Environmental activists in Pune are taking their fight against the Pune River Front Development (RFD) Project to the next level. After a massive turnout at the Save Vetal Tekadi protest, the activists have now organised a Chipko Andolan today against the alleged proposed cutting of 6000 trees for the project.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone of the project in March 2022, however, the project was delayed due to petition. Recently, the Supreme Court gave a green signal to the civic body to go ahead with the river-front development.
The Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) in a statement released on April 24 has maintained that the information on social media regarding proposed cutting of 6000 trees for the project is fake. "Instead of cutting down, 3,142 trees will be preserved by PMC. However, in order to facilitate the rejuvenation of the river, 65,000 or more trees will be planted in exchange for the 3,110 trees which will be cut."
The protesters, under the banner of Save Mula-Mutha, are demanding that the river is cleaned instead of beautification. The walk will start from Sambhaji Garden Gate on Jangali Maharaj Road at 5 PM on Saturday to Garware Bridge through the riverside road.
11 environmental experts returned their ‘Paryavaran Doot" Award
Recently, 11 environmental experts returned their ‘Paryavaran Doot’ environment ambassadors award given by the Pune Municipal Corporation in protest, claiming that the administration has taken up massive destruction of national greenery while implementing the RFD project and proposed road on Vetal Tekdi. The activists included Rajiv Pandit from the Jividha organisation, Ketaki Ghate (Oikos), Sathya Narayan (Vayu), Ranjit Gadgil (Parisar), Gurudas Nulkar (Jal), Shailaja Deshpande (Jeevitnadi), Anant Gharat (My Earth), Amitav Mallik, Shivam Singh, Vaishali Patkar (Agni) and Priyadarshini Karve (Samuchit Enviro).
Sayaji Shinde extends support
Marathi actor Sayaji Shinde who is active in environmental conservation, expressed grave concern over a large number of trees being cut down for the RFD project and urged the PMC to engage in discussions with environmental experts to ensure that the development project causes the least possible damage to the environment.
On March 21, hundreds of citizens turned up near Bund Garden to oppose the River Front beautification project. While a few days later, the leaders of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) staged a protest in front of Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj Garden on Jungli Maharaj Road against the alleged proposed cutting of 6000 trees for the Riverfront Development Project in the city.
The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena has given support to this protest and will participate in this march. During the recent assembly session, former environment minister Aaditya Thackeray who was at the forefront of the Aarey Protest in Mumbai had raised the issue in the session. He had appealed to the authorities that they must hear out the environmentalists and urban planners raising these issues fairly and take a firm call.
What is Chipko Andolan?
The Chipko Andolan, also known as the Chipko movement, is a nonviolent environmental movement in India that originated in the 1970s. The term "Chipko" refers to the act of hugging trees, as a form of peaceful protest against deforestation and ecological destruction. The movement began in the state of Uttarakhand and has since spread to other parts of the country. The Chipko Andolan is considered to be one of the earliest and most significant environmental movements in India and has inspired similar movements around the world.
As per the information available on the PMC's website, "There are three rivers passing through the Pune Municipal Corporation area namely Mula, Mutha and Mula-Mutha, with an approximate total length of 44 km and widths varying from 80mts to 250mts. The rivers have become largely inaccessible from the city and are no longer seen as assets to the city. The city has turned its back on these rivers. In order to cope with these current issues and create a meaningful public realm along the rivers, Pune Municipal Corporation has instigated a comprehensive project - Mula, Mutha and Mula-Mutha Riverfront Development Project in the entire Pune Municipal Corporation area."