Pune’s flood lines to shift in favour
The ambitious effort to replicate Gujarat’s famous Sabarmati Riverfront here may just leave Pune’s riverbed a little more compromised than it currently is.
In the latest development, Pune Municipal Corporation(PMC) commissioner Kunal Kumar has announced that the city’s flood line boundaries are to be revised and permanently marked for the riverfront development project, and will be closer to the riverbed than they are at the moment. This, according to him, will not only open up land next to river for development, but also ensure the safety of citizens.
However, officials from the irrigation department have rubbished this claim, even as experts have chimed in to assert that such a move would only damage the river more than it already is.
It was in 2015 that PMC had proposed the riverfront development project for Pune, impressed by the façade of a famous project in the state next door. Budgeting for this, proposed on a total length of 44 km and spanning all three rivers traversing through PMC limits, was Rs 3,000 crore. Work was soon allocated to private companies, and the project proposal outlined the development of a riverfront with parks, promenades, walkways, access points, ghats, recreational spaces, public facilities and more. It also pointed out the various issues being faced along the city’s rivers at the moment, including the dumping of construction debris and garbage, encroachment by illegal constructions, etc., will be tackled.
After this study, PMC chief Kumar revealed that this work will invariably open out land from the no-development zone for various projects, and the flood lines will be marked afresh.
Explaining their plans, he said, “The blue lines and red lines are not permanent. They are mapped based on current river flow, floods, and more. If we channelise the river properly and improve its hydrology, the biggest flood that could come in a 100 years would also pass through the riverbed. Some people have suggested that river beautification should be a priority, but for me, the first thing to be done is to ensure the safety of the people, especially in flood situations. Therefore, we will conduct a hydraulic study for our project, and get approvals from the Central Water and Power Research Station and irrigation department for it. After ensuring safety, cleaning of the river will also be done through the project signed with Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in 2016.”
Kumar added, “At some places, we plan to remove encroachments. There are some manholes within the riverbed, which impact its flow, and several other factors, too, to be tackled. Trenching work will also need to be done. As an overall impact of all this, floodlines will shift. We hope to complete this project in the next threefour years.”
However, while this means that the no-development zone will open up and revenue will be generated from properties on it, activists and green experts have said this will irretrievably damage the river.
Environmental activist Sarang Yadwadkar countered Kumar saying, “Carrying capacity of a river depends on its velocity and cross-sectional area. If you deepen the area at some points, it reduces velocity and increases deadstock. So, while Kumar claims that clearing encroachments will help the river’s flow, the truth is that the current flood lines are ideal without these encroachments. So, bringing them in is not a good idea. There has already been a lot of damage to the river due to human interference, and it will get worse. What they are doing is basically sacrificing the floodplains for real estate.”