Aquatic flora and fauna may thrive and cruising along the waterways may become a reality when this project to rejuvenate Pune’s Mula-Mutha river takes off. The Rs 600-crore project, to be implemented by the Mahratta Chamber of Commerce Industries and Agriculture (MCCIA) on a public-private partnership basis, promises to breathe new life into the river, which has long since been reduced to a virtual sewer. The project will be implemented on the 17-km stretch from Vitthalwadi to Kharadi and is expected to be completed in three years. Giving details of the project, Mukesh Malhotra, immediate past president of the MCCIA, said one of the basic objectives was to restore the flora and fauna of the river to its pre-1962 levels. Other objectives include using the river to transport vehicles, particularly two-wheelers, and the creation of water sports, recreation and tourism facilities. The project also aims at completely stopping any discharge of untreated sewage water, having a stabilised river bank, proper flood management and reducing the high floodline by more than one metre.The MCCIA, which has formed a special purpose vehicle (SPV) titled ‘Pune Restoration and Navigation Company Ltd’, is seeking the approval of the central planning commission for the project. The project will be implemented in coordination with the state irrigation department and the Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad municipal corporations (PMC and PCMC). While Rs 60 crore, which is ten per cent of the cost of the project, is planned to be raised by corporates and other sources, the remaining 90 per cent would be raised by way of soft loans from financial institutions like the World Bank or the Asian Development Bank. Malhotra said a detailed study carried out over the last eight years by Naik Environment Research Institute Limited (NERIL) has resulted in an integrated master plan for the restoration of the river. NERIL chairman and managing director D D Naik said the project has been vetted by the central design office of the state irrigation department. An approval from the Maharashtra Krishna Valley Development Corporation is expected, he said. During his visit to the city in June this year, Union environment minister Jairam Ramesh was visibly upset at the deterioration of the river. Ramesh had even written to chief minister Ashok Chavan saying his ministry would extend support if the state government came up with a proposal to improve the condition of the river.
• Project along 17-km river stretch from Vitthalwadi to Kharadi
• No untreated sewage water to be released in the river
• A water level of 0.6 TMC will be maintained throughout the year
• Three bunds to be constructed at Sangam bridge, Kalyaninagar and Mundhwa
• Water-locking mechanism for allowing water transport
• Seven entry and exit points for water transport and other facilities
• Around 1.5 lakh two-wheelers can be ferried every day
• Water ambulances proposed as many hospitals are located along banks of the river
The PMC, incidentally, has started the work of channelising the river on two small stretches — from Mhatre bridge to Sangam bridge, and Sangam bridge to Bund Garden. This work is expected to be completed by March next year. Naik assured that slumdwellers living along the banks of the river would not be displaced. The irrigation department would not have to release water to maintain the level in the river. However, the PMC’s proposed multi-crore elevated road project along the river would have to be abandoned. Presently, the municipal corporation can treat only 71 per cent of the total sewage water. Of the 700 MLD (million litres per day) sewage water generated in the city, the PMC treats 567 MLD. There are 45 canals carrying sewage water which join the river. Several elected office-bearers and the civic administration have supported the river restoration project, Naik said. The detailed project report would be submitted to the central planning commission in the next one-and-a-half months.