• Shatakshi Gawade

A race against fire

Part 1: 18.02.2020

Two aware citizens rushed to put out the fire that was creeping along a hill slope in Pashan today morning. By the time the fire brigade arrived, the two youth Mayur Kalamkar and Harish Kalamkar had already climbed their way to the top while putting out the fire! They used two simple wet gunny sacks to kill the blaze. Vasundhara Swachhata Abhiyan volunteer Deepak Shrote too rushed to help put out the fire. Another VSA volunteer Gajanan Rathod too was hard at work to end the fire today. We salute the work of these alert citizens!


If the fire had not been put out, it would have destroyed old growth trees like kadu nimb, tembhurni and nilgiri, and also newer trees planted by volunteers of VSA. Mr Shrote shared that there might be many occasions through February and March that they will have to run to save the hills.


Today’s fire was caused due to garbage thrown at the base of the hill. Though VSA has marked fire lines on the hills they work on, the wind carries the fire further and further afield. Every time such a fire engulfs the hill, it arrests any possible ecological succession, shared ES faculty member Ketaki Ghate. While such fires may work for agricultural land, they are only destructive on hills such as the ones in Pune.


According to the climate and rainfall in our region, the hills should have dry deciduous forests with intermittent grasslands. These hills should have trees like moi, salai and acacias. But what we see today are open grasslands with eroded soils and exposed rocks. Apart from the destructive fires, our hills have already suffered centuries of degradation due to misuse. Now most of these hills are under the forest department, and must be protected and maintained with good vegetation cover!


Images from Australia and the Amazon are still fresh in our minds. We definitely don’t want to add such images from Pune.


Be alert, and save the hills.


Part 2: 19.02.2020

Today, PMC employee Santosh Langhe arrived with a tanker of water to refill the tanks that had to be emptied to douse the fire. He rushed to the hill with the water because it was crucial that the plants be watered after the shock of the blaze yesterday.

Over the last 10 years, Santosh Bhau has consistently been present for the aid of Vasundhara Swachhata Abhiyan's effort to protect the hills and grow trees. He has been readily available to deliver the water at time of the day, whether it is early morning or late in the night. The point to be noted is that he came despite it bwing his day off due to #Shivjayanti. He was joined in his effort today by Ardevar Pandhari. Once again, a salute to citizens like them who are present on the ground and in real time to protect and nurture our hills and the ecosystems on them.

PS: Another part of the hill caught fire on the 19th, which was again put out by VSA volunteers and alert citizens.

Photos via Deepak Shrote

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