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Mumbai nullahs to get environmental attention

Monday, July 17, 2017
By Sonali Telang

In a meeting with citizens regarding revival of the city's rivers, the Chief Minister has directed the civic authorities to notify rivers and its tributaries specifically in the Development Plan

With the crisis of pollution taking toll on Mumbai's rivers, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has directed that rivers and tributaries should be notified as such in the Development Plan. While many tributaries of rivers are referred as 'nullahs' in the city, the move is said to recognize the rivers of the Mumbai in their true spirit, while encouraging to preserve them.

On Saturday, River March, a citizens led group working on rejuvenation of the city's rivers and their tributaries, met with the State Chief Minister, Devendra Fadnavis to discuss about the deplorable condition of the rivers. This year before monsoon, the tributaries of the city's rivers- Poisar, Dahisar, Mithi and Oshiwara were concretised by the civic body to prevent flooding during heavy rains. However, environmentalists have pointed out that concretising the river beds can turn out be detrimental as it disrupts the natural flow of the river. In the meeting with the CM, the citizen group discussed the ill effects of the practice and demanded to stop such methods.

“The rampant concretisation of river beds impacts the level of ground water and the aquatic and riparian biota. We have suggested ecologically sensitive alternatives like Gabion walls and naturally stabilized earth slopes be explored for preventing edge collapses instead of concretization The CM noted the concern and directed that rivers and tributaries be notified as such in the DP (Development Plan),” said Gopal Jhaveri, member of River March.

The group also highlighted the issue of tabelas rising near the water bodies which has led to accumulation of dung and animal carcasses in the river. The Afternoon D&C has last week reported that dead bodies of pigs were found in the Poisar river that were washed away due to heavy rains. However, citizens fear that dead bodies and carcasses of animals may clog the river on flowing with the water. Moreover dumping of plastic material have led to choking rivers, creeks and other water bodies, the group emphasised on strong legislations against such practices and also expressed the need for giving alternative solutions using CSR(Corporate Social Responsibility) and other tools.

While shedding light on the encroachment along the forest periphery and especially the river bed, Gopal Jhaveri said, “The model of PAP(Project Affected People) requires a joint solution from Environment Ministry, MCGM, MHADA, MMRDA etc.” The Chief Minister directed that a proposal be made for a joint decision and submission to the courts and speed up the PAP processes. He also acknowledged that the master planning exercise considering sustainable technological solutions for all rivers is critical instead of rampant concretisation.

The Municipal Commissioner, Ajoy Mehta and Chief Conservator Forest, Mangrove Cell, N. Vasudevan were also present in the meeting along with concerned MLAs. While, the Municipal Commissioner acknowledged that water treatment and related pollution issues at Dhobi Ghat must be taken up immediately, disposal of debris and its impact on the city's mangroves. It was discussed that the present proposal of building walls along rivers and mangroves would visually disconnect the mangroves from the city and would lead to less vigilant public, instead fencing or precast concrete nets can be used to prevent encroachment or dumping of waste in such sites.

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