Frequently Asked Questions
1. What exactly is the name of this project? Some call it River Front Development (RFD) some call it river rejuvenation - this group is asking for river revival… this is all very confusing!
When the plan of channelising the rivers of Pune was first tabled it was essentially just a copy of the same DPR as Sabarmati Riverfront and was titled Pune Riverfront Development Project (RFD). The same architecture firm is currently doing several such projects across India and all are called Riverfront Development Projects. Some of the early documentation still part of the DPR refers to the project as RFD.
Pune was perhaps the first city where the proposal met with a well researched opposition that presented an irrefutable alternative. The alternative plan was titled River Rejuvenation Plan. But since all political and administrative stakeholders had already ‘committed’ to the concrete-heavy real estate creating RFD plan they deviously just stole the name of the ecologically sound alternative and stuck it on the RFD plan. That is how suddenly the project started being projected as Pune River Rejuvenation Project.
To avoid confusion this group was forced to change its name and we are therefore calling our alternative plan as Pune River Revival Plan and the opposition to the ‘essentially RFD but for name’s sake River Rejuvenation’ plan is called the Pune River Revival (PRR) Movement.
Pune Municipal Corporation has proposed an ambitious project of “Pune River Rejuvenation” (referenced also as “River Front Development” (RFD) as explained in this FAQ). The project is planning to channelize the rivers of Pune in massive (44 km long, 30-40 ft high) concrete embankments and build 3 barrages on it, at the cost of about 4,700 crores of taxpayers’ money. The impacts of this project in its current form will be devastating for the city.
Based on our assessment this project is based on
- A Fraudulent and fabricated hydraulic study
- No impact assessment of Climate Change
- No study of the hydrogeology
- A flawed environmental clearance
- An Illegal shifting of flood lines to accommodate the project
See video for more details.
The Movement is for the Pune Municipal Corporation to STOP the current implementation which it has begun in all earnest, RESPOND to questions raised against the current plan that endangers the lives of people and the state of the River itself and TAKE a science-backed, citizen-friendly and an ecologically sound River Front.
PMC is carrying out two INDEPENDENT projects.
(a) JICA Project: This is a loan from Government of Japan for building 11 sewage treatment plants across Pune. The loan was sanctioned in 2017. JICA was planned based on projected sewage generation by 2027 and was expected to be completed by 2022. The work is just beginning and now the deadline is set to be 2025. However from 2017 the city has grown more than anticipated and additional villages have got added to the municipal corporation. Due to all of this after the JICA project is completed 903 Million Litre per day (MLD) sewage water will be treated (nearly double from current) however 425 MLD sewage will still be untreated and released in the rivers as is.
The following numbers are official data.
Present Sewage Treatment
Proposed Sewage Treatment (as part of the JICA project sanctioned in 2017)
Total Sewage Treatment (to handle projected sewage (in 2017) up to 2027
903 MLD (507 + 396)
New projected Sewage Generation (underestimated in 2017)
This water (with 425 MLD of untreated sewage) gets supplied to settlements downstream of Pune.
Downstream people will continue to suffer water borne diseases and other diseases like cancer and impotence. Also, citizens of Pune, because of stagnant sewage will continue to suffer from the menace of water hyacinth menace which is a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
(b) Pune River Rejuvenation (PRR) Project: This project aims to channelise Mutha, Mula, and Mula-Mutha rivers, build embankments on both sides and commercialise the space thus created. This PRR project was proposed in 2018 and has rushed through all stages of approvals. Unlike the JICA project, this project work is moving ahead in full force. As a part of the beautification the vision to have water in the rivers throughout the year. The assumption is that, thanks to the JICA project, clean water will be available after the sewage treatment for this purpose. As described above this assumption is wrong.
4. After all these years, finally, we will be getting such a beautiful riverfront like we get to see in western countries. Why oppose such a development which has been so meticulously outlined in the DPR (Detailed Project Report)?
The devil is in the details. While the report appears presentable with its images and drawings and explanation, it has glaring drawbacks based on flawed premises, misinformation, lack of due diligence and basic understanding of the science of rivers. The report itself has glaring inconsistencies overlooked. Here are a few glaring examples
Example of Lack of Due Diligence:
A report by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) on the impacts of climate change states that there will be a 37.5% rise in annual rainfall in Pune with more frequent cloudbursts. There has been no consideration of this in the project.
