Dhanori Lake

It has been difficult gaining attention of people in a campaign to save a lake in Pune. At one national conference attended by some good conservation people and NGOs, when I flashed the photo of the hero of my article – Dhanori Lake – I was told that this is so small. So Is 11 hectares of lake, when in full capacity having approximately more than 2000 million litres of water small?. On another tangent, our approach to address issues as per scale is something that needs a rethink. My attempts to request some key publishing houses to highlight this was met with complete failure. I write this again, with a new angle of the EIA hoping that it catches people’s attention.  Here goes…

Dhanori Lake


The lake in threat is called the Dhanori lake which is being strongly guarded by a small group of citizens who reside in a nearby society and various citizen and environment groups in Pune.

This case came into the limelight in April 08, citizens raised a call for help  to save it.  The interesting aspect to the lake is that of it’s human use value where the near-by residents have been using it for different purposes.

With a bird’s eye view of the physical parameters of the lake, it is astounding to  see how the enormity of the situation is being completely ignored by the development planners of the city and the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC). With the PMC patting it’s back on its attempts to green the city, this would probably be the first basic foundation of environment preservation taking a huge leap backwards. This is not the first time that such cases have come up. There have been issues where roads are proposed cutting green hills and gardens, or constructions coming on the hills themselves, rivers slowly disappearing, nallas going underground and thousands of trees getting axed.  The PMC at it’s end argues that it can do little as this is private land,  residential in land use as per the 1987 development plan.  This may also be true but then it brings us to the point that  the rains can be truant,  and as a consequence the city faces water shortages.  On the altar of sacrifice is a lake that holds huge amounts of water.  What would the next logical steps be ?

The lake was initially a land under the ownership of  the Yerwada Gai Wadar Mazdoor Cooperation Society and was used as a quarry. The quarry was later closed down by the collector in 1984. The society thereafter decided to use the area for residential purposes, and carrying out a scheme thereon.  So  to make the long story short a construction is coming up there. The area is unfortunately mapped as a residential zone of the Development Plan of Pune –  a plan that was made about 20 years ago. This quarry has evolved into a wonderful wetland system filled with rain water and surface run-off, and of use to the surrounding residing citizens.  The total area of the quarry is approximately 11 hectares and  27 m being the maximum depth.  It may also be noted that water accumulation is not just due to rain. From a Survey of India map dated 1971, there is a rivulet bordering the quarry which starts from the hills on the north east and finally runs into the Mula River. This rivulet  now goes under a no of buildings et al. The size of the rivulet can be estimated by the Development Plan 1987 map which shows it to be of substantial width. (Both maps are attached.)

The developers however vehemently claim that the water is a composite of nothing but rain water and sewage and therefore of least consequence for the society as a whole. It is also not uncommon to hear arguments of how the lake is facilitating the mosquito menace and suicides and would be therefore better if it was wiped out.  This place was also nicknamed for convenience “Suicide Point” by some .

From an ecosystem point of view, the lake falls under the category of a wetland. Wetlands play an essential role in the regulation of the river flow.  They filter pollutants and fertilizers, and they act as spawning zones for some fish species. They also provide a habitat for plants, insects, and birds. Wetlands provide values that no other ecosystem can, including water quality improvement, flood protection, erosion control, recreation and aesthetic appreciation, and natural products for our use free of cost.  Having said that it would be pertinent to conduct an independent assessment of the ecological value of the lake.

To save the lake, a detailed list of anomalies have been pointed out such as the violation of the spirit of the Environment Protection;  Section 9 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 which  prohibits the hunting of any of the wild animals mentioned in Schedule I, II, III and IV, wherein the term ‘hunting’ covers poisoning or an attempt to do so, as well as damaging or disturbing the eggs or nests of birds or the destruction of habitat.  The other strong legal argument is a State Development Control Rule 11.1.b which mentions inter alia that : ‘ Notwithstanding the above, the authority shall be entitled to take cognisance of the existence of all water courses whether shown on the Development Plan or not while sanctioning layouts and no person shall take any action without the permission of authority which results in reducing the water way or closing or filling up of any existing water course.’

