Friday, September 1, 2017

Pune & A Dream Named River Beautification!

“Cities get built out of poet's dreams.”… Marty Rubin.

Marty Rubin is the author of books such as The Boiled Frog Syndrome, the book is for love & politics obviously it revolves around the city & so we get to know such wonderful quote. Though when it comes to our beloved city Pune I do believe in poet’s dream but these dreams gets shattered when every day I wakeup is the fact! As each new days brings along new dreams to residents of this city & there is no scarcity of poets in Pune & they do come with many names, positions, parties (political) & faces (read masks). Apart from recent dreams of Smart City & Metro as BRTS is now forgotten, there are few other dreams also which keeps on entering in Puneakr citizen’s life periodically; one such is river front development! I am staying in this city now for more than thirty years & I vaguely remember flow of clean water in the river in my early days as well lots of greenery around the banks at least in the stretch of karvenagr around the place where at present rajaram bridge stands. I even remember quite a bird life along the river in winters, even migratory birds like painted storks has been regular visitors of the rivers flowing through Pune but of late there are only kites & crows, you can see hovering over the river bed. Speaking about greenery along the river banks, well it’s long gone & all you can see is now boundary walls of projects right in the banks of river or river side road chocked with vehicles or mounds of earth filling, encroaching the river bed by private land owners along the river banks. About water quality flowing through the rivers of Pune city, then lesser we say is better is all I can tell. As if you call it a big open drain then even these words are not enough to describe the water quality or situation of the rivers of this city.

And on all such background when I opened news paper & get to read the front page of mostly all news papers running the story of some political party has made a river front development plan & submitted to Hon PMC Commissioner then I wonder whether to laugh or cry on what I have read! No, I don’t want to get beaten up by the said party karyakartas as I am not criticizing their good intentions (though few Punekar may ask, what this party has done for the river development while they were in ruling?) but this is not political blog so I refrain saying who has done what & what not. Instead I will try to share who has tried what regarding our city’s rivers & what’s the fact about this dream which has been called as river front development. As to my knowledge I have read at least five or six such news items in last decade about various organizations which includes some reputed architectural colleges also, making this effort of telling PMC how they can make the river beautiful public place. And even PMC itself has made a plan & got budget from Central Govt over thousand crore rupees for developing the river front. That way there was another news of PMC appointing consultants for many such dream projects & spending millions of rupees for the same but outcome of such consultancy is never seen on site is also a fact, I mean largely such is the scene.

And then there was another news of PMC’s/PCMC’s ( as I never consider Pune & Pimpari Chinchwad as two different cities anymore) many administrative officers & elected members going abroad or other States (read Ahmadabad in Gujarat in river front context) for studying developments in these countries or States. But again what is outcome of such study tours on larger scale is unknown to most of the citizens. As, if even one person from PMC or PCMC has seen any other country with open eyes & mind & had tried to implement what he or she has seen in the study tour then we wouldn’t have been shouting for clean public toilets, which is very basic need of the city. And here we are dreaming for river front development like thing while we are unable to make even one public toilet usable for citizens! So following the tradition of study tours one more team of officers & elected members has been gone to Ahmadabad to study the river development from PCMC. And let me remind you it’s in PCMC only maximum encroachments have happened in the river bed & Hon High Court has been pushing PCMC to remove these encroachments. When its encroaching rivers then PMC isn’t far behind with her sister city; in a recent verdict by NGT (National Green Tribunal) it has ordered PMC to remove every structure (and there are many) in the blue line from stretch of some 1.8 km river bed of Mutha river. Though this order is at present regarding the stretch of only 1.8 km between mhatre bridge to rajaram bridge yet soon it will be applicable to entire river stretch in PMC limit. 

As usual both municipal corporations are doing their best to show that they are honoring courts verdict yet on site not an inch of encroachments has been removed is a fact, this is our attitude towards our river development. Now look at this joke, on one side our political parties’ has been busy in getting publicity by publishing the river development plans as well municipal administration is busy in sending their teams to study river front development in other cities but on other side they are not even doing their routine job to keep the river banks free from illegal encroachments!

