'Pune politicians ignoring environmental issues'

Green brigade complains no party mentions environmental issues in manifesto, says whatever little civic poll candidates talk about preserving nature just for sake of keeping appearances

According to city environmentalists, like in the past  even this year all political parties contesting the upcoming municipal election have not listed essential environmental issues, especially restoration of rivers, in their respective manifestos.

Work in progress: Work on to construct retaining walls and lay sewage
lines in a nullah next to Mula river at Kharadi. Environmentalists say
such construction is detrimental to nature. File pic

"In Congress' manifesto, instead of focusing on restoration of rivers, they have mentioned about their navigation. We can only wait and watch who comes to power and appeal to them to restore Pune's water bodies," said activist Sarang Yadwadkar, who has been involved in river restoration work.

Last week, members of Jal Biradari Pune had brought out a 'charter of rights and demands of rivers', highlighting the plight of rivers and requesting citizens to vote for those candidates who work towards restoration of these water bodies, which have been encroached upon and channelized from all corners. "Though most of our leaders have evaded the topic of environment, it is pleasing to know Raj Thackeray and Sharad Pawar, are against river navigation projects," said Anupam Saraph, a member of Jal Biradari Pune.

 In their charter of demands, Jal Biradari members stated that the candidates should discuss their responsibility towards water bodies and seek disciplinary action against those who encroach upon and pollute rivers. "We have to co-exist with rivers and ensure that no channelization takes place or sewage be allowed to flow into them," said Saraph.

Ornithologist Dr Satish Pande said that whatever little the politicos have been talking about on environmental issues in their rallies is hogwash. "Despite so many meetings and write-ups what have they done till date? Has there been any talk on water bodies or construction on hills? It shows how apathetic the candidates have been towards such issues," said Dr Pande.

Earlier, the National Society for Clean Cities (NSCC) had prepared a 16-point 'charter of demands' seeking candidates' commitment and views on various important issues, including no construction in reserved biodiversity parks, river restoration, environment protection, anti-encroachment measures and equitable water, among others. However, the environmentalists said that the candidates are not even aware of the environmental violations in the city.

"What we have seen is that the political parties have been doing superficial things even before studying the issues, which we stress upon in our weekly mohalla committee meetings. They don't even know where the water is being wasted or how garbage could be segregated. Instead, they only talk about building new projects. Such is a state of affairs that last week, a politician sent a mail, thanking me for making him aware about environmental violations in his ward," said SatishKhot, president, NSCC.

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