While the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) has embarked upon the ambitious project of beautification of the River Mutha—one of the most polluted rivers— and set a patrolling squad in place to protect the river, the dedicated squad of 17 ex-servicemen is struggling for its own sustenance with no civic department ready to take the responsibility of supervising their work or being accountable for it.
The squad, which came into existence eight months ago, was designated the job of keeping a round-the-clock vigil of the river in different shifts. “The squad looks after the 8-km river stretch from Bund Garden to Warje and each team has been given the responsibility of 2 km,” said a civic officer.
However, the PMC initiative has failed with no civic department supervising the squad and being accountable for their work. In a recent order, Municipal Commissioner Kunal Kumar said, “The dedicated squad to patrol the river would be reporting to the deputy municipal commissioner and in-charge of land estate department Satish Kulkarni along with in-charge of river development project Srinivas Bonala.”
When contacted, Kulkarni said he was just responsible for coordinating the meetings or any work by various civic departments pertaining to the river’s development. “I have to only coordinate and not look into every day working of the squad,” he said.
The anti-encroachment department, river development project cell and ward offices are connected with the issues pertaining to the river, he said.
As per the order, the PMC security department has to appoint the squad, ward offices have to pay the salaries of the members while the vehicle department has to provide office vehicle for patrolling.
The security department officer said that the appointment of the squad is done every three months with the roster set for patrolling exercise along the riverbed but the efforts are not yielding expected results. “There is no support to the squad from various departments. No civic department or officer is taking the responsibility of the squad,” he said.
The squad has been submitting a daily report to the land and estate department, ward officer and river development cell as no single officer is taking the responsibility, he said, adding, “There is no one to resolve the problems faced by the squad protecting the river. Thus, the objective is not getting fulfilled.”
Earlier, it was decided that the ward offices would also carry out necessary infrastructure work for protecting the river, which includes the check on drainage being released into river, putting up boards warning action against garbage being thrown, among others.
“Neither the ward offices nor any civic department has carried out the work that was needed to protect the river,” he added.
On the other hand, the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) has started public consultation to prepare a master plan for
the river development project that aims to change the river from being polluted to a place that would be integral part of the society.
The heavy urbanisation in PMC in the last few decades has created pressure on the rivers and the PMC feels the rivers are presently most vulnerable to pollution, encroachment, flooding and are not accessible to public. The Ahmedabad-based HCP Design, Planning and Management Pvt Ltd has been appointed the consultant in association with city-based Centre for Development Studies and Activities (CDSA) for the ambitious project.
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