Pune river choking on pollution from ‘smart’ garbage
The Rs. 22 crore Smart City project in the western suburb of Aundh has generated a lot of garbage and waste, all of which is being dumped in the Mula riverpune Updated: Aug 13, 2017 15:07 IST
An entire ‘river of garbage’ has been quietly descending onto the banks of the Mula river in Aundh, which is at the heart of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Smart City initiative in Pune.
For more than two months now, the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) and its Aundh Ward Office have been focusing entirely on the Rs. 22 crore Smart City project in the western suburb of Aundh. While their hard work resulted in the beautification of a half-kilometre stretch from Bremen chowk to Parihar chowk, what went unnoticed was the extraordinary, free-wheeling dumping of garbage on the banks of the Mula river near Aundh DMart on Mahadji Shinde Road.
Restaurants, roadside eateries and residents from Aundh-Baner among others are being blamed for this. Wastepickers from SWaCH, the Solid Waste Collection and Handling cooperative have been dutifully clearing small quantities of garbage on a daily basis, as seen from their handcarts parked in the vicinity. However, no attempt has been made by the civic authorities to prevent people from dumping garbage onto the riverfront.
On Saturday, even as a team from Hindustan Times was inspecting this impromptu garbage dump, a woman from Gaikwadnagar in Aundh calmly stepped off her scooter and walked towards the heap to drop her garbage bag. When questioned, she simply shrugged her shoulders and said, “I was just dropping my garbage where there is already a lot of garbage.” However, she was reprimanded by PMC’s sanitation inspector Balasaheb Shedge and told to carry her bag with her.
A resident from the vicinity said, “Every night, people come on their bikes and cars to dump their garbage here. Even a truck comes in the middle of the night and dumps a huge quantity of garbage.”
According to PMC’s Environment Status Report, this city with a population of 35 lakhs generates 1,700 tonnes of garbage daily which includes 150-180 tonnes construction waste, 50-60 tonnes of garden waste and 5-6 tonnes of biomedical waste. With the PMC having decided to eliminate garbage bins from a number of areas to promote dry-and-wet waste segregation, people and establishments have been dumping their garbage at the nearest available spot.
Speaking to HT, PMC’s sanitation inspector Balasaheb Shedge said, “Initially, there was a garbage collection bin here but under the new policy in the city it was removed. People have not realised that they have been throwing garbage here even though our staff tells them not to throw garbage. But people come on their bikes and just throw their garbage without stopping.”
Vaishali Patkar, president of Aundh mohalla committee, who came to the spot after being alerted by HT said that the residents’ association had asked the Aundh ward office to clear the garbage. Ward officials, however, said that it could not be done due to heavy rains.
“After removing the garbage bin, the PMC is supposed to put up notice boards mentioning a penalty for dumping garbage here,” she said, while demanding that the people should also be fined heavily.
Shalaja Deshpande, an Aundh resident said that the garbage seen in the riverfront was mostly from the neighbouring hotels and roadside eateries. “The garbage is purposely thrown down the slope of the river, as it is a convenient place to dump their garbage and flow it with the river,” she said.
Ganesh Kalapure from Aundh Gaon blamed hotels, restaurants and eateries for the garbage dumped at this spot.
HT IMPACT: Civic staff comes with truck to clear garbage
When Hindustan Times contacted the Aundh ward office health department, there was immediate action. Sanitation Inspector Balasaheb Shedge rushed to the spot with 15 sanitary workers to immediately clear the garbage. Soon a truck also arrived to pick up the garbage. He claimed that the mountain of garbage that was seen “is just 2-3 days old.” Shedge said while the garbage scattered on the road was cleared daily, the enormous pile descending on a slope towards the river could not be cleared easily as heavy earth-moving equipment was required.
Vijay Bhoir, PMC’s divisional health inspector said that he had recently taken charge and had intimated his higher authorities about the problem. “Our main issue is that it is difficult to clean the slope and the river bank as we cannot reach the area. It is also dangerous for our cleaning staff to enter that area since it has dangerous insects and snakes. The amount of garbage that is accumulated cannot be picked up manually. We have been asking for JCB machines for this work, but none is available,” he said.