Skip to main content

Vadodara river development projects to further "aggravate" waterlogging, flooding

Counterview Desk
In a letter to Gujarat government officials, including state chief secretary, and senior officials responsible for urban development and environment and forests, a group of concerned citizens* led by senior environmentalist Rohit Prajapati have sought urgent action to prevent anticipated disasters, flooding, and water logging due to deliberate negligence regarding the reclamation of ravines in Gujarat's cultural capital Vadodara.
Stating that the officials concerned are legally liable "to compensate if any damage is done to environment and the affected communities", the signatories of the letter says, the Vadodara authorities are going ahead with “development” plans which "will further augment the already existing waterlogging and flooding woes in various parts of the city."

Excerpts from the letter:

We, and some project affected local citizens from all walks of life, in Vadodara have raised the issues, with the concerned authorities, related to prevention anticipated disasters, flooding and water logging due to deliberate negligence, superficial show of work undertaken, and lip services paid regarding the cleaning up and technically and ecologically sound reclamation of ravines filled with construction debris and all kinds of solid waste and water detention areas under the pretext of ‘low lying areas’ or heavy rains.
Even though we have alerted, in writing and otherwise, the concerned authorities about these issues from time to time, they have fallen on deaf ears or have been ignored nonchalantly. At best, the concerned authorities give sympathetic hearing, but eventually do hardly anything worthwhile to address the real issues and their causes.
Top-down development decisions and designs, which are not thought through or rely on the latest science or techniques, are imposed on the citizens without even giving proper information, let alone without authentic and proactive participation. Sursagar Redevelopment and Jan Mahal are prime examples of these.
There has been no proper or official reply on our queries about where the construction debris of big buildings demolished recently have gone. Some examples of these include, the old Pathik Bhawan for Jan Mahal, the Maharani Shantadevi Hospital, and cinemas like Rajashree and Natraj.
The Vadodara Smart City website lists 64 projects (with estimated cost of 2906 crore). An overwhelming 42 of these projects are infrastructure development related projects that will create significant issues of debris.
In spite of recent site visit on April 24, 2019 by the committee headed by ex-chief justice of Delhi High Court BC Patel, Gujarat Pollution Control Board officials, and repeated requests from our side, the Vadodara Municipal Corporation, instead of removing the dumped debris, is still allowing dumping of fresh debris, discharge of untreated sewage, filling, levelling, construction, etc. activities along/ in/ around the Vishwamitri River and its environs (banks, ravines, tributaries, ponds, wetlands, etc.). This is being done by other private and public entities, including the Maharaja Sayajirao University.
In addition to the existing transgressions and issues of grave consequences, we also want to draw attention of all the concerned authorities some old (pending and overlooked) and newly emerging, crucial issues related to rapid “development” works that need serious and urgent attention from you.
These ravines and wetlands are being systematically destroyed and filled with debris and municipal solid waste in order to reclaim land for further “development”. This will further augment the already existing waterlogging and flooding woes in various parts of the city.
The identified and documented locations, where debris and waste dumping is still going on, in addition to the ones already identified in our previous letters, are as follows:
  • The new westward road from the southwest of Motnath “Lake”/Pond to the new bridge over the Vishwamitri River has severely disturbed the storm water channel (‘kaans’) that facilitates the overflow of water from Motnath “Lake”/Pond to the Vishwamitri River. 
  • The south-west riverbank off the new bridge mentioned above. 
  • The ravines on which the Agora Mall is built and areas adjacent to it, off Mangal Pandey Road.
  • The ravines between the Sama ‘gaamtal’ and the Vishwamitri River. 
  • The ravines on both sides of the Bhimnath Bridge and between the Bhimnath Bridge and the Old Jail Road. 
  • The ravines between the Akota ‘gaamtal’, the Western Railway tracks and the Vishwamitri River. 
  • Dumping of debris along various roads and vacant plots across the city.
  • The ravines and wetlands are nature’s water management mechanisms, which act like shock absorbers, natural sponges, by detaining the inundation of waters in the river during monsoon. 
The above-mentioned activities are altering the morphology of the river system by either narrowing the section of the river, straightening of the meanders, modifying the natural topography along the banks, clearing of vegetation, and increasing impervious surfaces.
These actions are modifying the soil structure its interactions with water and other bio-geo-chemical processes along the riparian zones and exacerbating the threat of disasters such as floods and water logging. Poor people always pay the heaviest price of such criminal negligence by the concerned authorities.
Since our last letter dated January 30, 2019 to the Municipal Commissioner and others, this practice is still continuing and getting worse with apparently no repercussions to the concerned authorities and parties. This is happening despite the prevailing laws of the land, directions of concerned authorities, and courts’ orders.
Furthermore, these works and activities are in complete violation under the provisions of the following environmental statutes:
  • The Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972 
  • Environmental Impact Assessment Notification, 2006 under the Environment (Protection) Act 1986 
  • The Environment (Protection) Act 1986 
  • The Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules 2010 
  • The Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016 
  • The Construction and Demolition Waste Management Rules, 2016
We demand:
  • Implement immediately, in letter and spirit, ‘the Construction and Demolition Waste Management Rules, 2016’ and ‘the Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016’. We have been raising the questions in this regard and we need reliable and verifiable answers now. 
  • Stop immediately all activities like debris and waste dumping, discharge of untreated sewage, filling, levelling, construction, etc. activities along/ in / around the Vishwamitri River and its environs (banks, ravines, tributaries, ponds, wetlands, etc.). The Municipal Commissioner of the Vadodara Municipal Corporation must immediately take sound and well-advised corrective measures by giving appropriate and specific directions, emphasizing eco-engineering techniques and not allowing shoddy band-aid job, by Wednesday, June 5, 2019. Failing to do so will invite legal actions and/or penalties against all concerned authorities, departments, and parties.
  • Compensate all damage to individual and collective society, who will be affected by the induced and impending disasters. This compensation must be done by or levied from the concerned officials of the respective authorities. 
  • Ensure devising and implementation of a sound Action Plans for proper and well-monitored remediation, restoration, and future waste management. We insist a complete re-look and re-design of all the on-going and not-so-well thought out demolition activities, clean-up drives, and so-called development projects. All the projects should be comprehensively integrated with overall Development and/or Master Plans and must not be imposed as isolated interventions handled by different departments and agencies. 
To achieve all this, we demand that a quasi-governmental authority with real teeth is formed and empowered to fulfill this agenda in a proactive, transparent, and accountable manner. It is high time that the local, state, and Central governments take up this matter with urgency and work towards its positive resolution without excuses, passing on the buck, or failure of any kind.
---
*Signatories: Rohit Prajapati, Environment Activist, Researcher, and Writer; Neha Sarwate, Environmental and Urban Planner; Dr Ranjitsinh Devkar, zoologist; Dr Shishir R Raval, landscape architect and ecological planner; Dr Deepa Gavali, wetland ecologist; Dr Jitendra Gavali, botanist; Shakti Bhatt, water resources expert; Dr Arjun Singh Mehta, biotechnologist; Dr Jayendra Lakhmapurkar, hydrogeologist; Hitarth Pandya, educationist and writer; Rutvik Tank, civil engineer and urban planner; Dhara Patel, landscape architect and architect; Taniya Vaidya, artist and educator; Sadanand Ambadkar, consultant

