Activists oppose dumping of debris in Dhanori lake

Environmentalists accuse builders of filling up lake to construct IT park despite central panel scrapping plan

Some parts of mighty Dhanori lake, spread over 11 hectares at Ambanagri Society, is being filled up with construction debris by land sharks allegedly smothering the water body to build a Rs 220-crore IT park on its deathbed, say environmental activists.

Choking to death? The builders are allegedly dumping construction 
debris on the lake and draining its water into PMC nullahs

The area, which originally belonged to the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC), was given on lease to Yerwada Gai Wadar Mazdoor Cooperation Society for mining purposes in 1977. However, the lease was subsequently terminated by the then Pune Collector of Pune on March 31, 1984. Over the years, the abandoned mine pit converted in to a lake due accumulation of rainwater and run-off surface water. 

According to activists, the plot was recently illegally transferred to developers -- Vijaykumar Mehta and Ors and Lunkad Realty -- who eventually decided to use the area for constructing an IT park and residential complexes. 
The developers approached the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) for constructing the complexes and proposed to do so by filling the lake with rubble and earth in 2010. 

According to PMC officials, they have a go ahead to the project as it was a private plot and was mapped as a residential zone under the development plan of the city, prepared some 20 years ago. Though the Central environment panel had given its clearance for the Rs 220-crore IT project, it reverted the order citing existence of a lake on the plot. 

"They have started dumping debris into the lake without permission and have already filled up some parts of the lake. They even started draining the water into PMC nullas. This continued until we intervened and approached the court," said an activist requesting anonymity. 

The project involves construction of the IT Park on an area of 1,08,900 and the total built-up area proposed is 1,68,719 While the activists are up in arms against filling up of the lake as it would disturb the biodiversity of area, the developers claimed that the water is a composite of nothing but rain water and sewage and therefore of least consequence for people living around. 

Refuting such claims, Satish Khote, director of National Society for Clean Cities (NSCC), said, "The quarrying came to a stop over two decades ago and this could have been the result of tapping an underground water source which has filled up the mining pit. The quality of water was good and is used by societies on its banks. The lake is also well stocked with fish and locals even people fish there. This water body is rare. We will never allow the land sharks to swallow it up."

He added, "The PMC is supposed to protect the lake and define it as a water body and prevent its mistreatment and restore it and assure no sewage or construction debris is dumped into it." 

The other side
The PMC has pleaded helplessness over the issue as 'it is a private land and falls under the residential category as per the 1987 development plan'. Vivek Kharwadkar, additional City Engineer said, "The environmental NGOs wanted us to move to the court. We have some issues with these NGOs over the possession of the lake and are working over it. Since the matter is sub-judiced I cannot comment further." Despite several attempts none of the developers -- Vijaykumar Mehta and Ors and Lunkad Realty -- could be reached for their comment.

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