Development often comes at a cost, but many Punekars are not prepared to pay the price that will tailgate the erection of a metro station on the Vanaz -Ramwadi route. That’s because the proposed structure is likely to come up at a site, which is presently a 10-year-old biodiversity garden.
What’s more the Smriti Udyan blossomed out of a garbage dump, thanks to the toil and vim of the NGO Nisargasevak. The garden is now home to 650 trees of 150 species, including some endangered ones. The site was handed over to Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) in September last year.
The NGO developed the garden on six acres of land – a dumping ground on Paud Road –, after signing a 10-year contract in 2002 with PMC. Dr Ramesh Godbole, president, Nisargasevak said, “The nurturing of the trees was done religiously by volunteers from our organisation. PMC had provided us the land, water and some power supply. Though Smriti Udyan is located on six acres, it will be imperilled if a metro station is constructed in the same area. If the project must go ahead, then the trees should be moved elsewhere, as all of usmade painstaking efforts to develop this biodiversity gardenin the city.”
Another member of Nisargasevak Rajiv Pandit said, “PMC is callous about Smriti Udyan and is not even making efforts to water the trees regularly. The deterioration of this unique estate has already started though we had handed it over to the civic body’s garden department last year. A metro station coming up at the same spot will wreck the entire place because of ceaseless human activity. We are raising this issue with PMC and want to save the place from concretisation.”
It’s not just the NGO that’s miffed with PMC’s plans. Veteran botanist and environmentalist Dr SG Mahajan said, “It will be a big loss to the city. As the site has been handed over to PMC by Nisargasevak, it is now the former’s responsibility to protect the garden. Metro station can be constructed elsewhere, as the very existence of Smriti Udyan is at stake. This exceptional project developed by citizens should not be destroyed.”
Speaking to MiD DAY, PMC commissioner Mahesh Pathak – who took the initiative in discussing the metro railway project with Union urban development minister Kamal Nath – said, “The project needs land for the first route between the garbage depot (Vanaz) to Ramwadi (Ahmadnagar Road). I don’t know how much harm will come to Smriti Udyan. I will have to check the plan and other information before making any comment.”
Refuting the charges of callousness, Sunil Kesri, garden department superintendent, PMC, said, “It is true that the metro station will be built on what used to be the garbage depot, but many things are yet to be finalised. The demarcation work for the metro project is yet to be done. Unless the venture takes root we can’t say anything about the future of Smriti Udyan. This is not the only green project, as trees are spread all over the city.
As per Delhi Metro Railway Corporation, which prepared a detailed project report for the venture in Pune, the first metro station has been planned at Paud Road, the garbage depot, near the ‘Shiv Shrushti’ project — a grand memorial of Shivaji —, where Smriti Udyan exists.