Mula-Mutha awaiting transformation from nala to river

Neha Basudkar
Tuesday, 7 May 2019

Along with Mula and Mutha, other rivers including Pawana, Ram and Dev have also been reeling under the same condition in Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad. 

Mula and Mutha were once the kinds of rivers in which children would swim freely and drink its water without finding the need to treat it. 

Over the decades, the two water bodies have turned into nallas and have now become contaminated to the core. And the reason for this is the rapid urbanisation and industrialisation in Pune, along with the release of untreated effluent into the rivers with no one to keep checks.

Along with Mula and Mutha, other rivers including Pawana, Ram and Dev have also been reeling under the same condition in Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad. 

Though several environmental Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) from the city are working on reviving and rejuvenating these rivers, the task remains tough. 

The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) 2018 report stated that Maharashtra has the highest number of polluted river stretches in the country. The report mentions that domestic sewerage, inadequate sanitation facilities, poor seepage management and the near absence of sanitation and wastewater policy frameworks are responsible factors for the pollution.

According to CPCB, the quality of discharged treated waste is ‘very poor’ when Biological Oxygen Demand or BOD (a parameter to measure pollution) is over 30 mg/l. Anything exceeding this value has the poorest quality as per the CPCB.

The principal bench of National Green Tribunal (NGT) had in 2018 asked for the water quality assessment to all city Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) heads.  

Regional Officer of Maharashtra Pollution Control Board Dilip Khedekar said, “We are in the process of making quarterly reports of Pavana, Mula, Mutha and Mula-Mutha rivers. The first and second reports were done in July and October 2018 and the last report has also been carried out. The analysis of the first and second reports states that the river water quality is very poor as compared to the drinking water standard.” 

Shailaja Deshpande, Director of Jeevitnadi-Living River Foundation, an NGO working for this cause, traced the timeline of how these rivers fell prey to pollution and said, “Lokmanya Tilak in one of his editorials in Kesari newspapers had mentioned that Mutha river is becoming a nalla.” 

“Large scale pollution in all the rivers of the city started almost 60 years ago. As an NGO, we have been working on Mula river in Vitthalwadi, Omkareshwar and Someshwar and for Mutha river at Rajiv Gandhi Bridge in Aundh and at the confluence of Ram and Mula river in Aundh and Baner from last two years. We are cleaning the banks of the rivers, mapping the habitat, bringing citizens closer to the rivers and making them aware of using biodegradable products in your daily life and protecting and restoring the riparian zone along the banks.”

According to the data revealed by the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC), Pune city consumes 1350 Million Litre Per Day (MLD) and generates 750 MLD sewage per day, which then gets treated in nine Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs) and the treated water is discharged into Mula-Mutha river.

The data also states that PMC’s two major projects, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA)-funded project of Pollution Abatement of River Mula-Mutha and Mula-Mutha Riverfront Development Project, are playing a crucial role to control river pollution. Both the projects were announced in 2015-16. The JICA-funded project worth Rs 990 crore is for building 11 additional STPs. The project’s deadline is 2027.

Right now, the PMC has floated tenders of four STPs and the Central government has released an amount of Rs 57 crore till date.

In 2015, PMC had given the green signal to develop the 44-kilometre Mula-Mutha river on the lines of Sabarmati Riverfront Project in Gujarat. 

HCP Design, Planning and Management Pvt Limited, had done Sabarmati Riverfront project. The consultant made a Detailed Project Report (DPR) of Rs 2,600 crore, which was also accepted and approved by the PMC.  

Now, the civic body has sent a proposal to form a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) company to execute the project. PMC is also trying to get a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the State Environmental Department and get the river bed land from the Revenue Department.

Shailendra Patel of Jal Devta Abhiyaan said, “There were 160 tributaries of the river earlier in the city and now, only 70 of them are left. Along with it, there were 51 natural springs, out of which only 15 are left. The reason behind the disappearance of these natural resources of rivers is due to concretisation and lack of awareness about the importance of saving rivers.”

“There has not been any major awareness campaign about saving the rivers till now. Over a period of years, not only garbage but effluents, including domestic and industrial, are left untreated and there are no checks being done on this. Neither the civic officials nor the citizens of the city are worried about it,” Patel added.

- Mutha’s pollution level increased after the Panshet dam was built in 1961. Today, domestic wastewater is also released in it.
- Mula river had Tata hydropower station and hence, the pollution level was not high.
- Pavana’s downfall was a paper mill in Chinchwad, which opened in the 1960s. Pavana has industrial pollution.
- Ram river, locally called ‘Ram Nadi’ in Bavdhan, also faced serious pollution concerns in the 1960s as it faced agricultural and domestic waste pollution. 
- The most polluted part of Pune is Mula-Mutha’s confluence at Sangam Bridge. 
- Mula-Mutha confluences with Bhima river at Ranjangaon. Bhima brings her own baggage of pollution.
- The resultant river after all these confluences flows to Ujjani dam in Solapur due to which the entire irrigation belt is ruined with polluted water.

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