The new twist in the tale comes with the EIA angle. The developers had submitted an  EIA for their development plans on this lake.  Produced below are the qualifiers of the EIA along with a section on our comments, where we highlighted the contradictions strongly.

S. No

Information/ Check List confirmation

Yes/ No

Details submitted by the Builder

Our Comments

1.3

Creation of new land use?

No

None This water body is being filled with rubble and buildings constructed.

1.1

Reclamation works?

No

None A Water body is being reclaimed by filling it with rubble.

1.21

Impounding, damming, culverting,realigning or other changes to the hydrology of watercourses or aquifers?

No

None The water body has been filled by subterranean streams. These will be filled up.

1.23

Abstraction or transfers of water form ground or surface waters?

No

None Water is going to be drained/ pumped from the lake and it is to be reclaimed by filling it with rubble.

1.24

Changes in water bodies or the land surface affecting drainage or runnoff? No None By filling this water body/ lake with rubble, water runoff will be prevented and will cause flooding of nearby areas.

1.30

Loss of native species or genetic diversity?

No

None A wide variety of birds and fish are seen here in this lake.

(III) Environmental Sensitivity

Sr No

Areas

Name/Identity

Aerial distance (within 15km) proposed project location boundary Our Comments

1

Areas protected under international conventions, national or local legislation for their ecological, landscape, culture or other related value

No

No Comment

The Dhanori Quarry and Lake is listed as a Natural Heritage site by PMC. A letter from the Municipal Commissioner has been handed over to Mr M S Dawre..

2

Areas which are important or sensitive for ecological reasons – Wetlands, watercourses or other water bodies, coastal zone, biospheres, mountains, forests

Mula River

1 km

The land under question is a water body..

3

Areas used by protected, important or sensitive species of flora or fauna for breeding, nesting, foraging, resting, over wintering, migration

No

No Comment A wide variety of birds including migratory ones and fish are seen here in this lake.

10

Areas containing important, high quality or scarce resources (ground water resources, forestry, agriculture, fisheries, tourism, minerals)

No

No Comment This is a water scarce area and housing societies pump water from it for their regular use.

Appendix -II

FORM 1A

S. No

Information/ Check List confirmation

Details submitted by the Builder Our Comments

1

LAND ENVIRONMENT

1.4

Will there be any significant land disturbance resulting in erosion, subsidence and instability? (Details of soil type, slope analysis, vulnerability to subsidence, seismicity etc may be given)

No

2 million cubic litres of water will be drained and the area filled with an equivalent amount of rubble. Proper study should be made about its impact.

1.5

Will the proposal involve alteration of natural drainage systems? (Give details of the quantities of earthwork involved, transport of fill materials from outside the site etc)

No

2 million cubic litres of water will be drained. The area filled with 2 million cubic metres of rubble. This large amount of rubble will be transported from outside the site.

1.6

What are the quantities of earthwork involved in the construction activity – cutting, filling, reclamation etc. (Give details of the quantities of earthwork involved, transport of fill materials from outside the site etc

Cutting and filling for construction activity are balanced, so no transportation of earth will be required

2 million cubic litres of water will be drained. The area filled with 2 million cubic metres of rubble. This large amount of rubble will be transported from outside the site.

1.8

Will the low lying areas and wetlands get altered? (Provide details of how low lying and wetlands are getting modified from the proposed activity)

Not Applicable

The water body is being drained and there is no clarification where the water is being discharged.

2

WATER ENVIRONMENT

2.5

Will there be diversion of water from other users? (Please assess the impacts of the project on other existing uses and quantities of consumption)

Not Applicable

At present water from the lake is being used by nearby residents. They will be deprived of water..

2.8

What would be the impact of the land use changes occuring die to the proposed project on the runoff characteristics (quantitative as well as quantitative) of the area in the post construction phase on a long term basis? Would it aggravate the problems of flooding or water logging in any way? There will be no bad impact in the post construction phase which will aggravate the problems of flooding or water logging By filling this water body/ lake with rubble, water runoff will be prevented and could cause flooding of nearby areas.

2.9

What are the impacts of the proposal on the ground water? (Will there be tapping of ground water; give the details of ground water table, recharging capacity, and approvals obtained from competent authority, if any)

Not applicable

With removal of 2 million cubic litres of water the water table could definitely go down drastically.

