#VinitasPune: Pune Desperately Needs The Greta factor To Save It

Climate change
Image used for representation only

Swedish teenager activist, Greta Thunberg, who has received international recognition for her campaign against climate change may have an array of critics but the harsh fact is that hundreds and thousands like her need to sprout all over the world to arrest life threatening destruction of nature and; that includes Pune. Here’s why…

Just think for a moment. Victor Sangle, a 26-year-old CA student, was driving his car, during the rains that lashed last week. While heading to Wanowrie to visit his cousin, he speaks to him, saying that the waters on the Bhairoba Nallah are rising and in the next moment, is swept away along with his car; he is still missing.

Along with him, two others meet the same fate, one of whose name is Saalim Shaikh. A senior manager of Nvidia software company, he was driving towards Netaji Nagar to rescue his brother who was  stuck in the flooding waters. Shaikh’s Honda City along with him got swept away while crossing the bridge near Ganga Satellite and Raheja Gardens.  They later found his body.

What’s traumatising is that, of the 26 people who died on that fateful evening of torrential rains, 18 of them are from Pune city. That, waterlogging and overflowing nullahs can kill you on roads that you daily commute is frightening.

So, just any of us can die, when it pours. What is even scarier is the fact that the rising waters are a human-made disaster! And that, as per social activist, Sarang Yadvadkar, who is doggedly pursuing this issue, “this is only a trailer; the disastrous picture is yet to unfold.”

That’s because hundreds of tonnes of construction debris is dumped in the beds and banks of the Mula, Mutha and Pawana Rivers in 12 places.

The two civic bodies – the Pune Municipal Corporation and the Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation have defied National Green Tribunal (NGT) order of 2015 to remove all debris and restore the rivers’ original form, as flooding in Pune has become life threatening. Last week too, NGT has once again slammed them for inaction, but is there even a press statement by the authorities, on such action? The Maharashtra Pollution Control Board has also said in its report that the situation is alarming and has recommended quick action.

Here’s where the Greta factor comes in – who, like a pied piper has so large a following that world leaders have taken notice. Is it that the civic authorities think, that as long as one or a handful of activists are fighting the cause, they can ignore them and continue to be bedfellows of vested interest? 

Let’s take the aspect of pot-holes too. Despite a High Court ordered STAC committee report of 2013, where 124 recommendations are made to make Pune roads of international standards, the recent rains of 2019 exposed pothole-ridden roads, reflecting utter disregard to the report. By the way, one of the 124 recommendations include, “Foreign Tours specific to technical topics may be arranged for exposure of the PMC staff to new developments in the field, introduction to new materials, technology etc in other parts of the works.’’

Here is the reason why the STAC committee was formed, post the 2005 monsoon season: `the roads in Pune city witnessed major deterioration and pothole formation during the 2005-2006 seasons.

The condition of the road was worsened during the monsoon season and the roads were ridden with potholes which lead to a lot of hardship to the commuters and vehicles in the city. The Municipal Corporation received a lot of criticism from the media, general public and elected representatives for the poor condition of road network. 

‘Subsequently, a Public Interest Litigation No 111 of 2006 was filed by NGO against Pune Municipal Corporation for the poor condition of the roads in the city. 

The Hon. High Court directed the Pune Municipal Corporation to constitute a technical advisory committee of experts in the field of road engineering and construction in order to advise the PMC in matters relating road design, construction, quality aspects, specifications, maintenance management etc. In accordance to the directives of the Hon. High Court, the STAC committee was constituted by PMC vide Municipal Commissioner Office Order No 67 dated 7/05/2007.’’

So, now what happens of the 174 exhaustive recommendations in the STAC Report which recommends international standard quality for road making and road repairs? In all probability, it will gather dust.

There are other issues like solid waste management, tree felling, sanitation, public transport, public hospitals and municipal school education which are not up to work despite the `Smart City’ status which has seen rolling of funds.

Here’s where the Greta factor again comes in – of mass public uproar. The civic authorities and political leaders have become so thick skinned that they get away by bad mouthing a handful of civic and social activists.  


#All views expressed in this column are those of the author and Pune365 does not necessarily subscribe to them.

Vinita Deshmukh

Vinita Deshmukh

Passion for the written word that comes alive, not only to tell a story, but to speak out loud about all that's good, bad and the ugly in society...

That's Vinita Deshmukh, Senior journalist and RTI activist who believes in journalism that reflects the views and needs of the common man.

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Vinita Deshmukh