Comments

TRENDING

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

How lead petitioner was rendered homeless when GM mustard matter came up in SC

By Rosamma Thomas*  On January 5, 2023, the Supreme Court stayed a December 20, 2022 direction of the Uttarakhand High Court to the Indian Railways and the district administration of Haldwani to use paramilitary forces to evict thousands of poor families occupying land that belonged to the railways.  Justice AS Oka remarked that it was not right to order the bringing in of paramilitary forces. The SC held that even those who had no rights, but were living there for years, needed to be rehabilitated. On December 21, 2022, just as she was getting ready to celebrate Christmas, researcher Aruna Rodrigues was abruptly evicted from her home in Mhow Cantonment, Madhya Pradesh – no eviction notice was served, and nearly 30 Indian Army soldiers bearing arms were part of the eviction process. What is noteworthy in this case is that the records establishing possession of the house date back to 1892 – the title deed with the name of Dr VP Cardoza, Rodrigues’ great grandfather, is dated November 14

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam* RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

Tax buoyancy claims when less than 4% Indian dollar millionaires pay income tax

By Prasanna Mohanty  In FY18, the last year for which disaggregated income tax data is available, only 29,002 ITRs declared income above Rs 5 crore, while Credit Suisse said India had 7.25 lakh dollar millionaires (the wealth equivalent of Rs 8 crore and above) that year. Often enough, the Centre claims that demonetization in 2016 raised tax collections, improved tax efficiency, and expanded the tax base. Now RBI Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) member Ashima Goyal has also joined their ranks, attributing the “claims” of rising tax collections in the current fiscal year to “tax buoyancy” brought by the demonetisation . Do such claims have any basis in official records? The answer is unequivocal. The budget documents show the tax-to-GDP ratio (direct plus indirect tax) increased from 10.6% in FY16 (pre-demonetization) to 11.2% in FY17, remained there in FY18 (demonetization and GST fiscals), and then fell to 9.9% in FY20. In FY22, it improved to 10.8% and is estimated to drop to 10.7% in

Cyrus Mistry, PM Modi’s brother: What do these accidents have in common? Merc!

