40 trees axed in agricultural college campus, 60 more to go ahead of President Pratibha Patil’s visit

Some college officials said that giving the President an unhindered sight of the new building from the approach road played an important part in cutting down the branches as they covered a good portion of the building.

ATIKH RASHID

President Pratibha Patil’s scheduled visit to the College of Agriculture,Pune,on June 10 to inaugurate its new building has proved costly for the green cover of the college,with the garden department of the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) granting permission to axe over 100 branches of 59 trees for security reasons.


Already, branches of about 40 trees mainly located in front of the new Centenary Building and on the approach road from the Mhasoba Gate to the building,perceived as a security threat,have been chopped off.

The college authorities had sought permission on May 31 and the garden department granted it the next day. The list of 59 includes 36 rain trees,eight neem trees,eight ashoka trees and two tamarind trees aged between 35 and 45 years. Of the 40 branches chopped off,many were healthy and leafy and had a diameter of 40 to 50 centimetres.

The decision was apparently taken by the college authorities following an inspection by University Vice-Chancellor and the college principal a week ago. “In our proposal,we submitted a list of dead and drooping branches of trees in front of the new building and on the road and said they needed to be cut off so that they do not pose a security threat to the President during her visit. The PMC garden officials inspected the trees and cut down branches according to their criteria. Our men didn’t even touch the trees,” said Dr B R Ulmekh, Associate Dean and Principal of the College. Ulmekh added that the college plants thousands of trees every year on and outside the campus.

Some college officials,however,said that giving an unhindered sight of the new building from the approach road played an important part in cutting down the branches as they covered a good portion of the building.

Preeti Sinha, assistant garden superintendent, garden department, maintained that her officials had inspected the trees and given permission for cutting down only dead and drooping branches. She,however,couldn’t explain as to how her office had given a blanket permission to cut 100 branches and not used their discretion to save at least some of them.

“The college had asked for permission for security reasons. The rain tree branches are generally weak and could fall. We only gave permission to cut branches that were probable threats,” said Sinha.

The new palatial building has been built by the college at an expense of about Rs 15 crore. The money came from the Rs 100 crore special grant given to the Mahatma Phule Agriculture University,Rahuri,by the Union Government in 2008-09.

High Court asked the College to transplant 21 trees, it transplanted nine, none has survived

The Agriculture College,which has a full-fledged horticulture department and professors with technical know-how,has failed to successfully transplant 21 trees as directed by the Bombay High Court.

The college had approached the HC in 2010 for permission to fell 67 trees that were on the sites planned for a centenary building and a new block for a girlsÂ’ hostel.

According to document accessed by The Indian Express under RTI, the HC on April 1, 2010, permitted the college to cut down 43 trees and directed it to transplant 17 for the centenary building. The court also allowed the college to fell three trees and transplant four from the girls’ hostel site.

The trees to be shifted from the centenary building plot were 13 mango (10 to 15 year old), two Tabebuia (10 years) trees, a Sindi and a jackfruit (10 years) tree. Four trees to be transplanted from the plot of girls hostel building were a 60-year-old Indian Coral Tree (Pangara), a 30-year-old Rain Tree, a 20-year-old tamarind and a 20-year-old jamun tree.

According to sources,only six mango trees were actually transplanted almost all of which are now dead due to neglect. The three trees that were transplanted from the girls’ hostel site are also dead.

A J Bhagat, assistant engineer, Agriculture College said, “We had appointed a professional agency for transplantation. Some trees were not fit for transplantation. Some died after they were transplanted despite us taking due care.” He said he was not aware if all the 21 trees were transplanted; the horticulture department was responsible for the actual work. Horticulture department officials, however,were not available for comment.

Sunil Kesari, garden superintendent and tree officer of PMC, said it is the responsibility of the college to look after the trees and ensure that they survive for at least three years from the date of transplantation. “If the trees have died before three years, then it’s a serious violation. We will send a notice to the college authorities,” he said.

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