Example of Flawed premise:
The entire project rests on the premise that the River is clean. However, the report itself says that it will be depending on other projects (like the JICA project) for river cleaning. Incidentally, the JICA project was sanctioned 5 years ago and has not even started but the so-called river rejuvenation has. (See FAQ 3)
Example of Misinformation / Inconsistencies:
Environmental Clearances (EC) are mandatory for projects of this size. In the EC, it is highlighted that the total Built Area proposed in this project is 0.00 Sq. M. However, as per the Detailed Project Report (DPR), a minimum of 20,00,000 Sq. M. Built Area (494 Acres) is proposed in this project for various uses. The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has pulled up PMC for using the process of obtaining EC for “a building” to this “massive infrastructural project” and has ordered correction of this error.
Example of planned Irregularities:
Blue line and Red line represent the flood line levels of the River. The red line demarcates the area along the River that is likely to be inundated for the highest flood in 100 years while the Blue line demarcates the area along the River that is likely to be inundated for the highest flood in 25 years. These lines have been arbitrarily altered to accommodate all aspects of the project. Court directives have been flouted to monetize riparian lands within the flood lines and allow changes in restrictive zones.
5. The Sabarmati Riverfront is such a success! Why do you think the same thing happening here in Pune will be bad?
Have you yourself been to the Sabarmati riverfront? Or has anyone close to you been there? OR is your impression based on what you have seen on social media?
If you or your close ones have visited – how much time did you spend there? What exactly did you do and see? Did you interact with local people? How many? Who? Did you meet anyone living close to the river downstream from Ahmedabad?
What exactly do you mean when you say that the riverfront project is a ‘success’?
Please go through this article which is not just about Sabarmati but all the riverfront projects that are currently happening across India.
6. There may have been some procedural lapses, but all said and done, the project will be good for Pune
There are several negative impacts of the project.
- We will see a catastrophic increase in flood levels and flood frequency due to a drastic Reduction in the natural width of the river caused by the channelization (retaining walls along the banks). The idea of alleviating river floods by channelizing and narrowing the river bed is completely unscientific and illogical.
Entire biodiversity along the river banks and the unique ecosystem at the interface of the river and its bank will be irreversibly destroyed due to the reclamation of the floodplains. The experience of the riverfront after the project will be akin to sitting on the side of a long swimming pool of stinking water. While it is true that years of neglect, encroachments, and release of sewage water in the rivers has already degraded the water and riverbanks a lot is still intact. As we saw in the COVID period, if the harmful human interference stops, water bodies quickly return to their original state. However if the connection between the floodplains and the river is broken by artificial embankments the path for the river to return to its pristine form will be closed permanently.
- Depletion of existing Groundwater Table, as the RCC embankments shall cut off all aquifers from the main flow of river thereby destroying the groundwater recharge and discharge zones permanently. This impact is also irreparable and irreversible.
- Traffic disruption leading to Air pollution, as no proper study has been conducted to identify the modalities of a changing traffic network arising out of the submergence of existing roads, dismantling of existing bridges and elevation of several bridges as proposed in the DPR.
No study has been conducted to understand and quantify these impacts which are inevitable and life-threatening
There willl be a 37.5% rise in annual rainfall in Pune with more frequent cloudbursts according to the assessment carried out by The Energy Research Institute (TERI) in the course of developing Maharashtra State Adaptation Action Plan on Climate Change
Change in rainfall patterns will mean change in surface flows (above ground) in the streams and rivers as well as change in groundwater flows (underground aquifers). This means that both these flows must be carefully nurtured and protected by incorporating the understanding of recharge and discharge areas in the planning. Using concrete to break the link between aquifers and rivers is totally against this principle.
The heat island effect is already visible in the city. The newly built up areas where greenery has not yet been re-established have reached day temperature above 40 deg C more often than the older relatively greener areas of the city in April 2023 (Various news reports to this effect quoted IMD weather stations data). Removing existing greenery to be replaced by concretised land with sparse greenery is going to add to this effect. It is quite obvious that the compensatory plantation (even if it is 65000 trees) cannot happen in the middle of the city. The benefit of these trees will be delivered elsewhere while the city whose USP has always been its mild weather will become hotter and hotter.
Climate change impacts are not considered in the process of Environment Assessment of large infrastructure projects. This is a fault in the environment assessment process. Till this lacuna gets resolved by MOEFCCC the State Government must step up and act in line with Maharashtra State Adaptation Action Plan on Climate Change
Restoring the river, close to its original form (and not converting it into a canal), is the only safe approach under the circumstances.
