The National Green Tribunal (western bench) has directed the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) not to cut down or relocate trees for the ongoing riverfront development project (RFD) till requisite permissions are procured.
The decision was taken by the bench of judicial member Dinesh Kumar Singh and Vijay Kulkarni on Wednesday on a petition filed by environmentalists Sarang Yadwadkar and Pushkar Kulkarni against the proposed felling of around 6,000 trees for the ₹5,500-crore project by PMC.
NGT bench in its order said, “When we enquired from Raghvendra Kulkarni, learned counsel (for PMC), as to whether the trees are going to be felled, he gave reply in the negative saying that the Maharashtra Tree Authority has been applied for grant of permission for felling trees and till the said permission is granted/obtained, no felling of trees would be done. We direct PMC not to fell any tree till the next hearing on July 31, 2023.”
Advocate Nisha Chavan, PMC’s chief legal officer, said, “We presented our side before the NGT saying that our proposal to appropriate authority seeking permission is pending. So, PMC will not cut any tree till July 31. As per the NGT directives, PMC will submit a detailed affidavit within two weeks.”
Yadwadkar, one of the petitioners, said, “NGT came down heavily on PMC saying if it is mentioned in the detail project report (DPR) that not a single tree will be cut for RFD project. And, ‘if the environmental clearance also states that no tree is to be cut, why are you cutting trees?’.”
Only 34 citizens had attended the hearing arranged by PMC in the first week of May over the proposal to cut down over 6,000 trees for the riverfront development project. The civic body received over 150 objections and suggestions.
Yadwadkar said, “Today’s order of NGT has exposed PMC’s nefarious plans of environmental destruction under the garb of ‘development’.”
The environmentalists have been opposing the riverfront development plan alleging that PMC is affecting nature by felling trees. Several citizens and environmentalists also held a ‘Chipko Andolan’ on April 29 to protest the move by PMC.
Pune municipal commissioner Vikram Kumar on Monday said that top wall as a part of embankment work of riverfront development project is nearing completion on 6 km and pitching work is underway.