Shackled in concrete slabs, Dev Nadi gasps for breath

Published: Dec 28, 2011, 07:05 IST | Adnan Attarwala |

Unbridled lust for concretisation, or rather channelisation, has near smothered another water body of the city.

Unbridled lust for concretisation, or rather channelisation, has near smothered another water body of the city. Shackled in iron bars and concrete slabs, the mighty Dev Nadi, one of the main tributaries to Mutha, has been reduced to a trickle and is gasping for breath, thanks to "random concretisation and reckless development planning by the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) of the rivulet" whose width has shrunk to 1 m from 60 m in one year's time.

Reduced to a trickle: An expert team from the Ministry of Environment 
and Forests recently visited the Dev Nadi, whose width has shrunk 
from 60 m to 1 m in the past one year. File pic

According to environmentalists, the 20 km-long rivulet, which met the water needs of around 15,000 people residing in the Baner-Pashan area and also served as a roosting ground for the migratory birds such as Black Ibis, has become near stagnant.

So how did such a drastic change happen within one year's time? "Using Rs 100 crore allocated under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM), the PMC constructed concrete blocks along 5 km stretch of the river to prevent any type of encroachments on the water body only to choke the flow of the rivulet," said environmentalist and member of Baner Residents' group, Anupam Saraph

In August 2010, the PMC constructed cement boundaries on both sides of the rivulet and removed the soil along the riverbed in order to construct a road and underground storm water drains across the water body. "Channelisation not only reduced the width of the water body, but also blocked natural percolation of water through the riverbed. On top of that, the present construction is not in compliance with the development plan of the city," said Saraph.

The activists further claim that the PMC has constructed two channels near the Pune Banglore expressway � one behind Gera Emerald in Kharadi and the other at Baner Road where they plan to construct a road along the Mutha river. As per the development plan, the civic officials were also asked to construct a 7 metre protection zone on either side of the river. The officials agreed to it, but work in this direction never took off. 

Petition in HC
Seeing to respite in sight, wary activists of Jal Biradari and residents filed a petition in the Bombay High Court (HC) on March 21, 2011 seeking a stay on concretisation of the river and restoration of Dev Nadi. After hearing the petitioners who alleged that no Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) had been done by the PMC for construction on the riverbed, the HC ordered an interim stay on channelisation and ordered an inspection team of the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to visit the site last month. The matter still is pending in the court as the MoEF officials who are yet to produce a report on the same.

Environmentalists suggested that the PMC should utilised the JNNURM funds for restoration of water bodies such as Dev Nadi by planting trees along its path. They should also involve stakeholders and eco-groups in the process. The corporation should build check dams along 100 meters of the stream to implement 'Stop the Water, Increase percolation of water ' programme and build a wall, 10 meters from the channel of the rivulet, to demarcate 'River Protection Zones' besides checking the leaks in the sewers."We want them to restore the river to its original condition, as per the development plan when the width of the river was around 60 metres and also vacate all aggressions around it," said Saraph.

The other side
Vinay Deshpande, former technical director to JNNURM, said since he was transferred to another department he could not comment on the issue. When contacted Vivek Khadwadkar, Additional City Engineer (Road), said he was too busy to comment. When Mid DAY called executive engineer of JNNURM, A P Mane, the official said she was not aware of the issue.

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