There were hundreds of environmentalists from Maharashtra who went to Delhi in order to oppose AOL’s World Culture Festival. But, not even one of them has raised his/her voice and approached the court against air, water pollution and the contamination of Mula Mutha River in Pune.
Untreated sewage water is released in Mula Mutha on a daily basis?
In 2015, Pune resident Subhash Ram Krishna Patil opened the can of worms by filing a case against several authorities for failing to control water pollution and releasing untreated sewage water in Mula Mutha River(s). He had approached the National Green Tribunal (NGT) against the irrigation department, Pune divisional commissioner, district collector, the Pune Municipal Corporation, and Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB). Based on this complaint, the NGT had issued show cause notice to all the parties and asked them to submit stats about sewage treatment plants in the city that process water before it is released in Pune’s Mula Mutha River.
This was a huge embarrassment for NCP ruled Pune Municipal Corporation, as almost all of its affairs are closely monitored by NCP chief Sharad Pawar’s nephew Ajit Pawar (Junior Pawar is considered an accused in Maharashtra irrigation scam according to reports). He was also city’s guardian minister for several years during Con-NCP regime between 1999 and 2014.
During the investigation, it was revealed that only 290 million liters of water gets processed in sewage treatment plants out of overall 561 million liters released in the river on a daily basis. This means, more than half of the effluent released in the river is untreated.
While sharing his opinion about NGT’s notice with journalists in May this year, PMC’s head of the drainage department, V G Kulkarni, agreed that city’s sewage treatment capacity has reduced to 290 MLD because some water treating units are non-functional. This reply was shocking because the authorities indirectly agree that the PMC has been releasing pure sewage water into river Mula Mutha that supplies water for drinking and agriculture in certain parts of Maharashtra.
According to a report published in the city’s leading daily, authorities were asked to submit details about the capacity of every sewage treatment plant in the city and location details for points where pure sewage water is being discharged. They failed to submit the same before the given deadline, April 26th. Surprisingly, instead of charging heavy fines, and taking action against relevant officers for failing to perform their duties, the NGT has simply failed to take strict action in this matter. It was quick enough to collect environmental compensation of Rs. 4.75 crore from the Art of Living Foundation. But, in some cases, it goes on Manmohan mode.
City’s environmental activists seem to have joined hands with politicians. I feel they select cases that won’t upset their political masters and civic authorities. Some of them are just politicians disguised as environmentalists to make quick money from small industrial units by threatening them.
As mentioned earlier, NCP single-handedly rules the PMC, and Congress sits in the opposition. NCP City chief Vandana Chavan is Rajya Sabha MP and most importantly, self-declared environmentalist. She also looks into PMC’s affairs, then, how is it that she did not stop PMC from releasing untreated sewage water into the river? I had approached her for interaction on this and other matters, but her associate has not replied to my request as of now.
Congress MLA raised her voice against municipalities ruled by her own party
Solapur MLA Praniti Shinde, daughter of former Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde (Hafiz sahab fame) attracted a lot of attention in April this year when she urged the state government to take action against the PMC and PCMC authorities. Both, Pune Municipal Corporation and the Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation have been under Congress/ NCP rule for more than two decades now.
Praniti Shinde pointed out that open defecation on the riverbanks, inadequate sewage treatment, and release of untreated domestic wastewater has turned Mula Mutha River(s) into sewage water carrier. Mula Mutha River further supplies water to Ujani dam, and this dam supplies drinking water to several parts of Solapur district.
“Polluted drinking water is causing serious health issues and we are suffering because of apathy, lethargy shown by PMC and PCMC,”- said Shinde while sharing her opinion with journalists. I wonder why doesn’t she simply call her party chief in Pune and ask him to personally look into this matter. Anyway, I appreciate that she has raised her voice against her party for her district.
Pune is Union Environment Minister of State Prakash Javadekar’s hometown as well, but it seems he has nothing concrete to offer.
Such issues from Pune often fail to make it in headlines because Marathi news channels focus more on their anti-right-wing agenda rather than issues that matter the most. If they find time from criticizing the BJP, they spend that on blabbering about how Sena has failed in managing BMC affairs.
State Government has several plans to tackle this issue. Ramdas Kadam, state’s environment minister recently said that they plan to take legal action against PMC’s commissioner. The BJP ruled state also plans to set up river purification plants on various rivers.
Pune’s guardian minister Girish Bapat and PMC has approached Japanese agencies to get financial assistance for their river cleaning project that is worth around 900 crore. The plan includes cleaning the river and setting up sewage treatment plants.
I suggest that the central government and other agencies need to be cautious while releasing funds for such projects as even Manmohan Singh Government and Congress-led state Government in Maharashtra has wasted enough money on cleaning Mula-Mutha. From whatever I can see as a Puneite, I can bet that most of the money spent on such projects ends up in pockets of local politicians and self-declared environmentalists. Almost every corporator in Pune has floated companies that win small road repairing and river cleaning contracts.
Even simple commonsense makes one wonder, why the PMC is not maintaining the STPs to the full capacity, before asking for more funds. If PMC could not maintain the STP one fails to understand how they will be able to clean the entire river stretch? More so, what is the point of dirtying the river first and clean later? However, NCP has a strong attraction to new money, as good as a shark has to fresh blood.
According to recently released research work, Pune’s air pollution is rising with such speed that it would reach Delhi’s level within a few months. The absence of ‘real’ activists and lack of strong media coverage keeps this emerging IT city out of headlines.
Why is it that no English news channel has given coverage to this serious issue and organized debates? Why is it that no activist has approached the SC against the Pune Municipal Corporation and its chief? I think our mainstream media friends would cover these issues only if AOL declares its plan to organize an event at some venue on the bank of Mula-Mutha River.