A state government initiative to green urban neighbourhoods across Maharashtra has been marred by participating cities sending in proposals involving the use of concrete or paver blocks as beautification tools. The state Urban Development department will now tweak conditions for funding under the scheme. In September last year, the Maharashtra government announced funding assistance to 42 towns and cities for a “comprehensive and sensible greening” of neighbourhoods. Under the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT), mission cities were tasked with the responsibility of turning public areas into vegetable gardens, tree farms, nature parks and urban forests. The target was to enhance vegetation in urban land areas to 15 per cent within three years.
While commercial capital Mumbai is not part of the initiative, the mission cities include Thane, Pune, Nagpur and Navi Mumbai among others. Most of the proposals received in the first year of implementation, however, involved spending funds for civil works – setting up paved pedestrian pathways, building compound walls, construction of benches and amphitheatres — inside reserved public green spaces. Officials said even beautification proposals did not focus on greening.
One city, for instance, proposed installation of life-sized fibreglass animals inside a public park, others promoted the use of lawns as the sole greening measure. This has now prompted the Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis-led Urban Development department to introduce new caveats for ensuring there was “sensible greening” of public spaces. Principal Secretary (Urban Development) Manisha Mhaiskar said: “We have now made it mandatory for mission cities to use 80 per cent of the project funds for greening tools. A rider that 5,000 trees be planted in each of these projects has been introduced. The civil work permitted would be limited to building compound walls, drinking water facilities, storm water drainage facilities, compost plants, water and electricity works.”
She added: “The use of cement concrete blocks or paver blocks as beautification tools will be discouraged. Greenways or parks will have to be built with earth.” She further said the whole initiative was to help beautify cities while improving the quality of life at the same time. The idea was to encourage biodiversity while meeting the need for green spaces.
The state government has claimed that it has so far received 128 proposals. While administrative approvals have been granted in 70 cases, the tendering is in process in 59 among these. The government has lablled the greening initiative “Amrut Van”.
According to sources, the chief minister will soon perform bhoomipujan for some of the proposed green corridors. Under the Atal mission, which is a flagship scheme of the Narendra Modi government, the Centre contributes up to 50 per cent of the funds, state contributes 25 per cent, whereas the city council or the municipal corporation funds the remaining 25 per cent.