At Pune’s Chipko Andolan site, rising chorus: Time to take a stand for trees
“Trees are the producers of everything—from fruits to oxygen. They feel pain when they are cut but cannot talk. That is why we should take a stand for them,” said 11-year-old Kavyanjali Mangal, a student of Podar International School, straightening her bright white banner. Mangal was among the several hundreds who participated in the Chipko Andolan on Jangali Maharaj Road in Pune on Saturday.
Her thoughts resonated with another 11-year-old, Maithili Mahesh Bakal, who attended the rally with her mother. “I feel good when I play around trees. Trees give us oxygen, so I don’t want the government to cut down 7,000 trees,” Bakal said.
Residents turned up in huge numbers to protest against the plan to fell approximately 7,000 trees for a riverfront development project. The project includes the development of a 44km river stretch, which includes 22.2 km of the Mula river, 10.4 km of the Mutha river and 11.8 km of Mula-Mutha river. The project is divided into multiple stretches and work has begun on two stretches.
Like Maithili, 70-year-old Mayuri Gandhi used to love spending her time outdoors, trekking or birdwatching. But lately she feels that she does not enjoy these activities quite so much as nature is getting harmed. “Under the guise of river development, they are actually doing more harm to the river than good. The trees are being uprooted and replaced with concrete, which will in turn damage the roots of other trees and disturb the entire ecosystem,” she said. Having worked as a schoolteacher, she feels that her profession was always associated with the “good things in life”, which in turn has pushed her to participate in environmental movements over the past 25 years.
For 63-year-old Shailaja Deshpande, more knowledge about the environmental impact of our actions made her veer towards this movement. “I used to work as an interior designer when I joined my first diploma course from the Ecological Society. I became more aware of the environmental damage caused by me through my work and shut down my business to completely focus on the passion I had developed now for the environment,” Deshpande said. She completed a Basic Diploma Course from the Society in 2009, followed by Basic and Advanced Course in Botany from the Agharkar Research Institute. She has been working with and one of the founders of the Jivit Nadi Living Rivers Foundation.
Mrunal Vaidya, 50, a homemaker and a member of the Jivit Nadi Living Rivers Foundation highlighted another important aspect of trees and the damage the decision to cut the trees could cause. “A classic riparian tree, called locally as ‘shindi’ takes close to a 100 years to reach its maximum height and has a small girth. If trees like these are cut down, not only is the tree lost but along with that the 500-odd bird and insect species it is supporting are also damaged. If you are replacing that with a new, small ‘parijat’ tree, how can it support these species? Also, which trees will be planted and whether they can adapt and survive on the riverbank are other important points to be factored in if they (the Pune Municipal Corporation) is thinking about replanting trees,” said Vaidya. She believes that “forests can’t be grown in nurseries” and development and environment should go hand in hand.