of more trees than those affected by development projects, the PMC encounters significant hurdles in finding suitable land for replanting. Recognizing the gravity of this issue, the PMC has approached the Forest Department, requesting a minimum of 200 hectares of land for tree plantation. However, the availability of suitable land remains uncertain, particularly given legal amendments in 2021 that further restrict land allocation for tree planting purposes.

The Mula-Mutha riverfront development project, inspired by the Sabarmati river project in Gujarat, aims to undertake extensive works totalling 5 thousand crores rupees across eight phases covering a 44 km stretch of the riverbed. While the initiative garners support, environmentalists and organizations express reservations, citing concerns over potential ecological impact and the feasibility of tree planting efforts.

Rupesh Keskar, an activist, has pointed out discrepancies in the PMC’s tender process and raised concerns about the potential misuse of allocated funds. Calling for the cancellation of the tender process, Keskar underscores the need for a reassessment of the tree-planting initiative to ensure its efficacy and sustainability amidst existing challenges.