Amid opposition from environmentalists, the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) has conducted a citizen survey to develop the proposed 1.8 km link road from Balbharati to Bodh Vata to reduce traffic on the College of Law road and check for air pollution.
The connecting road was proposed in 1987 and a development plan in 2007 to ease traffic on the Law School Road. Although it was opposed by locals due to environmental concerns, the project was subsequently approved under Section 205 of the Maharashtra Municipal Corporations Act (MMC). However, the proposal was rejected by the Bombay High Court on 1 January 2016, on the grounds that it did not take into account the environmental impact. After obtaining the green light from the state government, the CMC again adopted the road development plan, part of which passes through Vital Hill.
PMC has completed surveys and other necessary studies but continues to see opposition from environmentalists. Hence, it has conducted online and offline surveys of citizens to ascertain the need for the road. Environmentalists have described the survey as an exercise in farce.
Earlier, the project’s Environmental and Social Impact Study (ESIS) said: “The proposed road is needed to meet the increased traffic connecting Banir Bashan suburbs to Kothrud Warji as the current Law School road. It will be absolutely insufficient to meet any future growth.”
She added, “There will be marginal improvements in air quality at locations along the Law School Road immediately. Furthermore, due to faster commute times, there will be less passenger exposure to air and noise pollution.”
According to the cost-benefit analysis, the report states that there will be significant savings in commuting time and vehicle operating costs due to the proposed route. In the report, mitigation measures were recommended for the prominent environmental impacts of the proposed project mainly on the hydrological recharge capacity and biological resources, especially the plants at the project site. This is necessary because the proposed route passes through areas rich in biodiversity, ecologically sensitive, consisting of man-made forest, and regularly used by thousands of people for morning and evening walks.
According to environmentalists, there are very few benefits but more disadvantages. There will be a significant improvement in the Air Quality Index (AQI) for a few years from now because 78 percent of traffic will be weaned away by the law school on the proposed route. It will also ease traffic congestion for a few years. However, the situation will deteriorate further with each passing day due to the natural growth of vehicles,” said environmental expert Vishali Bhatkar.