5

AIR ENVIRONMENT

5.5

Will there be significant increase in traffic noise and vibrations? Give details of the sources and the measures proposed for mitigation of the above.

No

As 2 million cubic metres of rubble will have to be dumped, a total of at least 5 lakh truck trips will be required. The traffic noise will be high and the dirt clouds will pollute the atmosphere.

6

ASTHETICS

6.1

Will the proposed constructions in any way result in the obstruction of a view, scenic amenity or landscapes? Are these considerations taken into account by the proponents?

Not applicable

An 11 Hectare scenic lake will just disappear.. This has not been taken into consideration..

7

SOCIO – ECONOMIC ASPECTS

7.3

Will the project cause adverse effects on local communities, disturbance to sacred sites or other cultural values? What are the safeguards proposed?

No comment

This is a Natural Heritage site as declared by PMC..

Annexure VII Environment Management Plan during Construction

S. No

Environmental Components

Predicted Impacts

Probable Source of Impacts Mitigation Measures

3

Water

No Significant Negative Impact

Surface runoff from project site. Oil/fuel & waste spills. Improper debris disposal. Discharge of sewage from labour camp. Silt fences to reduce runoff. Secondary containment & dykes in material storage areas. Sewage Treatment in septic tanks.

Based on this study  a letter was promptly sent to the Central ministry wherein the invocation of section 8 (vi) of the Environmental Assessment Notification 2006 was sought. This section states that  “Deliberately concealing and/or submission of  false or misleading information or data which is material to screening or scoping or appraisal or decision on the application shall make the application liable for rejection, and cancellation of a prior environmental clearance granted on that basis…”

For us, this is a clear case for cancellation of the environmental clearance granted to the said project and we have appealed that the MoEF should immediately withdraw the clearance and stop the destruction of what is called the Dhanori Lake. The Ministry has asked the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) to examine the proposal submitted by the project proponent and give its opinion to the Ministry whether project proponent has concealed the facts and/or submitted false/misleading information to obtain the Environmental Clearance.In august 2008, the EAC discussed various aspects of this project, in which it was observed that all the information has not been provided about the lake, quantity of soil required to fill the quarry and agreed that this was significant in terms of environment implications.  The EAC recommended that the ministry take a decision on cancellation of the environment clearance, and that the clearance can be considered afresh after submission of detailed information in a fresh application.  This is definitely a good decision favoring the saving of the lake, but the fight remains as one seriously does not know what other ramifications possible where the land can be continued to be developed.  The role of the PMC is also vital in this whole issue.

Dhanori Lake 2A citizens gathering in July’08 recorded a strong dissent against any construction activity with the support of a number of environment organizations. As a win-win, the developers stand by their commitment to beautify a part of the lake and construct the rest, yet the voice amongst some of is to save all of it.  Is such a win-win the order of the day? Or should we continue to be get the whole pie? Are the people willing to pay a price (in terms of adequate compensation) that could save the lake?  How do such situations get resolved?

How this will end depends on the kind of interventions done, and how well. No one opposing this development wants the developers to suffer losses, but is the state mechanism prepared to ensure what it calls “natural justice”  to mankind

A similar lake in Pune called Lakaki lake was saved only because the citizens fought tooth and nail against the plan of the PMC to convert the lake into an educational complex after filling the lake.

At the state of the current environment affairs of the city, we need more resolve, strength and dynamism to solve to save the environment and in a fair and equitable manner. There is hope that the efforts to save the lake will bear fruit and specially so with so many citizens groups and organizations coming together. It would be absolutely marvelous if years from now the lake would be one of the natural jewels in the crown of the city’s natural heritage.

On another note, the whole process of EIA’s comes under the scanner. It would be very useful for Pune to start tracking and monitoring the EIA’s that are getting through.  I get a sense that this would possibly open a small Pandora’s box.

[This issue has been taken up by the National Society of Clean Cities and Pune Tree Watch]

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Campaigns. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Dhanori Lake

  1. Tanya says:

    If you could suggest anyone that I could speak to pls help me with names and numbers.

    Contact me at tanyasiqueira@gmail.com/+91 22 66601111

  2. What information would you need?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s