Citizens’ protests and complaints notwithstanding, the massive water tank on the slope of Vetal tekdi is nearing completion.
The construction of the tank near Panchavati Society was stopped after TOI highlighted the issue in October last year.
The report prompted the forest department to bar the Pune Municipal Corporation-hired contractor from continuing the work till it confirmed the the ownership of the land. Also, the department directed the contractor to procure all the required permissions before starting the construction.
However, repeated warnings by the forest department to freeze the work failed to check the tank’s construction.
“We told the contractor repeatedly not to go ahead with the construction, but all in vain. There is confusion between PMC and the forest department about the ownership of the land. A district collector order of the year 1988 says that the land belongs to the forest department. However, PMC claims that they have another document stating that the land belongs to them,” a forest department official said on Tuesday.
The official said since PMC has not been able to share a copy of the document, it cannot stake claim on it.
“If civic authorities do not give a supporting document justifying their claim over the land in 10 days, we will seize the tank and remove the labourers as well,” he said.
A senior official from the PMC’s water supply department said the land is a ‘social forestry land’. He, however, refused to share further details.
A regular tekdi walker said a few days ago, he had found that the work on the tank was going on in full swing. “The massive tank is almost nearing completion. A large section of the slope has been levelled and deforested. Two big houses have been built for the workers and for storing material. A de facto road now runs up the hill to the site of construction,” the walker said.
Members of the Deccan Gymkhana Parisar Samiti (DGPS) on Tuesday sent a letter to senior forest and PMC officials to draw their attention to the construction of the water tank on the slope of the tekdi. “We are not against construction of water tanks, which are a necessity for 24×7 water supply to these areas. But, we request that alternative sites be selected for such massive projects. The importance of urban forests cannot be overstated in these times. Tekdis and the forests on them should be preserved as natural heritage sites and be protected from such large-scale damage,” Sushma Date, a member of DGPS, said.
Date said the water supply department and the contractor have flouted laws regarding the Forest Conservation Act 1980 and the Tree Act 1975. “As per the law, when any forest land is diverted to non-forest use, an environmental impact assessment is mandatory and permission needs to be sought from the central government,” Date said.
Source : TOI