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Debris "fill up" 44 lakh sq ft wetland in Gujarat's cultural capital, as Vadodara fares poorly in cleanliness index

By Our Representative
Vadodara, Gujarat’s cultural capital, is in spot. Top state-based environmentalist Rohit Prajapati and a group of “concerned citizens”, have shot a letter to senior government officials expressing concern that, over the last 12 years, according to the Gujarat Ecology Commission, the city has lost about 44 lakh sq ft of ponds and talaav areas, “much of this due to illegal or legalized dumping by the VMC and unscrupulous citizens.”
Pointing out that 16 out of 41 ponds do not exist anymore, the letter, addressed to the Vadodara Municipal Commissioner, Union and state environment secretaries, and state urban development secretary, among others, quotes a recent report as saying that, as a result, in “swachchhata” (cleanliness) ranking, Vadodara’s best ward (Ward No 4), is 728th in the country and 53rd in Gujarat.
Pointing out that Vishwamitri river, passing through the city, and its environs (tributaries, ravines, and wetlands), “have been used as the dumping grounds for solid and liquid wastes and, especially, construction debris for the last several decades”, the letter alleges, “The situation has exacerbated in the last few since demolition and renovation activities have increased in the city.”
Insisting that “this does not set a good example for the city with aspirations to be a Swachchh City by October 2, 2019 and a leading Smart City of India in the 21st century”, the letter says, “It is high time that the concerned government agencies and citizens take steps to clean up and restore all the water bodies, especially the tributaries, ravines, and wetlands associated with the river.”
The letter expresses special concern over “illicit or permitted” dumping of sewage and industrial liquid wastes and pollution into the water bodies, especially in the Vishwamitri river and its environs”, removal of soil from various sites, ponds, and ravines in the city-region; and immersion of idols and materials and remains from religious rituals into the water bodies.
Pointing out that despite inspection of the sites on June 20, nothing concrete has been done to clean up the environs, the letter says, “The Construction and Demolition Waste Management Rules, 2016, have not being implemented since day one, though these do not require intense technical know-how and could have been easily implemented.”
It adds, “The ‘flooding’ and waterlogging woes after the recent showers (not regular monsoon rains yet!) in the city, has only given us a glimpse of the serious environmental problems and health issues that can arise if the natural storm water system is not addressed.”
The letter warns, “We would like to reiterate that superficial efforts and lip service will not be adequate to address the above mentioned issues and we will be left with no other choice but to take up this grave issue to its necessary legal action.”
Those who have signed the letter are Dr Deepa Gavali, wetland ecologist; Prof Shishir R. Raval, landscape architect and ecological planner; Neha Sarwate, environmental and urban planner; Shakti Bhatt, water resources expert; Dr Jitendra Gavali, botanist; Dr Jayendra Lakhmapurkar, hydro-geologist; Rutvik Tank, civil engineer and urban planner; Dr Ranjitsinh Devkar, zoologist; Dr Arjun Singh Mehta, biotechnologist; and Dhara Patel, landscape architect; and Hitarth Pandya, educationist and writer.

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