Despite the initial failure of Smriti Van project, a memorial park where relatives could plant a tree in memory of their departed loved ones, it has
been learnt that the PMC plans to develop a new Smriti Van in Hadapsar using public money.
Surprisingly, neither the Social Forestry Department nor the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) officials have any records for trees planted in the previous memory park, which is now a part of the 130-acre Rajiv Gandhi Zoological Park (RGZP) in Katraj. The government had funded the initial memory park project.
Commenting on the issue, Deputy Director of social forestry department Chandrakant Tambe (Pune division) said the memory park was developed on the land owned by the department. “The project was initiated across 15 districts in 1992. But the state issued a Government Resolution (GR) in 1999, stating that the Social Forestry Department should hand over the memorial parks to the local district authorities as the project had failed to succeed,” Tambe said.
He added that the GR also mentioned that once the land was handed over to the local administration, it was the civic body’s responsibility to protect and conserve the parks. But like the forest department, even the civic body failed to maintain the record of tress planted in these parks. “It was a decade ago when the Social Forestry Department handed over the project to us.
Moreover, there are other trees planted in the zoo and therefore it is impossible to identify trees are planted in the memory of the deceased by their relatives,” RGZP Director Rajkumar Jadhav said. Trying to wash away his hands from answering the question about the missing records, Jadhav said he was not appointed to the post that he presently holds when the project was handed over to the local administration. Even the chief of PMC Garden Department Ashok Ghorpade confirmed that the civic body lacked record for trees planted at Smriti Van in the city.
Dr Ramesh Godbole of NGO Nisargsevak said such trees have emotional value as they are planted in people’s memory. “It may happen that people want to visit the trees they have planted to remember the departed soul. This was the very reason why Nisargsevak documented all the trees planted in the open space near Paud Road and was handed over to the PMC a year ago,” he said.
Godbole added that he would constantly follow-up the matter with the civic body so that at least a security guard could be deployed at the memory park to protect the trees.
A retired official from RGZP said passing the buck was an old trick played by the officials to avoid searching for details in old records. The officials also revealed that when the memory park in Katraj was merged with the zoological park, no efforts were made to document trees planted under the Smriti Van project.