'Challenge to control fire, animal grazing continues in Pune'

Green Hills Group chairman Sanjay Athavale sheds light on initiatives undertaken by them to protect Pune’s hills.

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While the Maharashtra chief minister, Prithviraj Chavan, endorsed the decision for 4% construction on the hills, the green organisations are undeterred. The Green Hills Group has developed an SMS alert system to save plants on the hills from fire, animal grazing and illegal tree felling. Even the forest department is keen to adopt the system. Besides, the group has been using nirmalya as fertiliser for the trees planted on Chatuhshrungi hill where the plants are nurtured through drip irrigation. Chairman of the group, Sanjay Athavale, shared the developments with DNA.

What are the major challenges in conserving trees on hills?
We have been working on Chatuhshrungi hill, Hanuman Tekdi and the hill near MIT College since more than a decade. It was a challenging task to plant saplings on the barren tops and nurture them. We had to carry water in the containers to the hill top. Eventually, corporates and the Pune Municipal Corporation gave a helping hand.

Now, the hills are quite green. But the challenge to control fire, animal grazing and illegal tree felling continues. Lots of trees perish in the natural fire caused when the dried grass on the hills catch fire. Illegal cutting of trees is a major issue. Animals brought for grazing eat up the plants and all our efforts go a waste.

How will the SMS alert system help?
Many times, people see fire on the hills or witness illegal tree cutting but do not know whom to contact. We have developed a system wherein a citizen can click on a link using a computer or a smartphone with Internet connection and send an alert to the members of the group and forest officials along with corporators at the same time.

The system is particularly for Hanuman Tekdi, the hill near MIT College and Chatuhshrungi hill. They have to click on the link to report fire at these spots. The sender then needs to enter his/her mobile number, time and date when the incident happened. The SMS will be instantly sent.

How can the people help?
It is nearly impossible to keep 24-hour watch on the hills and the support of people is very essential. Even for the forest department it is quite a challenge. The SMS alert system, if widely applied, can be a major tool in preventing fires and tree felling. People living near the hills can be of great help. They can register with us to receive SMS alerts. Since they live close by, they can get into action as soon as they receive the alert.

The chief minister has supported 4% construction on hills. What is your opinion?
We oppose construction on hills. We are here to protect them. They are the lungs of the city. People need to raise voice against the CM’s stand.

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