Two weeks after a petition in the National Green Tribunal (NGT) raised the issue of encroachment on riverbeds in the city, both the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) and the Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) have been left red-faced by the flood-like situation in parts of Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad, caused by both Mutha and Mula rivers breaching their banks.
The petitioner, environmentalist Sarang Yadwadkar, and groundwater expert Shashank Deshpande, on Sunday organised a meeting, where they pointed out the various problems that arise due to encroachment on riverbeds. Deshpande said another meeting will be held again soon to plan a strategy to take measures towards river conservation and freeing riverbeds of encroachment.
“We will ask authorities to ensure… the removal of all legal and illegal encroachments on rivers, nullahs and catchment areas of these rivers on war footing,” stated a declaration issued after the meeting.
Outlining the existing river and groundwater situation in the city, both Yadwadkar and Deshpande stressed the need to protect catchment areas in their natural form.
They said it was necessary that government agencies in charge of protecting rivers be identified, and be held responsible if they failed to do their duty to prevent “disturbance and destruction of natural water sources, paths and water bodies”.
On July 23, in response to a petition filed by Yadwadkar and other activists, the NGT had directed the PMC and PCMC to submit an action taken report on the encroachment in Mula and Mutha rivers within six weeks. The tribunal will take up the case again on September 26.
The NGT had directed the PMC and PCMC to prevent dumping of debris in rivers and constitute a committee to inspect reportedly encroached riverbeds, and take action accordingly.
A committee comprising the chief engineer of the state Water Resources Department, the district collector of Pune and others had been asked to inspect the 12 specific areas pointed out in the petition, verify the factual aspects in the plea and take appropriate measures.
The petitioner had alleged that construction material was being dumped rampantly in Mula and Mutha rivers and this was causing obstructions to the rivers and diverting its flow.