Metro on riverbed will kill micro habitats, say greens

PMC’s Biodiversity Panel Suggests Exploring Alternatives
Uncertainty continues over environmental viability of the metro project.While a large number of Puneites desperately want the metro to become operational, a technical support group of the Biodiversity Monitoring Committee (BMC) under Pune Municipal Corporation, has noted that a stretch of the metro corridor, which runs the along the riverbed in the heart of the city, could badly affect the micro habitat on the Mutha riverbed.

A 1.7-km stretch of the proposed project is proposed to fly over the riparian habitat, which acts as a transition zone between the terrestrial and aquatic eco-systems. The elevated metro corridor will stand 15 metres above the riverbed and 5.5 metres above the existing bridges. Pillars or piers for the corridor measuring 1.7 metres in diameter will be placed 30 metres apart on the route.

The committee’s preliminary report states: “Approximately 60 trees are likely to be affected by the proposed metro alignment on the riverbed.The removal of these trees and the loss of vegetation will have some effect on the local ecological balance, such as the disruption of habitat for birds, raptors, arboreal mammals etc, which will be forced to migrate to other areas.“

Nine tree species which stand to be affected include Acacia nilotica, Cassia saimea, Ficus Benghalensis, F racemosa, Pithecellobium dulce, Polyalthia longifolia, Pongamia pinnata, Samania saman, and Sterculia Foetida. Among the rarer species observed in the habitat is the highly threatened bird species Wooly-necked Stork as well as the Angled Castor butterfly , which is also rarely seen.

“The extant flora and fauna within the Riparian zone of the Mutha river is already under tremendous pressure due to various anthropogenic pressures such as existing twowheeler road, illegal tourist bus parking, fast food stalls, illegal human settlements, illegal horse and buffalo settlements, dumping of plastic and other waste in the riverbed,“ the report adds.

In addition, there is also a matter of legality of the 1.7-km proposed metro stretch. Citing a 2013 order from the NGT in the Vithalwadi Riverbed Road case, the report states: “No encroachment is permitted and no construction in the future is permitted inside the blue line of the river Mutha“.

The six-member technical group has noted that these are preliminary observations and has hence “strongly recommended a detailed Environment Impact Assessment of the metro alignment in the riverbed“ in its report. It has also sought other alternatives to the presently proposed metro alignment on this stretch.

The report has, however, not opposed the construction of a metro line and instead suggested mitigation measures such as compensatory afforestation of three native trees for each felled and restoration of habitats in the riparian zone to help nutrture the native biodiversity.

The 21-page report was prepared by the BMC technical support group in response to NGT’s notice to the PMC after activists had filed an Environmental Interest Litigation (EIL) in August against this 1.7km portion of the Metro line.The report has since been sub mitted by BMC to the Maharashtra State Biodiversity Board (MSBB), which will subsequently submit it before the NGT, when the next hearing of the EIL takes place on October 27.

Source : TOI