Tuesday, May 8, 2018

My City My Responsibility - River ecosystem services

Dear All,

In my last blog we saw how river revival done in an appropriate way, can enhance the river ecosystem and in turn provide us with lots of benefits. These benefits that we get from a healthy river ecosystem are known as ecosystem services offered by the river. 

The picture below shows the different categories of services offered by our rivers. These are provisioning/supplying, regulatory, cultural and supporting. 

Source: Ecosystem and their services


Though transportation is one of the supplying services offered by the rivers, I feel there are serious problems with the way transport is being proposed for Mula - Mutha river system. More about this next week!

Pournima Agarkar.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

My City My Responsibility - River revival

Dear All, 


Wetland patch in Mutha riverbed showing good fish and bird diversity
The above image is of the wetland patch that is seen near the mhatre bridge and which should be preserved as mentioned in my last blog. 

With reference to the comments that I have received in my last blog, I would like to say that, yes we need river rejuvenation program and not river development. But what does river rejuvenation or revival means. Rejuvenation or revival simply means restoration of river to its original form. 

In case of our rivers which smelled of fishes as per one of the comments, which means getting back the same water quality that is suitable for aquatic life in the rivers. With the riverfront development plan happening we as citizens should advocate for the quality of water in our rivers such that it can allow fishes to thrive and supply potable water for all. Such services provided by rivers are also known as ecosystem services. We shall see more about in the next blog. 

Pournima Agarkar.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

My City My Responsibility - Need sustainable Riverfront Development

Dear All, 

In the last blog we saw a pair of 'now' and 'future' pictures from the draft riverfront development plan. The whole idea behind sharing the pictures was to make citizens aware  that such development is happening on our river and we have the right to know ... and question. Development is indeed important, but one must look behind the glamour in order to ensure that it is sustainable.
  
Considering the comments from both online and offline sources I can say that definitely citizens don't want our riverfront to be concertized to such an extent in the name of places for public interaction, clear a grassy bank and have a couple of lonely trees in the name of aesthetics, and lots of pigeons (!) in the name of biodiversity (as depicted in the proposed view). Click on THIS LINK to access the information on riverfront development.  


As Shailaja Deshpande of Jeevitnadi rightly mentioned that even a common citizen who has nothing to do with ecology and river dynamics would still like to have a good mix of green cover and rock structures along the riverbank instead of all pavements. 

Also she pointed out that we should have inclusive access to the river, or in other words easy access to differently-abled people which is still not reflected in our planning though we know about its importance. 

While undertaking a stream mapping study along the river stretch near Mhatre bridge last year, my colleagues and I came across a beautiful wetland patch that needs to be preserved. Aditi Deodhar of Brown leaf foundation and an active member of Jeevitnadi said that similar wetland patches exist near Vitthalwadi river stretch as well which are currently being preserved by a community of enthusiastic people in the neighborhood through the program of adoption of a river stretch  initiated by Jeevitnadi

Holistic approach and considerations of local ecosystem in the area are must while planning development. 

Pournima Agarkar. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

My City My Responsibility - Glimpse of riverfront development

Dear All,

Today I am posting one of the pictures from the draft riverfront development plan so that you get a glimpse of the riverfront development strategy.

Kindly post your comments on the below pictures with reasons, any suggestions for making riverfront development better are welcome. Looking forward to your comments!

Source: Draft Riverfront development plan, Pune

 Pournima Agarkar.


  

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

My City My Responsibility - River an Ecosystem

Dear All, 

We saw how grey water footprint is increasing in our city and why there is a need for urgent action to save our rivers. For the same, current approach considers river to be a single entity and concreting or beautifying the riverbank is seen as the solution to restore our rivers. However, it is important to understand that a river is an entire system that consists of living (aquatic plants, animals and microorganisms) and non living (physical and chemical) components that interact with each other with the help of energy and form an ecosystem. And the area that is drained by a river is known as the catchment area or a watershed. Considering this watershed and its linkages is a crucial aspect in any river restoration program, which is clearly missing in the current river development strategy. 
Mutha river, Pune

Our rivers are the source of freshwater for us. Hence preserving our river is very important for our own survival. Also note that our river is part of our natural heritage and needs to be conserved for our future generations.

