Riverfront development plan: After PM launches the project, MVA forms panel to examine it

Updated on Mar 12, 2022 08:05 PM IST

The announcement came after Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar met the state authorities regarding the project

Days after PM laid the foundation stone for the ambitious riverfront development project, the MVA government has ordered a committee to review it. (in pic) Chemical substance causing a foam like substance in the Mula river which causing water pollution. (Rahul Raut/HT PHOTO)
Days after PM laid the foundation stone for the ambitious riverfront development project, the MVA government has ordered a committee to review it. (in pic) Chemical substance causing a foam like substance in the Mula river which causing water pollution. (Rahul Raut/HT PHOTO)
BySteffy Thevar

PUNE Days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-ruled Pune Municipal Corporation’s (PMC) ambitious riverfront development project on March 6, the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government has ordered a committee to review it. The state government on Saturday ordered an inter-departmental committee “to ensure contradictions and doubts” are removed before the project starts in Pune.

The announcement came after Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar met the state authorities regarding the project. The meeting was attended by water resources minister Jayant Patil, tourism and environment minister Aaditya Thackeray and environmentalists.

The project, which is facing opposition from the Congress and the NCP, was supported by the latter during the PMC general body meeting.

The MVA government will hold a meeting with the irrigation department, environmentalists and other departments concerned to address the concerns which, according to activists, may result into over 80% concretisation along the river banks, barrages to block the free-flowing nature of both the rivers, Mula and Mutha, and change floodlines which might cause flooding in areas along the river banks.

After Saturday’s meeting, Thackeray, who holds the environment portfolio, tweeted, “A meeting to discuss the proposed river front development was held in the presence of @PawarSpeaksji and Minister @Jayant_R_Patilji. While everyone wants a cleaner and safer Mula-Mutha, there are some doubts raised by environmentalists and experts. An inter departmental committee has been formed to ensure that the contradictions and doubts are removed and work begins for a clean, safe rive.”

The project is one of the ambitious ones pushed by the BJP with PMC being the executing authority.

Pawar said, “The project has been undertaken for the purpose of cleaning and decontaminating Mula, Mutha and Mula-Mutha rivers in Pune, lowering the flood level of rivers, developing and beautifying the river banks, connecting the existing roads with the rivers, connecting citizens with the rivers. However, considering the objections, questions and suggestions from environmentalists, NGOs and citizens, the ambiguity created in the implementation seems to be essential for the success of the project. The environmentalist delegation also called for conservation and conservation of biodiversity while improving the river, taking care not to disrupt the food chain.”

Last week, Pawar had raised environmental concerns while pointing at a letter from the water resources department of Maharashtra. He had said the letter mentioned that the project may bring problem for the river flow and if the riverbed is reduced, it can cause floods.

During the meet, Patil suggested that a study group of experts from the department of water resources, environment, urban development and representatives of eco-friendly organisations should be appointed to consider the changes to address the course of the river, obstruction of flow and reduction of carrying capacity.

PMC’s 2,619-crore beautification project aims to make the river accessible for residents for recreational purposes, which is now limited to a few.

Thackeray suggested that any ambiguity should be removed immediately. “I am confident that the ambiguity will be removed within 15 days after the immediate appointment of the study group.” he said.

Meanwhile, PMC has already okayed handing over the Sangamwadi-Bundgarden stretch contract after the general body approved 250 crore for the plan. The civic body during 2017-2019 had also completed surveys, base map preparation and environment impact assessment for the project.

Environmentalist Sarang Yadwadkar, who has been following up on the issue since it was first proposed, said, “The riverfront development project is full of contradictions. The project says that it will not disrupt the flow of the river, but also proposes multiple barrages. It states that there would be no built-up area, but over 80% of the funds would be used for concretisation. Also, the project does not consider the over 450 million litres of untreated water which would still be released into the river even after the (Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) project. The project also revises the natural floodlines for the sake of the project which means that the areas around the river could cause flooding during monsoon. The stagnation of water would kill the river and its flora and fauna.”

‘Move only for political gain’

Terming NCP’s move as political, BJP councillor and city mayor Murlidhar Mohol said, “The river improvement project has been finalised after careful study at various levels. The important thing is that the NCP had supported the project at all levels in the past. Yet, doubts have been raised regarding the plan for political gains, especially after Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the project’s foundation stone. Puneites will notice that politics is more important to the NCP than the project which will benefit the city.”

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