And then on top of everything our Hon Central Transport Minister during his recent visit to Pune assured that he will put all efforts to use Pune’s rivers as means of water transportation i.e. water ways, to reduce burden on Pune’s roads which are chocking down to death due to millions of vehicles! With due respect to Hon  Minister as I am diehard fan of his working style but sir please no more dreams about our river is all I will request as while we dream we shouldn’t forget that this city can’t afford to dream anymore! Sir, let me remind you that any river transport needs flow of water all year round in the river where as here we can’t even let our canals run full all year long so from where the water is going to be made available for the water ways transportation in Pune rivers? There is one remote solution like Suez canal, to build check dams all along the river bed to maintain a basic level of water in the river & then use it for river transport but then it’s going to be very very costly affair making this transportation non-viable & second you will have to remove encroachments on both banks to avoid submergence which will be generated due to these check dams. And speaking about removing encroachments the PMC can’t even remove its own built road in the river bed so how & when we will be able to clear both the banks of Mula & Mutha is the question I will ask?

Now coming to the study tours to cities like Ahmadabad for Sabarmati river development; I had been to that city some twenty years back & trust me the scene was same as we witness today with Mula/Mutha. The city is in this very country only with all the so called govt system in place yet they could revive the entire river front & today we visit to see that development. What I will suggest to our PMC/PCMC friends is why there is need to visit to see Ahmadabad river front development, when everything is available on Google in form of snaps as well live feed from Google Earth; instead ask how they have done it & why they were able to achieve it? Answer is simple, they made proper study of the result what they wanted to achieve & made policies according to that & they had will to execute those policies. For e.g. with due respect to everyone’s efforts to make river front development plans does we know that we are not allowed to do anything within Blue Line? For those who doesn’t know what’s blue line & red line, these are flood lines marked on ground along both the banks of the river representing highest flood time water levels in last thirty years (blue line) & hundred years (red line). 

Then another joke in policy making is  we have kept a green belt of 30 meters wide in new development plan i.e. new city & the very same green belt is nearly 100 meters wide in old city limit. This all green belt land is under private ownership & it’s a zone not reservation, so we can’t control any development here. And on sinhgad road side of Mutha river or in many places the residential zone directly touches to river banks leaving no place beyond the blue line for any provision of river front development! Now how & where we will be developing our beautiful planning which is going to buried dead in some presentations, wasting efforts of hundreds of architects & planners!
Need  of the time is make a uniform green belt in the form of reservation along the both banks of the rivers & it should be throughout as rivers doesn’t recognize old or new city limits types foolish terminologies. And most importantly make this belt along the river as reservation & make provision of enough funds or TDR (FSI in lieu of land to be acquired) as then only the concerned land lords will hand over the said land to the authorities. Or think of making some part commercial & allow the land lords to use it on basis of maintain & operate. As with due respect to planners who has made many options of river front developments, to plan is easy but what’s use if that plan is never ever going to be a reality? This is the very reason, in last many years number of wonderful dreams has been shown to the citizens about making river a pride of city but till today not even 100 meters of river has been beautified as planned!

Another aspect is allowing drainage of entire city to let in the rivers, its killing the very life cycle of the river which is essential to keep it alive. The pollution levels are so high of Mula/ Mutha river water that nothing can survive in these rivers so at least till we do our so called river front development, we can stop drainage water entering in to the rivers. All we have to do is keep a tight check on every nallah (which few years back was stream); sewer lines which is being let in the river & ensure that even a single drop of water entering in river is treated. And we don’t need any special permission or high level technology for this basic solution. Only issue is do we really want the solution as why blame PMC only but every single person of this city is happily throwing his or her garbage in the river at our convenience is a fact & even Ganpati immersion is not exception to making our rivers more polluted!

Let’s remind our self as the Marty has said, cities do get built by the poet’s dreams but just dreams are not enough, we need to open our eyes & make efforts to make those dreams realty. And yes along with all this, we need a will too, to execute what we have dreamt. And finally remember one thing, you can dream while you are asleep but you can’t dream when you are pretending to be asleep, which we so called Punekars are, especially when the dream is about making our rivers beautiful!
Sanjay Deshpande 
Sanjeevani Dev.

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