It took Vasundhara Swachata Abhiyan volunteers 15 years to transform the Baner-Pashan hill from barren to lush green, with rising groundwater levels and also controlling flooding in the area.
Baner-Pashan hill was declared a place of biodiversity by the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) in 2005, after which Vasundhara Sachata Abhiyan (VSA) started a planting and growing campaign since 2006 on this hill.
“Everything was voluntary and many citizens living in Baner and Pashan joined us in planting native and local trees with the primary goal of greening the hill. Initially, the sapling survival rate was 50%, but after some lessons from the Forest Department, the rate is now 95%,” said volunteer Deepak Shrote.
At least 35,000 trees have been planted over the past 15 years on the 3 km hill. Besides planting, the volunteers have also started working on water and soil conservation.
Rajesh Uttarwar, another volunteer, said, “Continuous Contour Trenches (CCTs) are small control dam structures, which we started in 2017 for water and soil conservation. Structures like this prevent rainwater from getting lost downhill. With the trees growing taller than 10 feet, and conserving water and soil has resulted in taller grass, which has helped reduce the speed and impact of rain.
The CCTs allowed rainwater to infiltrate into the ground, which resulted in an increase in the level of the water table and averted a flooding situation around the hill. In 2013-14, it was observed that despite the drought, the use of water tankers in housing corporations was significantly reduced due to increased groundwater, volunteers said.
According to volunteers, it takes three to five years for results to show. This was finally seen during the flash floods of 2019, where there was no loss of life in the area.
Even on July 13, when the city rained, Pashan recorded 69 mm rainfall, the highest in Pune, however, all the water from the hill seeped inside within 8 hours.
“The hills are important as they help maintain groundwater levels, prevent flooding and landslides if supported by water and soil conservation works like the one at Baner-Pahan hill “Shrote said.