Mula-Mutha river anti-encroachment action only on paper: activists
Despite the National Green Tribunal (NGT) order and letters send by the Pune irrigation division since the past decade, the Mula-Mutha river anti-encroachment action is still on paper. On one side, the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) has claimed that there is regular action against encroachments, however, environment activists and the Pune irrigation division is not satisfied and demands a proper action plan rather than limited pre-monsoon activity.
In 2019, Yadwadkar had filed a petition in the NGT and mentioned the 12 dumping spots in Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC), Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) and Pune Metropolitan Region Development Authority (PMRDA).
The NGT had taken serious note of the issue and appointed a five-member committee with the MPCB as the nodal agency.
NGT had also warned the municipal commissioners of PMC and Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) that they should ensure that no further dumping of debris or any other waste, including the construction of waste, is disposed of in the river.
However, the Pune irrigation division wrote letters to all agencies (PMC, PCMC and PMRDA) before monsoon and instructed to remove all encroachment which creates obstacles to the river flow and avoid flooding and agencies carried out minor actions. This exercise has been carried out since the last one decade.
Anti-encroachment drive is only on paper
Yadwadkar, said, “All agencies are carrying out cosmetic work on the issue of removal of encroachments along the river side and bed. There should be proper planning and a time bound program. In 2019, we had handed over 12 spot lists of encroachment in the riverside and bed. Most of the encroachments still exist like the Sangamwadi area, Shivane, Deccan Gymkhana area.”
He further stated, “The state government had issued an order to carry out high resolution satellite images on a regular basis of corporation areas with the help of Maharashtra Remote Sensing Application Centre (MRSAC), Nagpur and identify encroachments, remove it and stop it. But nothing substantial happened from any of the agencies.”
Avinash Surve, former secretary of state water resource department and who was also former chief engineer of Pune irrigation division said, “Pune city had faced a flood situation in 2005. After that, we had started sending letters to PMC to remove encroachment from Mula-Mutha river. Every year, we send letters to agencies and remind them about encroachment. But, noting substantial has happened till date. It has become only a formality.”
H V Gunale, chief engineer of water resource department, Pune division said, “Agencies are not responding to our letter. We provide the location of encroachments or dumping of debris. They removed encroachments partially. Lack of drainage system is also responsible for inundation. We have decided to conduct a meeting of the PMC, PMRDA, Metro and PCMC and instructed them to clear the carriageway and submit a report. At present, they don’t give any report to us. The cleaning exercise should be carried out regularly and throughout the year. It should not be limited or considered as only pre-monsoon work.”
Suhas Divase, chief executive officer of PMRDA said, “Since last year, encroachment action was stopped due to a court order. Now, we will start removing encroachments from the river side. However, since the PMRDA is a planning authority and agencies such as civic bodies, gram panchyat should have to conduct a drive on a regular basis. Irrigation also has a duty to remove and track encroachment in the riverside and bed.”
PMC starts work to remove encroachments
Kunal Khemnar, PMC additional municipal commissioner said, “We have started removing debris from the riverside as well as garbage dumping. We have 10 JCBs to remove encroachments. The building permission department is also carrying out encroachment drives. We have also sent a letter to the Metro to remove debris from the river. We have started visiting encroachment spots along with the concerned ward officers along the riverside. We are also serving notices to private landowners along the riverside for dumping waste or debris in their premises.”
“In most of the river sites, owners have dumped debris and level the areas and it has settled down now. Right now, we have decided to stop fresh dumping and after that, we will also remove old riverside dumping with the help of our machinery,” he added.
Total length of Mula, Mutha in PMC jurisdiction- 44 km.
Mula River: Mumbai-Pune Bypass to Sangam Bridge (22.2 km).
Mutha River: Mumbai-Pune Bypass to Mula-Mutha Sangam (10 km).
Mula-Mutha River: Mula-Mutha Sangam to Kharadi (11.8 km).
Encroachments causes flood like Sangli and Kolhapur
Sangli and Kolhapur districts in particular were the worst affected due to the floods and waterlogging in the first week of August 2019. State government set an expert committee which observed that encroachments and construction in the river basin were the key factors responsible for these floods.