Monday Musings: Wanted - Citizens’ environment status report for Pune
We, the tax-paying residents of this city, need to know what is the state of the urban environment and where it is headed three years from nowUpdated: Jul 30, 2018 14:41 IST
Hindustan Times, Pune
Previous generations will recall how the great jurist and economist Nani Palkhivala used to present his analysis of the Union Budget to rapt audiences running into thousands. These were the pre-television debate days and the country has seen nothing like it ever since.
After everyone had heard the Prime Minister, finance minister, opposition leaders, newspapers and experts hail, defend or criticise the budget, the entire country would wait with bated breath to hear what Palkhivala had to say. His sharp and incisive analysis would be the biggest highlight of the entire circus around the budget.
Such were the crowds that poured in to hear what Palkhivala had to present in his analysis at the Brabourne Stadium in what was then Bombay. People would flock in thousands and reach the venue early to grab the best seats.
Why am I reminded of Palkhivala and his analysis? The provocation is the hotch-potch nature of Pune’s Environment Status Report, 2017-18, produced by the Pune municipal corporation (PMC).
The report was produced in-house by the PMC, exclusively in Marathi, with data on a variety of parameters. Anything and everything has been presented in the report without any focus, analysis or perspective. There is data on rising vehicular population, respiratory ailments caused by growing pigeon population, the need to plant and preserve more trees in the city and PMC’s initiatives to install sewage treatment plants to address river pollution and promote metro, BRTS, cycle track and pedestrian walkways to reduce air pollution and traffic congestion.
Generalised “you should love your mother” statements galore in the report. While the presentation of basic data on a range of parameters is the saving grace of the report, what is really expected is a credible, third-party analysis of where Pune is headed.
We, the tax-paying residents of this city, need to know what is the state of the urban environment and where it is headed three years from now. The report ought to work as an eye-opener, telling us which policies are working; which are not and where change is required. It does none of these.
Even the Maharashtra pollution control board (MPCB) has noted that the assessment of environmental performance is not served by the report, because of its shortcomings.
PMC officials themselves admit that they see their role as restricted to presenting raw data, whereas the analysis has to be undertaken independently by outside agencies. It would be prudent if a committed body, such as an NGO or a think tank, like the Pune International Centre, takes up the task of analysing PMC’s environment status report.
This is the analysis that everyone would benefit from, including the PMC itself. Based on data gathered by the PMC, the analysis would take an independent view of the policies and programmes of the government initiatives, civic bodies and urban planners. This would be a much-valued service to the city and the people of Pune would be better informed and better equipped to deal with the state of the environment.
First Published: Jul 30, 2018 14:41 IST