Trees cut to ensure safety of students, others on campus, say college authorities

PUNE : As the felling of 16 fully-grown subabhul trees on the campus of SP College (SP) triggered a controversy in Pune, college authorities defended the decision, saying the trees had grown too much and their branches were hanging dangerously, posing a risk to the lives of students and others on campus.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be addressing a rally on the SP College ground on Thursday, in support of BJP candidates in the forthcoming Assembly elections, and opposition parties have claimed that the trees were felled to make space for the PM’s rally.

The trees that were axed were along the route that the PM’s convoy will take.

Last week, the driver of a PMPML recovery vehicle was trapped inside when, after hours of heavy rain and gusty winds, an uprooted tree fell on the vehicle right outside the college campus. The driver died of his injuries later. Since then, the Pune Municipal Corporation has received several calls from residents of areas near Tilak Road and Bajirao Road, expressing fear about similar incidents.

“Following the accident, we didn’t want to take any risks involving our students or others on the campus. We immediately sought permission to cut 16 subabhul trees, some of which have overgrown from within the building walls and have weak roots,” said Nandu Phadke, president of Shikshan Prasarak Mandali, which manages SP College.

The official permission for the felling, granted by the Kasba Vishrambaugwada ward office of the Pune Municipal Corporation on October 14, stated that 16 trees had grown haphazardly and posed a serious danger. The civic body also mentioned that the tree roots were extremely weak and their branches were hanging dangerously.

A team of officials from the PMC’s Tree Authority visited the college on Tuesday to inspect the site and found the works satisfactorily done, said civic officials.

“The application from the college was pending for at least five days and we finally granted permission on October 14. Upon inspection, we found that several trees posed a risk and needed trimming while some needed to be cut. Since the heavy rainfall events of last week, we have been hard-pressed for both manpower and machinery due to the sudden spike in the number of trees getting uprooted in the locality,” said Ashish Mahadadalkar, assistant commissioner and PMC’s tree authority at Kasba Vishrambaugwada ward.

“We have reports of 70 to 80 trees being felled in the locality in the last one week and have not managed to clear all of them yet. This is also because of excessive crowd and heavy traffic,” added Mahadadalkar.

College authorities said many more trees on campus, some of them near the swimming pool, needed to be felled due to similar reasons. “We will approach the PMC soon and get such trees removed. To compensate for the felling, we are planting more trees on the campus,” said Phadke.