Ecological Survey report: Mutha can get a new lease of life

Revival possible if recommendations in report are implemented.
Polluted Mutha river as seen from the bridge near Omkareshwar temple on Monday.(Sanket Wankhade/HT PHOTO)
Polluted Mutha river as seen from the bridge near Omkareshwar temple on Monday.(Sanket Wankhade/HT PHOTO)
Updated on Apr 18, 2018 03:15 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, Pune | ByPrachi Bari

Mutha river, one of the most polluted rivers in the state, according to the latest Ecological Society survey, can be revived if recommendations made by the society are implemented, said the report.

The society recently handed over a survey report to the Centre for Environment and Education (CEE). We feel that these findings must be considered in the environment impact assessment (EIA) of any of the river-related projects being planned, like the riverfront development project in the city,” Sanskriti Menon, director, Centre for Environment and Education.

Recommendations made by the Ecological Society to save the Mutha river include immediate conservation and enhancement of the areas having good ecological quality and to revive the existing natural zones. The report pointed out the need for the creation of major habitats for flora and fauna, riparian zones, islands and pools. It stated the need for a decentralised approach to river rejuvenation and the health of the catchment area also should be good.

The Ecological Society team has also recommended some policy-level recommendations about base flow, where there should be permanent release of water maintained and the water quality standards should be as per international standards while prohibiting plastics and toxic waste along the river banks. The most important polluter should pay the principle penalty, suggested the report.

The society has also released conservation sidelines, such as removal of channelisation, removal of encroachment and delineation of non development zones, among others. The report also has development guidelines, such as maintenance of spot development approach ratio, use of eco-friendly construction material and minimising use of earth moving machines.

Ecological Society, a pioneer in the field of ecological planning, eco-restoration and eco-education for the past 35 years, took six months, beginning August 2017, to complete a detailed survey of the 12 kilometre stretch of Mutha river, beginning from Warje to Yerwada.

The four-member team consisting Swati Gole, chairman of Ecological Society; Gurudas Nulkar, trustee of Ecological Society; Druvang Hingmire, architect, and Revati Ginde, botanist, divided the Mutha river into five zones and were involved in studying each zone in detail, including ecological characters, flow and flood observations, erosion and deposition processes and the kind of habitats.

“We had five zones, starting from Warje bridge to Rajaram bridge, Rajaram bridge to Mhatre bridge, Mhatre bridge to Baba Bhide bridge, Baba Bhide bridge to Sangam bridge, Sangam bridge to Bund Garden and from Bund Garden to Yerwada near Aga Khan Palace,” said Swati Gole.

“We took into account the flow, general characteristics, unique feature, biotic aspects, flora fauna and interventions,” Gole added.

The Ecological Society observed that Mutha river has inadequate base flow. There is hardly any water in the river and what is seen is only sewage water flowing. Also, due to channelisation and tributary flow, there is isolation of habitat and destruction of riparian habitat, observed the Ecological Society.

According to the report, the river is heavily polluted with encroachment and the discrepancy in the red and blue flood lines. During their research, the team also found that natural springs were clogged due to constructions, like the one near Garware bridge, where fresh natural springs have been covered with concrete. 

The team has also done zone-wise mapping where debris dumping, altered slopes and defunct structures, like old crematoriums were found.

Sanskriti Menon said, “We would like to see an analysis based on the ecosystem benefits of the river ecosystem to the city and how they can be restored. The river, riverbed and banks are not lands that need to be developed. It is a functional system which carries rain and flood waters not only from the dams, but also the surrounding catchment areas. It has a self-cleansing function and harbours plant and animal life. These functions are inter dependent. We Punekars have spiritual, cultural, recreational and educational associations with the river,” 

Further, she added, “We cannot just accept modifications of the river system that will maximise one function, like flood control, while destroying other functional aspects. It is clear from the study that inundating the river fully will submerge rocky habitats and other small niche habitats in the river bed. There are also spots of geological and historic interest. We want to know all these ecosystem benefits and human values of the rivers. Any such complex decisions about how the river ecosystem can be improved must be done with the participation of the public. It is a question of values as well as democratic values. 

Ecological Society 

The society was founded by late Prakash Gole in 1982 to promote research and education in ecological management. Through research, the society studies the impact of development activities on ecology. Through education, the society tries to make people aware of the implications of the adverse effects on ecology and through field projects, it proposes to set up model units where development planning and ecological conservation complement each other to better the lot of the people. While research projects undertaken by the society cover both rural and urban areas, the model units proposed to be set up are based in rural and semi urban areas. The goal of the Ecological Society is to emphasise on the need to salvage and conserve the remaining few patches in India’s rapidly degenerating environment.

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