Pune Residents Upset as PMC Officials Miss Tree Removal Proposal Hearing

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Pune, 5th April 2024: Citizens who had raised objections to a proposal concerning the removal or transplantation of trees on Sinhagad Road for road widening, were left frustrated when the assistant commissioner from the local ward office of Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) and a tree authority representative failed to appear at the scheduled hearing on Thursday.

The hearing, intended to address objections filed in March this year, was supposed to take place at the Sinhagad Road ward office of PMC, with nearly 20 concerned citizens in attendance.

Ameet Singh, a city-based economist who participated in the meeting, expressed his disappointment, stating, “The recent notice from the tree authority clearly stated that failure to attend the hearing would be seen as withdrawal of objections. With the authorities themselves absent, we are concerned that our objections might be disregarded.”

Citizens voiced their apprehension that the absence of officials could be a strategic move to dismiss objections. Singh further explained, “We spent three hours trying to draw attention to our presence. Eventually, we had to involve the police to take note. Subsequently, PMC sent us an email acknowledging that our objections would not be overlooked.”

PMC plans to cut these trees citing obstruction to road widening at Navashya Maruti Chowk. Among the trees marked for removal or transplantation are six fully grown trees, aged over 25 years. One of them is a mahogany tree, claimed to be 45 years old according to PMC’s documentation, but its actual age exceeds 50 years, qualifying it as a heritage tree. According to amendments to the Maharashtra (Urban and Areas) Preservation and Protection of Trees Act, 1975, any tree older than this age should be protected by making adjustments to the design.

The trees identified for removal are native species essential to our local ecosystem, including Indian fig and almond trees. This area once boasted a lush riparian zone with ancient trees, many of which were felled for road construction. The six large trees now slated for removal are not only oxygen sources but also habitats for rich biodiversity. Their branches serve as nesting sites for numerous bird species, while their trunks and canopies support various forms of life. Cutting them disrupts this delicate ecosystem.

Assistant Municipal Commissioner Sandip Khalate refuted claims of negligence, stating, “The hearing could not proceed on Thursday as I was engaged in election-related work. The date and time of the next hearing will be communicated to citizens as soon as possible.”