In a move that is bound to have significant ramifications on the eco-system of Indrayani river, the Maharashtra government has decided to allow redevelopment of authorised structures within the floodline of the river, provided certain conditions are met.
The decision was taken on August 5, at a time when several parts of the state, including Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad, were grappling with flood-like conditions caused by heavy rain and overflowing rivers. The river passes through Pimpri-Chinchwad.
A proposed provision in Pune district’s regional plan allows redevelopment of structures within the prohibited zone near Indrayani. According to the modification, authorised properties located on the river bank and within the blue flood line can now be redeveloped, but only if the building’s plinth is higher than 0.45 metres above the red flood line, and if the project receives a no-objection Certificate from the Irrigation department.
Floods highlighted peril of unchecked development
The recent floods in the state, in which large swathes of land were submerged with water from overflowing rivers, had highlighted the alarming results of unchecked development along side rivers. The recent move to allow redevelopment within floodline raises questions about whether the state government is serious about protecting its rivers. Environmentalists have also alleged that the government is deliberately altering the floodline to allow development activity alongside rivers.
As per the existing development control regulations approved for the Pune Metropolitan Region Development Authority (PMRDA) in 2018, no construction activity is allowed in the area between the river bank and blue flood line, except parking spaces, gardens and a few other exceptions, provided the land is feasible for such utilisation.
The regional plan for Pune district, approved in 1997, also clearly states that zones along Indrayani rive can’t be used for real estate development.
On June 13 this year, in accordance with an order of the Bombay High Court, the state Revenue and Forest department had asked the Urban Development department to incorporate blue and red flood lines along Indrayani river in the regional plan.
“The government is of the opinion that it is necessary to incorporate blue and red flood lines along Indrayani river in the regional plan and make provisions for redevelopment between the river and the blue flood line in development control regulations. So, it is necessary to modify the regional plan and regulations,” stated a government resolution issued by the state Urban department on August 5. The state government has sought suggestions and objections from the public on the proposed modifications within 30 days.
“This is a shocking move, especially in the backdrop of the recent flood-like situation in the state.The encroachment alongside the river has become a serious issue and it is high time that the government wakes up and tries to protect the river by retaining the floodline and ensuring no encroachment of any kind within the floodline, or there will be more serious destruction in the coming years,” said Sarang Yadawadkar, an environmentalist who had filed an application in the National Green Tribunal last month, objecting to the state government’s decision to allow development in the prohibited zone.