The smart city approved by the Pune Municipal Corporation on December 14 mentions environment and sustainability as requiring urgent intervention. But the year 2015 has had several instances where the city has not exactly come clean on the environment front.
From polluted rivers, tree felling, noise pollution, air pollution to decreasing forest cover, everything remains a matter of concern in the environment sector. The much-hyped Environmental Status Report (ESR) issued by the two civic bodies, PMC and Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation, too has not had anything new to say and Pune continues to figure among the most polluted cities in the country.
In a report released in February this year, the Central Pollution Control Board said Pune’s Mula-Mutha river was one of the 302 polluted river stretches of the country, full of water hyacinth and industrial effluents. Though the environment ministry has approved Rs 990.26 crore for controlling the pollution under the National River Conservation Plan, which is to be to be shared between central government and PMC, environmentalists have doubts about its implementation. Main reasons for pollution of the river are discharge of untreated domestic waste water into the river due to inadequate sewerage system and sewage treatment and open defecation on the river banks. However, there is no movement to resolve the issues as yet.
Industries get a rap
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has already issued directives to the MPCB against polluting the banks of river Indrayani and even ordered the board to take stringent action such as complete closure of the industries located near the banks, if they are found discharging effluents and contaminating the river water.
Protection of forest cover
NGT has directed the state government to exercise restraint while issuing permissions to convert land use in identified private forest areas, specifically for tree felling and use of agriculture land for commercial purposes, until further orders. The city saw a mass protest against felling of 2,000 trees for road-widening by PMC from Vaikunth Mehta National Institute of Cooperative Management to Spicer college.
2015 saw increase in particulate matter air pollutants. There has been a gradual dip in the air quality in Pune over the last three years. Scientists at System of Air Quality Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) expressed concern over the increase in two main pollutants – PM 10 (particulate matter in the atmosphere less than 10 microns in size) and PM 2.5 (particles that are less than 2.5 microns in size) in 2015. PM 2.5 is considered more dangerous as these particles can penetrate deeper into the lungs and also enter the bloodstream.
There are various pockets in Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad that have shown increasing episodes of dipping air quality, SAFAR scientists say.
Apart from open garbage burning, additional air pollution sources are in the form of increasing number of vehicles. Awareness levels have increased slightly, as was evident during this Diwali which saw less air pollution compared to 2014.
However, the increase in PM 10 and PM 2.5 levels this year is a major cause of concern, SAFAR scientists say.
Loud and unclear
Over the years, there has been an increase in decibel levels, especially during Ganesh and Diwali festivals. Regularly monitored by MPCB and College of Engineering, the sound levels have long crossed the permissible limits of 50 dB in silence zones and 55 dB in residential areas. In 2015, the noise levels were a tad less than the last year during the Ganesh festival, yet they ranged from 70 to 80 decibels at various locations, crossing permissible limits. But it’s not just Diwali or Ganesh festivals that can make one deaf. Needless honking and sirens of police vans and other vehicles have yet to be checked.
This is despite the state issuing directives in response to a judgment from the NGT bench in Pune that noise levels of sirens and multi-tone horns must be within stipulated limits.