On the same lines I came across a very interesting and thought provoking message. 
Title: Water
Grandfather saw it in River
Father saw it in Well
We saw in Tap
Our children will see it in Bottle
Where will our grand children see it in Capsule???

Pournima Agarkar.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

My City My Responsibility - Water Footprint of Pune

Dear All, 

Last time we saw how water is required in everything that we use and is present in everything that we consume. So today lets see what is water footprint and why it is so important??? 

Water footprint is the amount of freshwater that is either consumed or polluted or wasted in the production of goods or services. Thus water footprint is the combined measure of direct and indirect usage of water. Its important to know your water footprint simply because the source from where the water is acquired is very crucial. There are three different components of water footprint based on their source and are termed as green water footprint, blue water footprint and grey water footprint. 

Green water footprint is the water that is sourced through precipitation and is captured in the root zone of the soil, thus used by plants or the food that we consume. Blue water footprint is the water that is sourced from the surface or groundwater reserves in order to consume or produce any goods. While grey water footprint refers to the freshwater that is used to dilute the polluted water. This freshwater is the one that comes from our rivers or our groundwater sources. 

In Pune our polluted water is directly let into our rivers with or without treatment making our freshwater sources completely polluted. It also pollutes our groundwater sources like our wells and streams through percolation. Hence in Pune out of the three water footprint components the grey water footprint is alarmingly high thus turning our rivers into wastewater streams.

Mutha river Pune

Water is essential for life. Access to safe and clean water is therefore a necessary condition to the Right to Life that our constitution gives us. We must therfore advocate for keeping our rivers ecologically and sustainably clean and flowing. From this perspective, we also need to critically examine the riverfront development in Pune which fails to consider the riverine ecosystem against short term commercial interests.

We shall see what is a riverine ecosystem in the next blog. 

Pournima Agarkar. 




Tuesday, March 27, 2018

My City My Responsibility - World Water Day

Dear All,

On 22nd March we saw world water day. I am sure all of us are taking efforts to save the visible sources of water. However, I think as a citizen we can save more water that is not visible. Since water is required in the preparation of almost everything, if we start consuming consciously. We can still save a lot of water. The below image shows the amount of water required in the production of these products and thus seem to be invisible.




Just keep a watch on your water usage to keep track of your water footprint.  We shall see more on water footprint and virtual water in the next blog. 

Pournima Agarkar.
  

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

My City My Responsibility - Waste Management Miracle

Dear All, 

Pune is one of the SMART cities and is still facing the challenges of managing waste in the city. I think its time we start taking management lessons from sustainable initiatives undertaken by small towns in making waste management a miracle. One such story is about a small town named Vengurla around 400 km from Pune under the leadership of Mr. Ramdas Kokare. 


Mr.Ramdas Kokare
Mr. Ramdas Kokare the former Chief Municipal Officer of Vengurla (now posted at Karjat) believes that apart from waste segregation at source, public participation is equally important for the city to be clean. Vengurla is a small town having around 12,400 people and generating almost 7 tonnes of wastes daily. 100% of the wastes is segregated into three different categories at the source like the wet, dry and hazardous. The wet waste is used for biogas generation producing electricity that powers machines used in the waste management facility. The dry waste is further segregated into 19 different types based on its reuse. All the nonrecyclable plastic is shredded, mixed with bitumen and used in road building making the roads more stronger. It was Mr. Kokare who implemented this in the town and transformed the waste landfill into waste management park. His management strategy simply involved taking rounds around the city just before coming to the office and while returning home, in order to see if the city is clean. He also motivated his subordinates to do the same! He and his subordinates personally talked with a certain number of people daily to educate them about the importance of waste segregation.  

Pune being an urban area having educated and active citizens is still struggling with segregation of wastes at the source into just wet and dry. Disposal of all the wastes is another issue completely. Our landfill sites are overused and people staying around the sites have to cope up with the nuisance. I cannot understand where does the problem lie? Are we not taking the Swach Bharat mission seriously? 

