National Green Tribunal Seeks Action Plan from Pune Municipal Corp, PCMC & PMRDA to Clean Up Rivers or Pay Rs1 Crore Penalty Each
The flash floods in Pune last week, which left 22 people dead (some were washed away, while they were driving their vehicles), again brings out the frightening hazard caused by indiscriminate dumping and encroachment into the blue lines of the rivers. The consequent narrowing of river banks has reduced the depth of river beds leading to life threatening flash floods.
 
On 26 September 2019, the National Green Tribunal (NGT)’s Principal Bench at Delhi, ordered that an action plan should be chalked out within a month by the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC), the Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) and Pune Metropolitan Regional Development Authority (PMRDA) to remove all encroachments and debris in the river. The municipal corporations are liable to pay a penalty of Rs1 crore each in case they fail to do so.
 
Noted civic activist, Sarang Yadwakar had filed a petition, against dumping of construction materials on the flood plains of the rivers flowing through Pune and Pimpri Chinchwad cities, particularly the Mula Mutha River. In his petition, he stated that despite an order of the NGT on 27 March 2015, prohibiting construction of any kind within a distance of 50 meters from the Blue Line of rivers, 12 instances of encroachments have taken place in Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad.
 
 
There is a decrease in the discharge carrying capacity of the rivers, creating a flood situation because of:
 
  • Unauthorised constructions/ encroachments along the river course and the flood zone due to dumping of debris, soil, murum and construction and demolition waste
  • Large quantities of solid waste being dumped along the rivers
  • Discharge of untreated domestic waste water and sewage
  • Untreated industrial effluents released into the rivers. 
 
The three municipal authorities have been ordered to act immediately to remove all unauthorised construction within the prohibited areas and restore rivers to their original form. All drains and nallahs discharging untreated waste water and untreated industrial effluent be diverted to available sewage treatment plants (STPs) and common and combined effluent treatment plants (CETPs), to ensure that the untreated waste water and effluents are not discharged directly into the rivers; and also remove all obstructions caused to the rivers.
 
The encroachments have shockingly spread to the almost the entire stretch of the Mula Mutha and Pavana Rivers and are very serious in nature. 
 
Some examples of this are: 
 
  • Dumping of massive construction debris at Babasaheb Ambedkar Bridge at Pimple Nilakh, which is under PCMC limits in the River Mula; 
  • Encroachment on the right bank of Pawana River by dumping construction debris at bridge connecting Pimpri and at Pimple Saudagar, which is under PCMC limits; 
  • Dumping construction debris on both banks of Pawana River near the bridge connecting Pimple Gurav and Kasarwadi under PCMC limits; 
  • Encroachment on the right bank of Pawana River by dumping construction debris near Karmavir Bhaurao Patil Road, Sangvi; 
  • Encroachment at the confluence of Mula River and Ram Nadi by dumping huge amount of debris near the left bank of Mula River and Pimple Nilakh; 
  • Encroachment on Mutha Riverbed by way of dumping of huge quantities of soil on the left bank of Mutha River near DeccanGymkhana and behind Sambhaji Park; 
  • Multiple encroachments at Sangamwadi Road on the left bank of Mula-Mutha River starting from the confluence of Mutha and Mula; 
  • Dumping debris in Mula River at the bridge connecting Nanded Village to Shivane Village.
 
Shockingly, on the left bank of Mutha River behind Dangat Industrial Estate, Mr Yadwadkar’s petition states that, “a huge chunk of land is robbed from left bank to right bank of Mutha River by shifting the entire course of the river towards the left from its original position.”
 
 
Considering the seriousness of the violations, a Committee was constituted comprising the chief engineer, water resources, district collector, Pune; member secretary, Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) and a senior scientist from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) regional office. 
 
The MPCB carried out inspections upon Mr Yadvadkar’s complaint, validated his allegation and observed that, “It is necessary to remove the dumping or otherwise every a year flood disaster will happen…In future if encroachment is not stopped and the dump material is not removed within the blue line, a heavy disaster is likely to happen, river may change its direction of flow which would lead to heavy losses of property and living habitats.” 
 
 
It also observed that heavy dumping of construction material “affects the flood carrying capacity of rivers and causes major obstruction to river flow”.
 
As for the right bank of the Pavana River, “encroachment has been made by villagers by dumping huge quantity of debris, road asphalt, rubbish and murum. They have also put up stalls of various fabricated material. Due to this, natural cross section of river was totally disturbed at one side. This type of encroachment pattern is seen along both banks of Pavana River throughout length in the city area.
In some areas, the natural flow of the Pavana River has been diverted, causing major obstruction to the river flow.”
 
 
The MPCB further observes, “At Pimpale Gurav to Kasarwadi Bridge, besides dumping debris, PCMC is developing a 6,000 sq mt garden by constructing retaining wall on river bank and filling river flood plain up to road level. A temple, which is constructed on the left bank of the river, is causing major obstruction to the flow of the river.” 
 
