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NGT orders stay on Pune Metro Rail work

A recent photograph of former Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan performing Bhumi Puja for the Pune Metro project.   | Photo Credit: Mandar Tannu

The Pune Metro Rail project hit a major roadblock on Monday with the Western Zone Bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) issuing an interim stay on the proposed portion of the metro route passing through the Mula –Mutha river bed in the city.

A two-judge Bench of justices U.D. Salvi and Dr. Ajay Deshpande passed the directive acting on an Environmental Interest Litigation (EIL) filed in the NGT on May 26 last year by a group of prominent personalities, which had contended that in the proposed metro rail alignment, a 1.7 km stretch passing through the left bank of the Mula-Mutha river could spell the death knell for the riverbank ecosystem along that route.

The petitioners in the EIL had included Member of Parliament Anu Aga, senior journalist, the late Dileep Padgaonkar, architect Sarang Yadwadkar and environmentalist Aarti Kirloskar.

A stay on work on this stretch, which falls on line 2, will affect work on the entire Phase-1 of the project. This line, totalling around 15 km in length and linking Vanaz with Ramwadi, is expected to be the first to be built in the whole project.

The lawyer representing the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) proposed that the Maharashtra Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC), which will implement the Pune Metro project, be made a respondent as well, to which the judges agreed. In the EIL, the petitioners had made the PMC, the Maharashtra Government, the Central government, the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation and the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board respondents.

“This is nothing but delaying tactics on the PMC’s part to buy time,” said Mr. Yadwadkar, speaking to The Hindu.

He reiterated the need for the PMC to come up with an alternative route for this portion, while remarking that the objection in the EIL was specifically with regards to the proposed alignment on the riparian zone of the river, which was bound to be harmed if the project was implemented in its current form.

The project, touted as a panacea to burgeoning Pune’s nightmarish traffic woes, was recently inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on December 24 amid much political acrimony with the BJP and the opposition Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) scrambling to take credit for the project.

“This is an important ruling which clearly proves that the inauguration of the project was done in a hasty manner with scant regard for environmental concerns,” said advocate Asim Sarode, who representing the petitioners.

The next hearing has been postponed till January 26.

Earlier, in September last year, a report by the PMC’s Biodiversity Monitoring Committee had corroborated the objections in the EIL against the Pune Metro, stressing that the present alignment on the Mutha riverbed from the Panchaleshwar temple to Nava Pul would allegedly “destroy the biodiversity of what remained of the riparian zone (the interface or space between the existing water and the actual riverbank) still untouched by urban incursions.”

It had noted that the removal of trees to make way for the project would severely rupture the natural habitats of birds of at least 18 different species while afflicting 63 species of exotic flowering plants.

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Printable version | Mar 8, 2021 7:13:01 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/NGT-orders-stay-on-Pune-Metro-Rail-work/article16977857.ece

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