Mixed waste segregation
But then I feel people's participation is missing? Can the responsible citizens among us take inspiration from Mr. Kokare? Can we  educate each other about the importance of cleanliness in our surroundings in order to ensure a disease free locality? Can we advocate for segregation if we see someone not segregating the waste? Can we cooperate or coordinate with our local officers to ensure that our areas are clean? Can we ensure segregation of wastes into wet and dry and keep our sanitary wastes separately to ensure the hygiene of the waste collectors and processors?Segregation is a crucial first step. As Mr. Kokare says, mixed waste is a nuisance but segregated waste is a wealth. 

Pournima Agarkar.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

My City My Responsibility - Towards River Revival


Dear All, 

Our city is full of role models because of which I feel fortunate to be a Puneite. These people not only motivate you but also create an awakening within you to do something for the city.  

One such personality is Mr. Vinod Bodhankar. He began with a citizens movement with the One hour per week for the city - an initiative to clean the garbage that other people throw around the nalas/streams or rivers. He believes that River is our mother and to ensure that our rivers are clean we need to understand that the waste we throw 'away', goes nowhere but right into our rivers polluting them.  

Later on, he initiated the SagarMitra Abhiyan in 2011 with the help of 150 students where each student had to collect plastic from his household for a month and get it to the school where it was then purchased by the Plastic Manufacturers and Recyclers for recycling. This initiative spread rapidly in the city through various schools and in six years i.e by Jan 2017 almost 4.8 lakh citizens of Pune city adopted the waste plastic segregation at source. Around 50 tons of plastic was fetched and given for recycling at zero cost of recollection and transport. 

From his work, it is very clear that awakening among mind and heart is required in order to awaken the hand for action. For the same, this Abhiyan focused on understanding a basic ideology that land slopes into stream, stream slopes into a river and a river slopes into an ocean. Hence when you throw plastic waste on land it ultimately goes into our oceans where the life below water suffers. We do see images where plastic is found in the stomach of the fishes and turtles by killing them. Sometimes resulting in even extinction of some species of fishes and destruction of some ocean ecosystems.

Awakening among the school going children with the help of this basic concept has impacted in segregation and collection of huge volumes of plastic waste from their homes to recycling. The sense of responsibility, understanding, involvement and service that the children have shown through this act can be easily replicated by all of us. 

If each of us decide to segregate only plastic from our household (which can be easily done) and send it to recycling. We will be contributing towards river revival and can save our rivers and the life below water for sure. Lets act upon it. 

Pournima Agarkar.




Tuesday, March 6, 2018

My City My Responsibility - Development versus Environment




Sustainable Development

Dear All

Our city is witnessing varied developmental challenges that threaten the very environment of the city both socially as well as ecologically. Few of the development issues that we are facing today is the construction along the riverside and dumping debris and untreated sewage into the river. Allowing construction in the Green and no development zones, de-reserving plots from a bird sanctuary and opening it up for construction and illegally shifting the blue and red flood lines of our river to allow construction etc. This is indeed a threat to our natural resources i.e land, rivers and biodiversity. 

I am seriously worried about our development that doesn't account for our environment. I am not against any new development in our city. I mean that we are in an era of Sustainable Development, where Environment and Development should go hand in hand. For the same, a lot of thought has to be put from social, environment & climate change and economic perspective, while considering any development in the city. With Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that we have in front of us to be met by 2030. We as citizens need to understand what is sustainability and act as watch dogs to see that our government is indeed adhering to it. We as citizens have the right to ask our developers about their decisions time and again. 

However this is one side of the coin on the other hand its time that our bureaucrats understand sustainability and start incorporating it. They should take conscious efforts to study the area before undertaking any sorts of development in that area. A lot of brainstorming needs to happen in order to understand the socio-economic inequities, ecological and climatic conditions of that area. Meanwhile it is important to maintain transparency as well by publishing the information online for local and national level experts and scientists for scrutiny. With the smart technology that we have today its very handy to share information and make right use of the same. Its quite feasible to accelerate this process through the use of technology even though it is time consuming. Since today's development projects are not full proof, it activates the environmental enthusiasts opposing the same which results in delay of the project as well as enormous financial losses. Ultimately its the common man who has to bear the burden through price hikes or taxes. 

As citizens its in our hands to be the guardians of our city and accordingly envision our city. We have the right to ask our local authorities about our surrounding development. 

Pournima Agarkar.