MPCB has recommended appropriate action against these encroachments by forming a committee of PMC, PCMC, PMRDA, commissioner of police and superintendent of police for appropriate action to remove the debris and to avoid the flood situation in future.
 
 
The National Green Tribunal, in its order of 26th September concluded that, “based on observations made during inspection of Mutha, Mula-Mutha, Mula and Pavana rivers by the committee, facts mentioned by the applicants in their application dated 23 July 2019 are found correct. Due to these encroachments in the rivers, discharge carrying capacity of rivers is decreasing day by day and creating floods situation.”
 
It has ordered that the PMC, PCMC & PMRDA to immediately start removing such unauthorised constructions/ encroachments from river course and flood zone in association with Water Resource Department, within a time frame chalked out jointly by the three authorities. And to implement the Town Planning Department’s GR of June 2016, “to use of satellite images and computer system to control unauthorized construction/encroachments.” 
 
The three municipal authorities will have to pay a penalty of Rs1 crore each, if action plan has not been chalked out within a month of this order.
 
(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.)
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    COMMENTS

    Nilesh Rokade

    2 months ago

    One crore penalty is like peanut to these municipality .. More strict law to be made with accountability .

    P M Ravindran

    2 months ago

    A right decision by the NGT. But I can't help adding that getting aright decision from a judicial body is more of a luck than winning a lottery.

    There is no doubt that the scenes of flood strike you straight than the equally or more hazardous pollution of fresh water sources.

    And Kerala, with its 44 rivers, is riddled with this kind of scourge for a long, long time. The 2018 and 2019 floods have also exposed the consequences of mismanagement like encroachment and dumping wastes too.

    I can recollect at least two instances when the Ombudsman for Local Self Governing Bodies in Kerala had directed the Palakkad Municipality to clean a fairly large pond and to stop draining sewage into it. It has not been complied with though it is more than a decade since the last order was issued. In fact neither the municipality nor the Ombudsman's office could provide the copy of the orders under the RTI Act.

    By the way, the municipality is the competent authority to prosecute those who pollute fresh water bodies.

    Black Money worth Rs4 crore Seized since Declaration of Maharashtra Assembly Elections: DGIT
    The Directorate General of Income Tax (Investigation) is working 24x7 to curb the use of black money and cash inducement in the ongoing Assembly Elections in the state, said Nitin Gupta, director general of Income Tax (Investigation), in Mumbai on Tuesday.
     
    Addressing a press conference in Mumbai, he said illegal cash worth Rs4 crore has been seized by the Department, since the declaration of Model Code of Conduct by the Election Commission of India, on 21 September 2019.
     
    Elaborating on the steps taken by the Department, the DG informed the media that principal director of I-T-1, (Investigation Wing), Mumbai, Anand Kumar has been designated as the Nodal Officer for I-T department for Maharashtra. He said that the department is working in close coordination with several law enforcement agencies and other government departments, in order to contribute to the conduct of free, fair and smooth elections.
     
     
    The DG informed that on the regulatory front, a system has been put in place to gather intelligence inputs regarding movement of cash and valuables and to take immediate action in this regard. 24x7 control rooms are operational at Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur and 40 Quick Response Teams (QRT) – including six in Mumbai, have been set up at various districts and constituencies across the state.
     
    Apart from this, Air Intelligence Units (AIUs) at all the functional airports/airstrips have been set up, in order to monitor and check the flow of unaccounted cash and valuables.
     
    Mr Gupta said that a comprehensive sensitization and awareness programme has been launched and that various media platforms such as print and electronic media, outdoor media and social media are being used. 
    He added that the department has also provided toll free numbers, and WhatsApp numbers, using which citizens can inform the Department of suspicious activities.
     
     
    The DG informed that upon receiving information from public / police /other agencies, Verification process is initiated through QRT’s and that if the information is found credible, requisite action is taken as per IT Act, 1961.
     
    Responding to a media query, the DG informed that illegal cash worth approximately 28 crore rupees was seized in whole of Maharashtra during the Lok Sabha Elections 2019, out of which around Rs.16 crores was from Mumbai.
     
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    COMMENTS

    Aditya G

    2 months ago

    ONLY 4 crores? Tsk tsk. Come on.

    Clean chit to Maharashtra Chief Minister Fadnavis overturned, SC orders probe
    In a major setback to Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, the Supreme Court on Tuesday set aside a Bombay High Court order that prevented the trial court from examining a poll-related complaint against him.
     
    The apex court has set aside concurrent clean chit by trial court and Bombay High Court to Fadnavis on filing false election affidavit allegedly not disclosing two criminal cases pending against him.
     
    The apex court has allowed the trial court to examine if he concealed criminal cases in the nomination papers filed.
     
    A complaint was filed by Satish Ukey against Fadanvis in the magistrate's court seeking his prosecution for not disclosing all the details of pending criminal cases.
     
    The case was quashed by the High Court. Then, the petitioner filed the appeal in the apex court.
     
    With the top court allowing the appeal, the complaint will be revived before the magistrate's court as per procedure. Although, this direction will have no bearing upon the forthcoming Assembly elections in the state.
     
    Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.
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