Citing the flooding of Mutha river during monsoon this year, environmentalist Sarang Yadwadkar has once again opposed the construction of a Metro rail route on the riverbed and approached the National Green Tribunal (NGT) over the issue. Yadwadkar has claimed that the expert committee’s observations on the environmental impact of the Metro project, especially those on the river flood level, were “grossly flawed”.
In response to Yadwadkar’s plea, the western bench of the NGT, comprising S P Wangdi, M Ramakrishnan and Nagin Nanda, has directed the committee to consider the objections raised by him and take a decision on the issue.
The committee will consider the objections raised and evidence produced by Yadwadkar to support his claims. The panel, constituted by the NGT, will also have to suggest modifications, if needed, to the Maharashtra Metro Rail Corporation Ltd or Maha-Metro, the agency in charge of implementing the project.
The committee, comprises experts from the fields of hydrology, ecology and biodiversity, as well as scientists from the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), State Bio-Diversity Board (MSSB) and the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB). It has been asked to give the applicant a hearing before November 20.
“So far, I have not been called by the expert committee… I will submit all the details in support of the issues that I have raised before the tribunal,” said Yadwadkar.
Currently, 59 piers of the Metro project are under construction on a 1.45-km stretch of the riverbed.
In 2017, the NGT had constituted an expert committee to assess the environmental impact of Metro project constructions in the prohibited zone of Mutha river.
However, Yadwadkar has alleged that the expert committee failed to arrive at a scientifically accurate figure about the potential rise in flood levels due to the construction of the 59 piers. According to the activist, the panel misrepresented the width of Mutha river and misquoted the data that was available with the state Irrigation Department.
“The expert committee violated the directions of the tribunal by not carrying out any local investigation. It failed to assess the cumulative impact of the constructions on the environment, such as the effect on groundwater recharge, bio-diversity in the river bed, free flow of water, risk of flooding, debris disposal, water pollution and air pollution. It failed to suggest any mitigating factors and assess the impact of the construction individually or cumulatively and make any recommendations,” said Yadwadkar.
He said many residential localities near the upstream side of the Metro piers were inundated when 45,474 cusec of water was released from Khadakwasla dam into Mutha river in August this year. The blue line of Mutha, which is supposed to be breached at 60,000 cusec, was breached at many locations at the discharge of 45,474 cusec, said Yadwadkar.
“The flooding in August this year proves that the expert committee’s observations are grossly flawed as they are based on incorrect data of river width for the hydraulic study,” said Yadwadkar.
Atul Gadgil, executive director of Pune Metro project, said the agency was following the directions of the expert committee and implementing the suggestions made by it. “The expert committee has to monitor the Pune Metro project work on the riverbed and submit a quarterly report. It is up to them to take a decision on the objections raised about the work and direct Pune Metro to take necessary steps to address the environmental problems…,” he said.