Environmentalists from the city expressed their dissatisfaction over the way the Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) has undertaken post flash flood initiatives, calling it ineffective, unplanned, ad-hoc, hazardous and unscientific. They have demanded a more systematic and scientific investigation into the matter, by way of mapping and analysing the waterlogged and flood affected areas, to avert any similar disaster in the future.
Following a legal notice on August 6, under section 15 of The Environment (Protection) Act (1986) by the Gujarat Pollution Control Board, the VMC had initiated the removal of dumped debris from the banks of the Vishwamitri river. The environmentalists, however, claimed that whether the remediation is being carried out in a scientific and syste-matic manner or not, is still ambiguous.
“Prima facie, it is clearly visible that this post-legal notice debris and other waste removal action by the VMC is unplanned, ad-hoc, hazardous, and unscientific. It is important to reiterate that restoration of the river, the ravines, the ponds, the wetlands, and such must be done systematically, scientifically, and in an ecologically sound manner and ensure healthy and well-functioning ecosystems, including the habitats of the riverine flora and fauna,” a letter by the environmentalists addressed to the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, read.
The environmentalists in their letter stated that allowing deforestation, indiscriminate land-use changes in the catchment area of the Vishwamitri river, in addition to altering the course and resectioning of the banks of the river in Vadodara, has eventually led to reducing the water-carrying capacity and habitat values of the river system, disconnecting and disrupting its ecosystem services.
“Despite repeated requests from our side to take corrective and proactive steps, the VMC, instead of removing the dumped debris, had continued with the dumping of fresh debris, discharge of untreated sewage, filling, levelling and allowing encroachments and construction along/in/ around the Vishwamitri river and its environs (banks, ravines, tributaries, ponds, wetlands, runlets, ditches, etc.). This process has resulted in illicitly increasing the real estate and encroachments of the natural components of the interconnected river system. The VMC has failed to put its act together, until nature’s harsh wake-up call on 31 July – 1 August, 2019 onwards,” the environmentalists said.
As a mediated solution, the environmentalists have demanded to spend government resources, to map more scientifically and accurately, the extent of the waterlogged and flooded areas of the city post the floods, and also conduct technically advanced surveys with accurate contours, spot elevations, trees, utility lines and nodes, buildings’ footprints with plinth levels, etc. for the entire city. They have also demanded to establish an Urban and Environmental/Ecological planning department in the Vadodara Urban Development Authority and/or VMC, which also includes experts from various related fields for ensuring better plans and detailed designs for the city.
Other demands include implementation of appropriate rainwater harvesting structures, preparing disaster mitigation plans for the city, to revisit and revise all the beautification plans and projects and the setting up of a recycling and up-cycling plant, at the earliest, to treat the debris. The VMC Commissioner remained unavailable for comment.