Pune, A city along the banks of five rivers, A city with 7 dams on the upstream, A city surrounded by pristine green hills, Hence probably the only city to enjoy abundance of water even in drought like situation.
Due to this abundant availability of water, the city of Pune grew very rapidly. But this situation has a darker side of frequent flooding as well, which the citizens have witnessed and experienced quite a few times. The most recent example, is the floods in 2019. In a few hours hundreds of houses were washed away; properties worth Crores of rupees were destroyed and 25 innocent people lost their lives. The flood water breached the flood levels to inundate innumerable houses and even a hospital. In 2020 too, Bhairoba Nala breached its limits.
In the ongoing Covid crisis, accessible green, open spaces are a dream for many city dwellers. And yet, there is burgeoning work on the profound positive impacts of urban green spaces on the physiological and psychological health of city dwellers.
Despite being polluted, dammed, encroached and thwarted, rivers continue to be free and open public places. Today more than ever, rivers, riverbanks, floodplains and bridges are an invaluable resource for any Indian City. This momentous service is ignored in our riverfront development projects, metro and road plans and city development plans which encroach upon rivers. Continue reading “Of Peace and Pollution: Urban Rivers as Public Spaces”→
Ground water recharge plan is a non-starter Though the latest report, covering assessment of ground level situation as on March, 2013, is still being compiled, sources in the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) hinted at further increase in the number of `dark’ (over-exploited) units. Decline in ground water level due to over exploitation of available resources had prompted the Centre in 2013 to come out with a master plan for artificial recharge of ground water, specifying how different states would go about it on priority. But majority of the states have, so far, not implemented the master plan. Only six states -MP, Gujarat, W-Bengal, UP, Chhattisgarh and Karnataka have taken follow-up actions despite the fact that the number of `dark’ units increased from 802 in March, 2009 to 1,071 in March, 2011. This not only says what the title mentions, but also shows how slow our official agencies are in even coming up with groundwater data, the latest data is for March 2011!
In a welcome move Western Zone Bench of National Green Tribunal (NGT) issued an interim stay on the proposed portion of the metro route passing through the Mutha river bed in the Pune city.[i] This directive was passed in an Environmental Interest Litigation (EIL) filed in the NGT on May 26 last year by a group of citizens contending that in the proposed metro rail alignment, a 1.7 km stretch passing through the left bank of the Mutha river could cause an irreversible damage to riverbank ecosystem along that route.
In the first phase two corridors of metro have been proposed in Pune. Corridor-I is of 16.59 km length from Pimpri-Chinchwad to Swargate and Corridor-II is of 14.6 km from Vanaz to Ramwadi. The petition before NGT Pune bench is against the 1.7 km stretch of Vanaz-Ramwadi corridor proposed through left bank of river Mutha. The metro route is proposed to enter the Mutha riverbed behind Savarkar memorial on Karve Road and proceed towards Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) Bhavan and further to Food Corporation of India godowns behind Shivaji Nagar District Court.[ii] Two Metro stations are also proposed on the riverbed, one near Deccan Bus Stand and the other behind Sambhaji Park. Presently soil testing work for the project is in progress.
It certainly seems a good news for Pune’s rivers which have routinely made headlines for their pollution and poor state in general. Closer look towards the details however would cast a shadow on this development. The alignment through the river bed has been proposed despite PMC recently facing and losing a petition in NGT against 2.3 km long (and 24 m wide) road from Vitthalwadi to NH-4 bypass which was being constructed illegally right in the Mutha Riverbed. In its final judgment in July 2013 NGT ordered the road to be realigned. Subsequently a contempt petition was filed when PMC failed to comply with the orders where the NGT in January 2015 again ordered removal of the constructed road.[iii]Continue reading “NGT stays work of Pune Metro affecting rivers: Another violation of the river floodplain”→