Written by Ajay Khape Jadhav
The Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) has restarted the process to develop the 2.1-km Link Road between Balbharati and Paud Phata, two years after the Bombay High Court stopped it on the grounds that it could have an adverse environmental impact. The Maharashtra government has sanctioned the proposed road — a portion of which passes through Vetal Hill — in the city’s new Development Plan (DP).
“The PMC has received a new mandate to revise the project for the development of the Balbharati-Paud Phata Link Road. Under the new DP, the 2.1-km Link Road will have a width of 100 feet, and will pass in front of Balbharati and through ILS Law College,” said a PMC officer.
For the project, the PMC has started the process to appoint consultants for the Environmental and Social Impact Study (ESIS) and the Environmental Management Action Plan (EMAP).
The Link Road was proposed in 1987 to ease the traffic congestion on Law College Road. Though it was not cleared because of environmental concerns, the project was later approved under Section 205 of the Maharashtra Municipal Corporations (MMC) Act.
However, the proposal was struck down by the Bombay High Court on January 1, 2016, on the grounds that it did not take into account the environmental impact.
“It is essential that all pros and cons of the Link Road development project should be placed before the public and the process be conducted in a transparent manner to protect public interest,” said the PMC officer, adding that two separate agencies would be appointed for the traffic study and ESIS.
The ESIS and EMAP, which are to be completed in 20 weeks, would be based on the findings of the traffic study, which is to be completed in 12 weeks. The two studies will quantify rehabilitation measures and environmental obligations based on the results of the traffic study, the officer said, adding, “The ESIS should work out both social cost-benefit and cost-effectiveness analyses by conducting a social appraisal. This is necessary because the proposed road passes through areas that are rich in biodiversity, ecologically sensitive, comprised of a man-made forest and used regularly by thousands of people for morning and evening strolls.”
The ESIS and the corresponding EMAP should clearly bring out the feasibility of the proposed Link Road and its cost effectiveness based on economic, environmental, social and operational aspects, he added.
The main objectives of the ESIS are to asses the development project against the applicable urban environmental policies, provisions of the Constitution and Maharashtra Municipal Act as regards preservation and protection of the environment and the Bombay High Court order and judgment of January 2016, the officer said.
There should be public participation in the development project, the officer said. Both positive and negative environmental and social effects of the development project would be identified through detailed analysis, he said, adding that an action plan would be prepared to ensure the long term sustainability of the project site.
The traffic study would evaluate the impact of the project on the existing transportation infrastructure, including metro rail, ring road and future infrastructure projects in the vicinity, the officer said. The findings from the traffic study, including traffic volume projections, travel time estimates and travel delay evaluations, would provide inputs to the ESIS and EMAP for the project, the officer added.
A preliminary site survey would be conducted to assess existing traffic conditions in the project area, the officer said, adding that simulations would be prepared to quantify and compare estimated travel delays, travel times, trip lengths etc. for existing and future scenarios with and without the proposed project. These simulations would be used to quantify the government’s savings over a 20 year period.