Loss of green cover across the Pune metropolitan region under poorly planned developmental activities is a concern for informed citizens. This page overviews my pro-bono work in this area with a secular group of environmentalists comprising Ameet Singh, Hema Chari, Sathya Natarajan, Chaitanya Ket, Gangotri Chanda, and others including the India members of the global non-profit The Secular Community.

OA No. 186 of 2023  before the NGT-WZ: Ameet G Singh and others Vs. State and others (Note: Interim orders have been passed in the matter on 06/12/2023, 04/12/2023, and 01/12/2023. Respondent No. 4, Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) in its affidavit of reply, has not legally refuted the facts stated in the OA,  but raised the question of jurisdiction)

Tree administration in Maharashtra is governed by the Maharashtra (Urban Areas) Protection and Preservation of Trees Act, 1975--in short, the "Tree Act". Here are the versions of this law updated up to 2016 and subsequent, drastic, and largely politics-driven amendments of 2017, 2021, and 2023.  The Tree Act is accompanied by Rules framed in 2009: click here for Marathi and English versions of the Rules. 

The 2021 amendment reflected the concerns of the then Environment minister of the Uddhav Thackeray government subsequently pulled down by its internal rebellion. The 2023 amendment bears the marks of the aggressive infrastructure policy of the NCP faction that split from the parent party to join the new government of the rebels.  In the assembly debate leading to passing the bill, the government stressed "ease of doing business", while the former minister remarked, "There can be ease of doing business only if there is [the] ease of living".

The State Tree Authority ("STA") constructed under the 2021 amendment was notified on 10/1/2022. It held its first meeting on 17/1/2022. Click here to see the announcement with bilingual copies of the notification. STA's authority to control bulk felling of trees across the city was revoked through the 2023 amendment when the Local Tree Authority ("LTA") became an all-powerful body for felling of any number of trees within its area without any answerability to the STA. As of date, although the STA remains responsible for "monitoring" the LTA and felling of heritage trees (aged ~50 years and above: click here for definition and instructions on determination of age), there is no mechanism for these functions due to a lack of political will. The age of trees is freely misreported to keep them out of the STA's ambit.

The Local Tree Authority is defined under section 3 (2) read with section 2 (g) of the Tree Act. It must be chaired by the CEO (the metropolitan commissioner) of the Pune Metropolitan Regional Development Authority ("PMRDA") created in the year 2015. PMRDA covers an area of 7,256.46 sqm with a population of 73 Lakh comprising two municipal corporations: PMC and Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC), three cantonment boards, seven municipal councils, 842 villages, and 13 census towns. However, the municipal commissioner of Pune has usurped this office inter alia leaving trees of all the 842 villages and 13 census towns unprotected. This fact is disputed by PMC before NGT-WZ as highlighted in its 06/12/2023 order.

The roles and responsibilities of PMC and PCMC are listed under section 63 of the Maharashtra Municipal Corporation Act, 1949 ("MMCA"): Click here for the law as amended up to 2016.

[Work in prgress]