By Rosamma Thomas*  In September 2022, in an accident at Palghar near Mumbai, Cyrus Mistry, former chairman of the Tata Group, died in a road accident . On December 28, 2022, a road accident in Mysore left one of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s brothers injured. What is common in these accidents? The car that crashed into the divider on the road, in both these cases, was manufactured by “prestigious” German manufacturer Mercedes Benz. One former dealer of Mercedes Benz cars in India has been raising issues of the threat to the lives of those riding these cars for many years now. Cama Motors, among the oldest dealers of foreign cars, having started business in pre-independence India, noted over 10 years ago that Mercedes Benz was indulging in corrupt practices . The cars are currently priced between Rs 41 lakh and Rs 2.92 crore in India; few people realize that the pride of owning a Merc comes at considerable risk to life. Cama Motors carefully documented several of the flaws on a websi

Gandhian unease at Mahadev Desai book launch: Sabarmati Ashram may lose free space

By Rajiv Shah  A simmering apprehension has gripped the Gandhians who continue to be trustees of the Sabarmati Ashram: the “limited freedom” to express one’s views under the Modi dispensation still available at the place which Mahatma Gandhi made his home from 1917 to 1930 may soon be taken away. Also known as Harijan Ashram, a meeting held for introducing yet-to-be-released book, “Mahadev Desai: Mahatma Gandhi's Frontline Reporter”, saw speaker and after speaker point towards “narrowing space” in Gujarat for Gandhians (as also others) to express themselves. Penned by veteran journalist Nachiketa Desai, grandson of Mahadev Desai, while the book was planned to be released on January 1 and the meeting saw several prominent personalities, including actor-director Nandita Das, her scholar-mother Varsha Das, British House of Lords member Bhikhu Parekh, among others, speak glowingly about the effort put in for bringing out the book, exchanges between speakers suggested it should be rele

Civil rights leaders allege corporate loot of resources, suppression of democratic rights

By Our Representative  Civil rights activists have alleged, quoting top intelligence officers as also multiple international forensic reports, that recent developments with regard to the Bhima Koregaon and the Citizenship Amendment Act-National Register of Citizens (CAA-NRC) cases suggest, there was "no connection between the Elgaar Parishad event and the Bhima Koregaon violence." Activists of the Campaign Against State Repression (CASR) told a media event at the HKS Surjeet Bhawan, New Delhi, that, despite this, several political prisoners continue to be behind bars on being accused under the anti-terror the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Addressed by family members of the political prisoners, academics, as well as social activists, it was highlighted how cases were sought to be fabricated against progressive individuals, democratic activists and intellectuals, who spoke out against "corporate loot of Indian resources, suppression of basic democratic

Kerala natural rubber producers 'squeezed', attend to their plight: Govt of India told

By Rosamma Thomas   Babu Joseph, general secretary of the National Federation of Rubber Producers Societies (NFRPS) at a recent discussion at Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam, explained that it is high time the Union government paid greater heed to the troubles plaguing the rubber production sector in India – rubber is a strategic product, important for the military establishment and for industry, since natural rubber is still used in the manufacture of tyres for large vehicles and aeroplanes. Synthetic rubber is now quite widespread, but styrene, which is used in making synthetic rubber and plastics, and also butadiene, another major constituent of synthetic rubber, are both hazardous. Prolonged exposure to these even in recycled rubber can cause neurological damage. Kerala produces the bulk of India’s natural rubber. In 2019-20, Kerala’s share in the national production of rubber was over 74%. Over 20% of the gross cropped area in the state is under rubber cultivation, with total

Bangladesh 'rights violations': US softens stance, fears increased clout of China, India

By Tilottama Rani Charulata*  In December 2021, in addition to the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), the United States imposed sanctions on seven former and current officers of the force, alleging serious human rights violations. Benazir Ahmed and former RAB-7 commander Miftah Uddin Ahmed were banned from entering the US. RAB as an institution was also canceled the support it was getting from the US and its allies. At the same time, those under the ban have been notified of confiscation of assets held abroad. The anti-crime and anti-terrorism unit of the Bangladesh Police, RAB is the elite force consisting of members of the Bangladesh Army, Bangladesh Police, Bangladesh Navy, Bangladesh Air Force, Border Guard Bangladesh, Bangladesh Civil Service and Bangladesh Ansar, and has been criticized by rights groups for its use of extrajudicial killings and is accused of forced disappearances. The government of Bangladesh has been insisting about lifting the ban on RAB, but the US had till recen