Monday, January 2, 2012

News Article: Open Spaces Vanish, Water Bodies Dying

Radheshyam Jadhav, TNN Dec 21, 2011, 02.12AM IST

PUNE: Open space in the city is getting harder to find. Pune is growing as a vibrant, bustling centre with IT parks, manufacturing industries, educational institutes, malls and multiplexes, but this development has come at a price.Efforts to protect public lands and parks, water, habitat, species, and bio-diversity which play vital role in lives of society as a whole are increasingly an uphill task. Adequate involvement of people, policy makers and politicians which is most essential for effective management of common resources in the city is shrinking rapidly.

Laying water bodies to waste
The civic body has not bothered to look for a dumping ground and hence municipal contractors and builders continue to dump debris in the rivers, nullahs, streams and hills.
About 300 million litres of untreated sewage is released into the streams and rivers every day, hundreds of trucks of construction rubble is dumped in the riverbed, solid garbage is thrown into the river and untreated industrial effluents are released into it with encroachments steadily narrowing them.
River pollution has increased with the rapid growth in population in the last two decades. Like the other rivers, a solution to Mula-Mutha's pollution depends on funds, serious implementation and the conscientiousness of the civic body. The city has allowed its river to be reduced to a sewer by feeding it with untreated domestic waste, industrial effluent, construction rubble and hefty amount of garbage and its citizens have turned their backs on it, experts said. It was not so till the early 1980s when people would drink its water and swim in it, something that would guarantee a skin infection and other diseases today.
The PMC's survey conducted with the help of satellite images, concluded that the nullahs and its tributaries in the city measure more than 350 km and many of them are being encroached upon. For the survey, the city was divided into 24 parts and surveyors visited all the parts to take stock of the situation.
Encroachment on water bodies - including nullahs, its tributaries and natural streams - is a major cause of concern, since blockages in the outflow of water during monsoon results in widespread flooding in the city.
"We have been witness to the massive encroachment on Nagzari nullah in the last few years and now we have to face water logging. Politicians are not interested in removing encroachments. In fact, because of their support, encroachments have come up," said Vishal Wagh from Kasba Peth.

Eating into open spaces
In October, the Supreme Court's judgment in the Sun Dew apartment case highlighted the need to protect land for public purposes and the role of politicians, the government and the administration in deleting amenity reservations. "The spaces for public amenities are under a systematic attack and are shrinking all over the cities in India, only for the benefit of the landowners and the builders. Time has therefore come to take a serious stock of the situation," the Supreme Court bench comprising justice H L Gokhale and R V Raveendran.
The judgment is a wake-up call for Pune where the execution of the Development Plan (DP) has been deplorable. As per the 1987 sanctioned DP, the total number of reservations was 519 covering an area of 827 hectares. The civic body earmarks available land in the city for public amenities like gardens, hospitals, schools, roads and footpaths based on the population of an area which are called reservations.
The 1987 DP has reserved 70 hectares of land in various parts of the city for playgrounds. However, till date, the PMC has acquired only 3.5 hectare of the reserved land. In Pune, amenity spaces are encroached upon with political blessings and the civic administration's apathy. Political leaders have their offices and constructions on civic space. A classic case is at Parvati's survey number 47 in Taware Colony where local residents are fighting with a politician who has encroached upon societies' open space. The politician threatening citizens and has lodged police cases against citizens.

Gardens and Playgrounds
Rapid urbanization has eaten into the green cover in the city. The ESR report states the city has green cover on 950 hectares of hill top and slopes and 2,380 hectares of forest cover. The PMC has developed 111 gardens in the city. As per central government norms, 33 per cent of the total area of the city should be covered by trees. Pune city is spread across 243.84 sq km and, at present, has a green cover of 85 sq km or 35 % which is depleting fast. As per the tree census, 170 sq m area of the city has 21.26 lakh trees.

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