8. The images/pictures in RFD finally shows flowing water in the river rather than an eyesore of sewage and industrial effluents. Are we opposing this?
Computer generated images and images borrowed from riverfront projects in the developed world do not represent the reality of Pune rivers. Pune rivers are solely Monsoon fed rivers and not perennial rivers originating in snowclad mountains. The rivers currently do not have much of a waterflow most of the year because the monsoon water is held in upstream dams. Whatever is currently flowing in the river most of the year is from groundwater springs and sewage water released in the rivers. The rivers currently see full water flow only when water is released from the dams either due to heavy rainfall or due to festivals like Ganapati Visarjan.
Have you wondered where the water in the 44-km long river stretch is going to come from when no water is released from the dams during the summer and winter months? The answer lies in the barrages to be built under this project. The barrages are going to hold rainwater post-monsoon and as a result will also hold the effluent from the city released into the rivers.
So, in effect, we will have a large swimming pool with dirty water constantly fed into it, in which water hyacinth will continue to grow as there is no plan in place currently to treat 100% of Pune’s sewage water.
9. The walls proposed in the RFD along the river banks will prevent the city from getting flooded which is now a common site every year. Isn’t this absolutely necessary and need of the hour?
When a channel is made narrow, with the same volume of water, does the water level in the channel rise or reduce? Do we need to say more? Also the walls will impede the rainwater, falling on the surrounding hills and in the city, to drain into the river on the surface as well as through the springs, causing even more water-logging and flooding.
There are several ways in which you can show your support and be part of a voice that wants to stop the RFD in its current form. In the process, also get informed and enlightened about our natural heritage necessary, in the least, for our own existence. You can write to your local corporator, to the Mayor, Chief Minister about this, join a chain fast to show solidarity and commitment to the cause, sign the petition, volunteer to spread the message, arrange public outreach events, contribute ideas on how we can reach out and get more people into the fold of mass awareness and movement, or donate generously to cover expenses incurred from time-time.
11. So if this project has issues, is there an alternative or do we continue to live with a dirty river and a garbage-laden riverfront?
Ecologically sound river revival is possible. Detailed and well studied plans have been made and submitted to the PMC repeatedly since the discussion about this project started.
However we generally find that all the terms and phrases used in the alternative suggestions are being incorporated in the DPR text but not reflected in any actual changes in the project design. (See FAQ 1, for example)
12. Even if 6,000 trees are being cut most of these trees are invasive and 65,000 trees are going to be planted. Also a few thousand trees will just be transplanted. Why is this being opposed?
Firstly, the issue is not just about trees. Every tree in a natural environment is surrounded by grasses, bushes, vines, etc. There are a wide variety of microbes, insects, reptiles, birds, etc. associated with the tree and its green ecosystem. Trees on riverbanks are very special and adapted to the land-water interface. Through this interface a symbiotic relationship also gets established between the aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. Therefore when thousands of such trees are removed it is actually affecting the lives of millions of living organisms. Moreover this also impacts the structural stability of the river bank. This is what then makes artificial embankments necessary! Thus in a way the trees are being removed so that the embankment can be justified!
PMC’s own dockets listing the trees to be removed show that ‘most of the trees are invasive’ species’, is a lie! The experts’ recommendation is on record on the document that more than 1,000 of these trees are important for the local biodiversity and should therefore be conserved rather than cut.
Furthermore even if some ‘species’ are invasive the specific individual trees have been part of the ecosystem for several decades. There are many locations where native bushes and vines are growing with the support of these trees. If a person from outside Pune has settled in Pune for decades and contributed to the local society and economy, should he/she be considered as native or invasive?
One cannot replace a mature tree in its natural habitat with any number of saplings planted in a different habitat. Therefore the claim of 65,000 trees being planted is meaningless. PMC officials should also explain where these trees are going to be planted, which species will be planted, what is the timetable and budget for the same and where is the sanction letter for the budget. Since the DPR and EIA documents of the project claim that no trees will be cut, there is no budget in the project for compensatory plantation. Similarly there is no budget for transplantation which can cost up to Rs.1 lac per tree. There are some species that are easy to transplant whereas a large number of species do not survive transplantation.
See link for in-depth analysis of the contradictions between PMC’s clarification on citizens’ “misconceptions”, the RFD DPR and the tree docket, which even at first glance, raises concerns.
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