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Friday, December 11, 2009

Edition 4- Hill Stations Inside Pune

There are some good changes in Pune, but more such efforts are needed….

We say that Pune has changed. Most of the changes we refer have negative connotation: pollution, noise, traffic etc. There is one positive change as well. As per environmental survey, the green cover of Pune is increasing. Pune is among the greenest urban areas in the country with more than 40 per cent of its area under green cover. Out of all wards covered with rich green cover is Sahakar Nagar which has double than the recommended green cover of 0.2 ha/1000 individuals. The report estimates that PMC has about 2,500 acres of land available for plantation.
“I remember in early to mid eighties , ARAI hill (Vetal Tekdi) was a barren hill, Now look at the hill, its turned into a green spectacle”, says Nikhil Joshi , 35 , IT professional. Same can be said about hill behind Cummins which now hosts a novel concept called smrutivan. This all started at taljai.
This is kudos to some novel planning along with some active government and public participation
In the tussle between development and ecology, we tend to undermine the integral role that the environment plays in our lives. Thus we keep talking about how Pune is no longer the pensioner's paradise it used to be. But this is where most discussions come to a standstill and we citizens remain mere bystanders to happenings around us.'.
This phenomenon started with Pachgaon parvati forest in early 80s.
The Panchgaon parvati forest area, on which the taljai temple is located, is surr-ounded by Parvati, sahakar-nagar, dhankavdi ambegaon and sinhgad road. Thus this island of green faces the everyday pressures of a congested urban agglomeration. This forest land plays host to a variety of flora and fauna which include the peacock, black naped hares and a spectrum of birdlife. This means that the highly understaffed forest department is left to protect a large area with abundant natural resources from encroaching slums, illegal cons-truction, tree felling, trespassers, stray animals and irresponsible citizens.
This project was started by Forest Department. Then there was also citizen parti-cipation through organizations like Tekdi. Work done by tekdi is consciously targeted towards a holistic approach towards enhancing bio-diversity and not just increasing the green cover in the city.
One of the activities that any 'environmental organization' is supposed to be doing is : planting trees. But assuming that mere plantations will suffice would be being naïve. Hence activities that are equally important but less con-ventional are called for. Tekdi eco club "Taljai-Parvati" has been trying to help the forest department out in their activities, thus setting stage for a more healthy citizen-authority relationship which finally works out to be beneficial towards conserving nature. The group has been active in patrolling the forest area at night in order to curb the illegal tree felling that takes place, especially sandal-wood.
Alert citizens can make a huge difference to the governing officials. This was amply proved when on several occasions, Tekdi members helped the forest officials tackle the forest fires that destroy the natural habitat at a large scale.
Another change that has happened is active policy making from garden department of PMC which not only takes care of gardens but also greening activities. The main problem faced is to match development without damaging trees. Road widening, improving infrastcuture does not necessareily mean cutting trees.
In 2003, Pune was listed as the fifth most polluted city in Asia. The increasing heat, change in climate, global warming are the results of pollution. 'Plantation is one of the best solutions for pollution'. It may be in the form of greenery development, a fforestration, or gardens especially for the cities and urban areas.

As many as 820 trees have been planted for every 100 trees cut in Pune in the last eight years," is what the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) garden department has stated in its affidavit, to be filed before the Bombay high court .
The PMC has stated that it has ensured that 5,35,350 trees have been planted in Pune and that permission for cutting 65,240 trees has been given since 2001-02.
The affidavit is being filed by the PMC following the Bombay high court interim order in May restricting the PMC from giving tree-cutting permission without the court's approval.
According to PMC records, the total number of tree-cutting permission given for all reasons road-widening, development works, private development or trees in dangerous conditions are 65,240.
Another initiative is concept called smruti van.
At Smruti Van (remembrance park) in Karvenagar, people nurture trees in remembrance of those dear to them.
It all started in 1987, when the late social worker S.V. Ketkar secured an eight-acre plot from the Jnana Prabhodini to put his concept of 'Smruti Sathi Zaad' (trees as a tribute) into practice.
Today, the park has 1,580 smruti vrikshas, including sandalwood, mango and jackfruit, all nur-tured by vriksha dataas (people who adopt trees).
At Smriti Van, people can adopt a tree against a one-time payment of Rs 1,000. Name plates, with details of those who have adopted the tree and in whose memory it is, are then hung on it. The trees are protected and nurtured by Nisargasevak trust employees.
People adopt trees not only as a tribute to their near and dear ones, but also in memory of things dear to them. Marathi writer P.L. Deshpande has planted a tree in memory of singer Vasant Deshpande, while his wife, Sunitabai, has planted one in memory of writer G.A Kulkarni. Many noted personali-ties like actors Ramesh and Seema Deo, Sumitraraje Bhosale, Bollywood director Ashutosh Govariker and scientist Jayant Narlikar, too, have planted trees in the park.
Bolstered by the success of the project, the trust set up a similar Smruti Udyan at the old garbage dump on Paud road a year ago and another at Solapur.
Finally we are all witness to how we have created and restored Bhamburda Forest ark or vetal Tekdi. This area acts as lungs to Pune city. This is a great place for all to have a quiet walk, exercise or just go close to nature.
Vetal Hill is located to the west side of Pune Municipal Corporation. This are covers 10.5 square kilometres (4.1 sq mi). Notable are the efforts for organizations like kalpa-vriksha and few corporate entities who have made this.
This is a place where we can go with children and show them an example that not all changes are bad. There are some positive changes as well. All that is needed is intent.
And its just a start we have miles to go to make Pune a really good place to live….

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