HC allows Ganeshkhind Road widening project, orders transplanting 71 trees - Hindustan Times
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HC allows Ganeshkhind Road widening project, orders transplanting 71 trees

Apr 17, 2024 10:39 PM IST

Bombay High Court approves transplanting 71 trees on Ganeshkhind Road, criticizes lack of tree protection. PMC directed to follow Tree Act for tree safeguarding.

The Bombay High Court on Wednesday approved transplanting of 71 trees on Ganeshkhind Road based on an expert committee report, closing the public interest litigation (PIL) filed by an NGO.

On April 17, a court led by Chief Justice Devendra Kumar Upadhyaya and Justice Arif Doctor listened to a petition from Parisar. (MAHENDRA KOLHE/ HT PHOTO)
On April 17, a court led by Chief Justice Devendra Kumar Upadhyaya and Justice Arif Doctor listened to a petition from Parisar. (MAHENDRA KOLHE/ HT PHOTO)

The court criticised the planning authorities for not following the tree protection laws seriously. All municipal corporations, including Pune, are directed to follow Section 7(b) of the Tree Act to safeguard trees within their jurisdiction.

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Pune-based NGO Parisar, along with activists Ameet Singh and Hema Chari, had filed a PIL at the Bombay High Court to stop felling of 192 trees on Ganeshkhind Road. The stretch of road from the gate of Savitribai Phule Pune University to Sancheti Hospital is being widened from 36 metres to 45 metres as the work for the elevated Metro rail and the double-decker flyover has begun.

The civic body had already felled 93 trees before the NGO and activists approached the court.

On April 17, a court led by Chief Justice Devendra Kumar Upadhyaya and Justice Arif Doctor listened to a petition from Parisar. They instructed that instead of cutting 19 trees, 71 trees should be transplanted according to the expert committee’s advice. The court also directed PMC to submit an affidavit promising to abide by the committee’s recommendations. During the hearing, advocate Nisha Chavan, head of PMC legal department, and Aniruddha Pawaskar, chief of PMC road department, were present.

Chavan said, “The high court disposed of the PIL and gave permission to PMC and Pune Metropolitan Region Development Authority (PMRDA) to cut and transplant trees for Ganeshkhind Road widening work. They also ordered PMC to comply with expert committee recommendations.”

Abhijit Kulkarni, senior lawyer of PMC at high court, said, “The court accepted its expert committee report. All corporations are also issued directions to comply with Section 7(b) of the Tree Act. The court also directed to submit photographs of transplantation of trees.”

Manoj Ghate, executive engineer, PMC road department, said, “We have started work to cut, transplant trees and speed up road widening work.”

The court-appointed expert panel included representatives of the Central Road Research Institute, environment department representative from Mumbai IIT, Nagpur NEERI (National Environment Engineering Research Institute) and town planning officer as members.

The panel’s recommendations

It mentioned that despite considering a detailed presentation by the Parisar Group on minimising tree cutting, the panel finds it impractical to implement these ideas now.

It recommends transplanting 71 trees instead of cutting 19, along with transplanting 52 as proposed by PMC. PMC will also plant 5,000 trees nearby. Any surviving transplanted trees will exceed the afforestation target.

PMC’s proposed afforestation is bare minimum, and it should have to take a more aggressive approach.

The survival rate of newly planted trees must be over 95%, and PMC must guarantee this for ten years. Stats on afforestation should be shared with the Bombay High Court and on PMC’s website every quarter. If any trees fail, they should be replaced, and the survival rate of these replacements is also tracked for ten years.

PMC must ensure that compensated trees are not cut or transplanted for other projects soon.

PMC must commit to these recommendations through an affidavit, unless already covered.

PMC needs to plan tree planting on Ganeshkhind Road’s footpaths, approved by an expert, to provide shade and greenery, following international standards.

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