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Vetal Tekdi amphitheatre project scrapped

Civic body and forest department take decision after environmentalists call project invitation to ecological destruction

Following constant requests made by city environmentalists, the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) and the state forest department have scrapped their amphitheatre-cum-bird-watching-spot project on a hill at Vetal Tekdi. The decision was taken after Naresh Zurmure, additional municipal commissioner and chief garden superintendent, examined the spot. "I have instructed my staff to stop all work on the hill permanently," he said.


Leave nature alone: The Vetal Tekdi hill where the PMC and the
forest department had proposed an amphitheatre and a bird park
to encourage tourism. In a presentation made to the civic body
and forest officials, experts said the project would destroy bird
habitats


"Instead of an amphitheatre, we'll construct an artificial island and plant pipal, banyan and other fruiting trees across the road and undertake other activities that would maintain the habitats of the birds." The construction that was to be carried out as a tripartite arrangement between the forest department, the PMC and an NGO, which describes itself as an environmental consultant, was severely criticised by the environmentalists, who feared that the project would destroy the surrounding ecosystem.

The project was to be undertaken at a cost of Rs 40 lakh and included a 9 m by 9 m amphitheatre with a seating capacity of about 100 people, a stone platform with seating arrangements and a concrete road leading to it. The Deccan Gymkhana Parisar Samiti (DGPS), the National Society for Clean Cities (NSCC) and bird expert Dr Satish Pande, among others, had opposed the plan and appealed to the authorities to stop all construction work on the hill.

The area is known as a birdwatchers' paradise and 134 species of birds have been spotted there over the past two years. "We gave a presentation to the Chief Conservator of Forest and the PMC, and brought to their notice how the proposed plan would invite ecological destruction to the place. The place would have become like the bird park in Akurdi, where all the birds have disappeared and the PMC had to use fibreglass models to attract tourists," said Dr Pande.

The environmentalists had complained that the laying of the road leading to the amphitheatre was being undertaken in an unplanned manner and the trucks carrying raw material for it were causing irreparable damage to the place. "The PMC has promised that wherever human interference is happening on the hill, action will be taken. Instead of an amphitheatre, gardens or roads on forest land, the PMC will build walls and enclosures to prevent vehicles from entering the place," said activist Madhavi Rahilkar. Chief Conservator of Forest Nitin Kakodkar said the proposed plan would have played havoc with the environment and it was better to put a stop to it.

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