PMC in the dark as private developer excavates Taljai hill

Ten years after the Pune Municipal Corporation annulled plans to create an amusement park and tunnel at the Taljai hills near Parvati at Sahakarnagar after facing opposition from environmental bodies, excavation work restarted last month where a part of the hill was excavated and leveled to make way for a road. PMC officials are unaware of the activity on the hill, and work according to activists, has been going on for the past month.

Going unnoticed: Excavation work continues on part of Taljai hill behind Damodar Nagar, though officials of the Pune Municipal Corporation claim that no such approval has been given

The officials, however, say that no clearance has been given for work to be restarted and alleged that a local developer was behind the encroachment of an eco-sensitive area. The officials have decided to file a complaint against the developer and stop the illegal activity.

 Activists from NGOs, including Green Pune Movement (GPM) and Parvati Nagrik Manch (PNM), claim that four excavator machines are cutting into the sides of the hill behind Damodar Nagar since the past month. The machines are leveling the contours of the hill, which is an extension of Parvati falling under BDP- 4 zone, and debris from the operation has reached a height of almost 35 feet.

Reason unclear
“The plot is being levelled where over 300 saplings have been chopped down and the activity has been going on since the past month. Work stopped after we notified the PMC, but restarted last week,” said L Jadhav, a resident of Sinhagad. The perplexed environmentalists, who have been seeking answers, claim that nobody would start excavation work on the hill unless they had the approval from the PMC.

Mass destruction: One excavator clearing a portion of Taljai hill behind Damodar Nagar while another is parked on the freshly levelled area at the base

Last month, the state government had notified substantial modifications in the development plan of 23 merged villages, which the environmentalists alleged was illegal as it proposed that certain BDPs and land for public purpose be changed into residential and that it favored developers.

Grinding halt
“The work stopped for three weeks after intervention by former Mayor and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) city unit president, Vandana Chavan. Now, we have been noticing a couple of excavators everyday, which are destroying the hill,” said a member of GPM, requesting anonymity.

The PMC officials refuted all claims made by the activists stating that since no development plan has been sanctioned on the hills. They added that a private builder may have undertaken the clearing work and will be held for the violation. Additional city engineer, PMC, Vivek Kharwadkar said that no development plans have been approved by the civic body and the work must be stopped.

Plaint to be filed
He promised that a police complaint would be filed against the illegal destruction of the BDP and appropriate action would follow.  “We have decided to file a police complaint against the developer for encroaching upon eco-sensitive areas. But I don’t know its status as I don’t deal with such cases directly,” Kharwadkar said.

“We have already given notice to the developers, but are yet to file a complaint. I’ll check how the work has been restarted,” Desai Suresh, superintendent engineer, Pune Municipal Corporation, said. 

The number of saplings activists claim have been chopped during illegal excavation 

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