Incidentally, this activity was undertaken at the same location where the PMC had felled around 100 trees and uprooted over 1,000 bamboo saplings in May from both sides of the river in order to channelize and concretise it.
Environmentalists had claimed that despite the Bombay High Court’s order that had put an interim stay on concretisation of all water bodies in the district, the PMC under additional city engineer, Vivek Khadwadkar went ahead and chopped down the trees without any intimation, even though permission must be sought from the environmental ministry if any activity is to be conducted near water bodies. The activists said that it was the duty of the civic authority to replant the trees as it has violated its constitutional responsibility to protect the environment.
“Chopping down a tree is an offence and if 1,100 trees are felled then as many offences should be booked. The trees that were planted in 2009 were just three to six feet tall, on which the PMC rolled a JBC machine and dumped debris to make them disappear. The tree authority should file a complaint against the officers for violation of the Tree Act under Sections 21 and 22,” said Anupam Saraph, activist from Jal Biradari, Pune.
This is a small initiative on the part of the department, which has resolved to undertake an even larger tree plantation drive and river restoration programme under the guidance of Dr Rajendra Singh, waterman, rain catcher and Magsaysay Award winner.
The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) had undertaken site inspection last year to evaluate the conditions of rivers. According to its reports, the same kind of environmental destruction, including felling of trees and channelisation had been done near Mula Mutha, Ram Nadi and other nallahs in the name of cleaning, though these water bodies come under the law that no bush or tree should be felled within 30 meters of any water body.
“The rivers are not engineered artefacts, but are natural. We’ll ensure that such shocking acts and dereliction of duty does not happen anytime in the future. We’ll take actions to redress the harmful acts against the environment and water bodies and to help residents to restore them to their natural state,” an official said.