The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs declared Pune as the most liveable among 111 cities in terms of “liveability” in the Ease of Living Index 2018.
Liveability according to the Ministry’s study depends on governance, identity and culture, health, safety and security, economy and employment, public open spaces, mixed land use and compactness, power supply, transportation and mobility, assured water supply, waste water management, and reduced pollution.
The recent floods in Kerala have shown that to be liveable, cities need to be climate resilient, protect the mountains and forests and protect their water bodies.
It has shown that to remain liveable cities must respect and protect their environment. It has shown that liveability is not about the short term, it is about the short-now, or the lifetime of a child born now.
So, How Can Pune Ensure It Is Really Liveable?
Like the rain forests in the western ghats, the mountains and hills surrounding Pune, and the green cover on them, helped buffer heavy rainfall and release the water slowly.
Blessed with the surrounding mountains and hills, Pune has more than 450 kilometres of fresh-water streams and rivers. The fresh water streams have helped buffer the rains and water requirements by recharging its ground-water and feeding its rivers.
The Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP), also known as the Gadgil Commission had pointed out in August 2011. that the destruction of the western ghats for commercial exploitation was dangerous for the liveability of villages and cities that encroached on them.
Dr. Gadgil has indicated that the Kerala floods were a result of failure to protect the western ghats.
Unfortunately, as in the case of Kerala, most of Pune’s hills and mountains, particularly in the catchment areas, are facing severe destruction. Pune’s natural water bodies have been encroached and reclaimed for real estate and laying sewers.
As Dr. Rajendrasingh, Magsaysay award winner and waterman of India, puts it converting a river to a sewer is corruption, converting a sewer to a river is goodness and virtuous.
The capacity of Pune’s Panshet, Varasgaon and Khadakwasla stands at 784 million cubic meters a little more than half of Kerala’s Idukki reservoir.
To ensure the increasing unseasonal rains and cloudbursts do not create a scenario worse the 12th of July 1961 in Pune, Pune’s streams and rivers need to be freed of the encroachment of real estate and sewers.
The orders of the Mumbai High Court in the matter of PIL 41 of 2011 provide the Municipal Body a basis to protect all the water bodies.
It provides it the legal framework necessary to remove encroachments of real estate, sewers and waste dumping. It provides it the legal basis to create 10 meter green belts on either side of the streams and rivers.
The Municipal Body can work with the Rotary clubs and schools across the city to make this a reality.
In 1997 Pune had about 10 meter tree cover per person. In 2018, it has shrunk to about a meter per person or even less. Pune is estimated to have lost more than 20 lakh trees in 20 years. Trees have a major contribution to absorb atmospheric carbon and release oxygen.
To remain liveable, Pune will have to work to double its tree cover every year for at least 5 years. This means it needs to find space to plant more trees and protect every grown tree instead of replacing it with saplings.
#The views expressed in this column are the authors and Pune365 does not necessarily subscribe to them.
He can be reached @AnupamSaraph