NGT seeks civic panel’s metro alignment report

Committee Flags Concerns Of Damage To Mutha Biodiversity
The National Green Tribunal’s (NGT) western zone bench on Thursday directed the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) to place on record its biodiversity management committee’s report on the proposed Pune Metro alignment.In its report filed with PMC, the civic biodiversity panel has apprehended significant damage to the extant biodiversity of Mutha river and strongly recommended the need for exploring other alternatives to the metro route. It has also sought an environmental impact assessment of the project. PMC has not placed this report before the tribunal.

The bench of justice U D Salvi and expert member Ajay A Deshpande was hearing an application against the proposed metro route passing through a 1.7km stretch of the left bank of river Mutha which flows through Pune city .

Industrialist MP Anu Aga, architect Sarang Yadvadkar and senior journalist Dileep Padgaonkar filed the application in May this year stating that any construction below the Blue line (riverbed) would be in complete violation of the NGT directives.

The tribunal’s principal bench in Delhi has put restrictions on construction activity along the riverbed, they said while citing the matter related to the proposed Vitthalwadi to National Highway 4 road shown in the draft Development Plan for Pune city .

A six-member technical support group of PMC’s biodiversity panel carried out a study of the metro alignment, following the directives from the Maharashtra State Biodiversity Board on August 16. The group undertook a physical inspection of the proposed metro alignment in the Mutha riverbed on August 30.

Lawyer Asim Sarode, representing the applicants, brought to the tribunal’s notice that the panel’s report ought to be placed on record as it is critical to adjudication of the mat ter. The bench then directed PMC to submit the report by October 27, when the matter has been posted for hearing.

Sarode told TOI, “We hope PMC furnishes the panel’s report as it is, without tinkering the contents that appear unfavourable to the civic body.“

On August 12, PMC had to withdraw its objection to the application after the tribunal adopted a stern approach towards the “vague“ replies as to when the detailed project report (DPR) for Pune Metro was made public and when an environmental impact assessment of the project was done.

The bench then gave two weeks’ time to the respondents, who did not file their rejoinders to the plea, to submit the same. K D Ratnaparkhi, the Centre’s standing counsel, filed a response on behalf of the Union ministry of urban development on Thursday . The applicants too filed a fresh affidavit pointing out that the respondents -PMC, Pune divisional commissioner, joint director (town planning), state urban development department and Delhi Metro Rail Corporation -have all admitted in their replies that the proposed construction is on the “prohibitive zone“ (inside Blue line) and that a circular by the state irrigation department prohibits any construction within such prohibitive zones.

“There are a number of aspects which certainly would affect the riverbed adversely and need to be considered while disallowing construction on the prohibitive zone. These are applicable to all types of construction on the riverbed, whether at the level of riverbed or at a level artificially raised by dumping and at a higher level on pillars,“ they stated.

In their counter-affidavit to PMC’s reply , the applicants have pointed out that the EIA shown in the DPR for Pune Metro released in November 2015 had been done on the basis of outdated data collected in year 2008. There is no mention of metro alignment in the riverbed in the EIA, they stated.

Source : TOI