Save Vetal Tekdi. Stop MIT road!
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Vetal tekdi is under threat again!
This time it’s from Maharashtra Institute of Technology (MIT) with the construction of a 20 feet wide road to the top of their section of the tekdi. Their stated purpose is a) an access route for providing water to a planned park at the top and b) an alternative road for their students from Paud road.
The excavation carried out stealthily during Diwali in November 2020, caused irreparable damage to the hill. When alerted by residents, PMC inspected the site and stayed the work because appropriate permissions had not been sought or granted. MIT has now applied for permission and plans to go ahead with the road despite staunch opposition from the residents of this area as well as from citizens groups from all over Pune.
Any construction activity on this hill will cause tremendous ecological damage to one of the few remaining natural green spaces in the heart of the city. An additional road (there is already one from Paud road to ARAI at the top) will bring unwanted traffic to the top of the hill which is an ecologically sensitive Reserved Forest. The road will eventually lead to encroachments in the form of hawkers, food stalls etc.
Survey no. 123 on the hill slope and hill top of Vetal tekdi may officially belong to MIT, but the tekdi itself, the grasslands and forests on it and the precious aquifers it contains benefit all Punekars. We all have a stake in preserving this tekdi as a Natural Heritage site for future generations.
The vital role of urban forests and grasslands in mitigating climate change risks is well recognized
- as repositories of precious biodiversity
- for improvement of air quality
- carbon sequestration
- increase in ground water recharge
- mitigation of the urban 'heat island' effect.
Several studies have shown the benefits of urban green space in fostering physical and psychological wellbeing. Such extensive excavation of the hill slope will surely increase the risk of flooding and landslides to the societies at the foothills.
A recent aquifer mapping study of Pune city found that Vetal tekdi hill slopes feed the largest aquifers underlying Pune City, and has recommended a ‘no compromise’ protection of the catchments of the three main watershed clusters of Vetal Hill.
It is indeed ironic that an educational institute that professes to value sustainability and has set up the Smart Campus Cloud Network (SCCN)) is now engaged in destroying this precious heritage. Is a road really required to carry water up for plantation drives? Many citizen groups have carried out large scale plantations on hill tops (including Vetal tekdi) without using earth movers or destroying the hill topography.
To the Municipal Commissioner, Pune we would like to submit that Survey 123 is part of Hill Top Hill Slope zone, hence, as per DC rules 2017, all construction activity is banned. “Hill environment and Biodiversity" is one of the 10 attributes in your Strategic Environment Assessment Report during the Revision of the DP Plan for 2007-27. The SEA calls for restoring the ecology and enriching green cover on these hills, regeneration, forestation for biodiversity and says that protection of these hills is necessary.
We thus look to you to withhold permission for any construction activity on this ecologically sensitive land.
To the Director, MIT, as you at MIT - World Peace University have said, so correctly, "Sustainability is not a choice, it is a necessity" - we request you therefore to withdraw your proposed projects on the hill, restore the damaged portion, and show the way as leaders in sustainable conservation of Pune's natural heritage.
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