Just last week, Pune’s Municipal Commissioner promised to save our Bio-diversity Parks that adorn our hill slopes and hilltops.
Evidently, the citizen movement triggered off in 2005 continues to campaign relentlessly at all levels in order to build promise for this imminent need.
Pune has been blessed with adorable geographical beauty. It is like a saucepan surrounded by hills that are a part of the elite and eco-sensitive Sahyadri Ranges. This is the reason for Pune’s enviable cool climate, though, it has taken a beating over the past few decades.
In the late 70’s, I stayed in a hostel during my college days and our rooms had no fans, yet, even in the summer months, we never felt the need for one.
Now you need air conditioners and even inhalers to help you breathe with all the pollution around. Proved beyond doubt, our hills are the lungs of our city, yet, they are being constantly plundered as a result of the avaricious lobbies.
It is indeed unfortunate that a formidable citizen movement that kicked off in 2005 has to continue with its campaign 13 years down the line.
With no action on the ground, it is only unkept promises that come from the politicians and bureaucracy
At the heart of this massive citizen campaign (under the auspices of the Green Pune Movement, now with several NGOs), is the reservation of 1648 hectares of Bio-Diversity Park (BDP) on the hills and hill slopes of the 23 merged villages of Pune.
Effectively, these areas are no-development zones and should be maintained as natural forests with variegated flora and flora. As most are aware these merged villages are now, new residential neighbourhoods in the surrounding fringe areas of the city.
Out of the 1648 hectares of BDP, approximately 976 hectares are privately owned and 688 hectares are owned by the Government.
Privately owned lands in these BDP areas need to be compensated while acquiring them and It is this consideration that is being constantly debated.
Also witnessing heated debate over the years, is allowing a portion of this for construction. Corporators, MLAs and MPs of various political parties have openly declared that 4% or 8% and lately 12% (by BJP’s Girish Bapat) construction should be allowed in these reserved BDP areas.
Even if we were to take 4% for construction, it should be examined in its entirety. We are not birds that make nests and simply fly away from them.
When you say 4%, it means providing water supply, sewage lines, roads and other such public and private amenities which would imply that you are actually cutting through the slopes and top of the hill!
So, can you imagine how monstrous it would be to provide 12%! The leaders have reached such levels of consciousness that they actually try and convince you that this is required to avoid slum encroachment on the hills.
As per the BPMC Act, the ward officer and the corporator of that area can be slammed for personal criminal negligence if they fail to curb such encroachment.
Yet, they want to permit concrete buildings to come up there. If this ins’t outrageous, what is?
Over the years, the activists have met several politicians like Suresh Kalmadi and Ajit Pawar who all promised to seriously look into the issue but it ended with those promises.
Prithiviraj Chavan in 2010 too made similar tall promises, in his capacity as the then chief minister. He had stated: if Rs.1,000 crore can be garnered in a short time, then hills could certainly be preserved for bio-diversity. He suggested the JNNURM pattern of funding – out of Rs.1,000 crore which is required – 50% to be given by the central government, 30% by the state government and 20 % by the PMC.
He announced a State Level Group with Divisional Commissioner Dilip Bund, Municipal Commissioner Mahesh Zagade and Collector Chandrakant Dalvi to be the nodal officers to co-ordinate with members of the Green Pune Movement and corporates. Yet, nothing happened.
Admirably, Municipal Commissioner Saurabh Rao has shown enthusiasm at a meeting in his office with Green Pune Movement activists. He assured them of the formation of Task Force groups for Bio-Diversity and Development Plan, besides other issues.
He has promised to immediately start work of acquiring BDP land belonging to the Government, for which he will establish the BDP Implementation Committee and ensure enough funds to implement the BDP.
At the meeting industrialist Arun Firodia volunteered to contribute Rs.10 lakh and leading activist Maj Gen Sudhir Jatar, Rs. 10,000 which is indeed a nice gesture.
It is probably not appropriate to be cynical over this issue, however much one would like to be. For, even if justice is delayed in this case, it is a case of better late than never.
So, here’s hoping it will be progress to action the ground and will keep the lungs of our city, healthy.
Urban Town Planning expert, Aneeta Benninger who along with environmentalist, politician Vandana Chavan is at the helm of this campaign, encapsulates and explains the fundamentals of the issue.
Very importantly, Pune was to be the urban forestry model for the whole of India, based on the BDP reservation formula, but wonder whether we have frittered it away.
So, let’s understand what is the issue, through Aneeta’s simplified explanation…
#All views expressed in this column are those of the author and Pune365 does not necessarily subscribe to them.
That's Vinita Deshmukh, Senior journalist and RTI activist who believes in journalism that reflects the views and needs of the common man.
Get Real And Stay Relevant says Vinita,
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