Should all major civic projects be in the public domain?
The Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) planned implementing a river navigation project on a 25-odd km stretch from Ramwadi to Kharadi on Mula-Mutha rivers, envisioning boat rides as one of the activities to save Puneites from road traffic. The multi-crore project included an exhibition ground, playgrounds, open-air auditorium, circus ground, parking spaces, plazas, flea markets and pedestrian malls and Chor Bazaar on the river bed. In the wake of protests about the nature of the project, the name of the project was changed from “River navigation project” to “River restoration project”. The PMC has already spent Rs68 crore on the project.
Document procured under the RTI Act have brought to light a letter signed by the then Municipal Commissioner Praveensinh Pardeshi, which states that the project will be re-named as a ‘restoration’ project but work will go on as a ‘navigation’ project. The project entails increasing the depth of the river to accommodate more water and putting a wall on both sides by narrowing it to enable boats to sail along. The banks can be allegedly reclaimed for construction activities. Critics have criticised that there is little water to be released from the Khadakwasla dam to enable boating and building of the embankment would lead to increased incidences of flash floods.
The Detailed Project Report of the river restoration project procured through a RTI application shows that the excavation for the channel would require disposal of about 33,55,000 cubic metres of surplus rock which has been claimed to necessitate over 6,50,000 trips of trucks from city to the site of disposal.
A citizen is often irked by flawed municipal projects and RTI has shown the way how such irregularities can be unearthed.