It seems like all those ‘Keep Pune Clean and Green’ signs dotted around the city have worked! At least for the Pune Municipal Corporation’s Garden Department.
A survey they are undertaking claims that the number of trees in the city has increased in the past 12 years. This despite the city’s hills being raped by construction and an increasing number of trees being hacked to make way for better infrastructure.
So, do you really think their ‘estimate data’ is true? atleast environment activists don’t buy this ‘green’ story. They argue that while it may be true that the number of trees in the city has gone up, the green cover of the city has certainly decreased.
The findings of the ongoing tree census which is being conducted by Lotus Environment, a private agency, will be ready within two months. The agency has been surveying trees in the city for the one and a half year now.
According to their estimates, the number of trees in the city has increased when compared to that of the last census which was conducted manually in 1997-1998. Officials with PMC’s tree department estimate that there will be around 45,00,000 - 50,00,000 trees in the area.
In last census, the total number of trees was 32,88,295. The PMC’s garden department has undertaken the tree census after a gap of 12 years.
The census has been undertaken according to the Urban Tree Protection Act, 1997. It is the first time in the history of Pune, that the tree cover of the city is being surveyed in detail.
When contacted, PMC’s tree officer, Balasaheb Jagzap, said, “For the first time, the PMC has appointed a private agency to conduct the tree census. The agency is supposed to carry out the survey by taking photographs of trees in each survey number.
Later on, this information will be uploaded on the Internet with picture of the trees. this will help to keep track on the greenery in the city.
The agency has quoted a sum of Rs 2.25 to survey one tree.” “The work for the survey was delayed earlier as people did not co-operate with surveyors.
So, PMC extended the timeline for the completion of the work which will end in March this year. According to the estimated figures the number of trees will go up to 45- to 50 lakh,” Jagzap added.
So far, the agency has surveyed only the west side of the city which includes the University of Pune, Automotive Research Association of India, Armaments Research & Development Establishment (ARDE), High Energy Materials Research Laboratory (HEMRL) and the National Chemical Laboratory (NCL) which have a thick green cover.
Besides these areas, the agency has surveyed Happy Colony, Dhanukar Colony, Baner, Balewadi, Bopodi and Aundh. Presently, the agency is surveying Kothrud and Karvenagar.
So far, it has covered around 25 lakh trees. In the next three months, it will survey areas in an anti-clock manner from Sinhagad Road, Sahakarnagar, Dhankawadi and so on.
Vinod Jain, an environment activist, said, “It may be true that the number of trees in the city has increased over the years, but that doesn’t mean that the green cover has increased restoring the environmental imbalance too.
The statistic may be misleading because, in the earlier survey, there were many big trees in the city which were chopped down for development. Small trees can’t compensate for larger ones.”
Jain said, “There is a clause in the Urban Tree Protection Act, which say that while obtaining permission for chopping trees, the person should assure plantation of three trees for one that is chopped. But the fact is that the PMC itself violated this rule.
Over the years, the PMC road department chopped thousands of trees for the widening of roads but did not plant trees in their place. When the common man has to pay a deposit for planting trees there is no provision for taking deposit from the PMC departments.”
Jain said when the census was conducted, PMC had only 138 sq km in its purview. Now, more villages have been included in PMC limits. Now, the area has increased to 243 sq km. If the original PMC limits are taken into consideration, only then, will the data reveal shocking figures.
This is because in central areas of the city, trees are being chopped without any plantation.