Pune will see clean Mula-Mutha soon: Javadekar

Says ₹990-crore river cleaning project, a ‘gift from the Centre’, has been fast-tracked

Terming the Mula-Mutha river cleaning project as a “gift from the Centre” to Pune, Union Minister for Environment Prakash Javadekar on Sunday said about 70% of the first package of the project has been completed.

“The construction of branch sewers in Baner, which forms part of the first package, has been completed and I will be reviewing it soon. Pune’s dream of seeing their beloved river pollution-free is going to be realised soon as the project has now been fast-tracked,” Mr. Javadekar said, speaking to reporters after reviewing the progress of the ambitious ₹990-crore project for pollution abatement in the Mula-Mutha river.

He said the foundation stone for four more packages, involving the construction of sewage treatment plants, would be laid within the next two months, and final clearance for these will be obtained in a few days.

‘Not a JICA project’

Mr. Javadekar said the river cleaning project was a joint operation of the Union government and the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) under the National River Conservation Plan and not a project of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) as is believed. “JICA is only the bank which is providing the finances,” the minister said, noting that the loan given by JICA would be repaid by the Central government and not by the State or the PMC.

“Hence, I say that this project is a gift given by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to Pune’s citizens. All agencies concerned with the project have met and decided to give timelines for its projected completion. I will conduct a monthly follow-up of the project activities,” Mr. Javadekar said.

He said the project had been hanging fire for a decade — from 2004 to 2014 — and it was cleared only when he took over as Environment Minister in 2014.

The Mula-Mutha river, formed by the Mula and Mutha rivers coming together, courses through the city and is an integral component of its heritage. Sections of the river are among the 351 most critically polluted stretches identified by the Central Pollution Control Board, earning it the ignominy of being one of India’s most polluted rivers.

Untreated sewage and industrial effluents have brought the Mula-Mutha to the brink an ecological nightmare.

A loan agreement was signed between the Centre and JICA in January 2016 to clean the river under the National River Conservation Plan. The government of Japan has committed to provide a soft loan of JPY 19.064 billion (around ₹990 crore) to the Centre at an interest rate of 0.3% per annum. The project cost is to be shared between the Centre and the PMC, which is the implementing agency, in the ratio of 85:15 respectively.

The loan is to be repaid by the Centre over a 40-year period. The project is scheduled to be completed by January 2022.

On the anvil

Major components proposed under the project include the construction of 11 new sewage treatment plants, laying of 113.6 km of sewer lines for collection of untapped sewage, and renovation of four existing intermediate pumping stations.

These measures are to help increase the city’s sewage treatment capacity from 477 MLD to 873 MLD, enabling Pune to cater to its sewage treatment requirements till the year 2027.

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