Pune: Sharad Pawar urged to get Rs 250-cr Vetal hill tunnel project cancelled

With mega infrastructure projects in Pune entering a deadlock over concerns raised by citizens and environmentalists, former Union minister and Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar has been urged to resolve the issues.

Citizens groups and environmentalists have come together under the Green Pune Movement to protest against the proposed Rs 250-crore tunnel to be built across the Vetal hill connecting Kothrud, Panchvati and Gokhalenagar in Maharashtra. They urged Pawar to intervene and get the project cancelled.

Pawar has already convened two meetings with citizens, environmentalists and officers of the Pune Municipal Corporation. “The NCP chief has asked the PMC to complete its pre-feasibility report and survey for the project. He said the next meeting on the issue will be held in November in the presence of the chief minister,” said Vandana Chavan, an NCP Rajya Sabha MP and former mayor of the city.

According to Pradeep Ghumare of the Green Pune Movement, citizens and environmentalists fear the tunnel across the Vetal hill will damage ecology. “Moreover, it would be against efforts to promote mass public transport in the city and encourage more use of private vehicles,” he said.

Municipal commissioner Vikram Kumar said the corporation had not finalised the tunnel project yet. “The final decision on the implementation of the project would be based on the pre-feasibility study and survey of the tunnel project. However, the tunnels were proposed in the development plan to reduce the traffic woes of citizens travelling between Kothrud and Baner,” he had said at a meeting.

The Green Pune Movement said the tunnel project was outrightly rejected by the corporation’s planning committee in 2014 for environmental and technical reasons, but it was ratified in the 2017 development plan.

The NCP chief had earlier discussed issues related to the ambitious Rs 4,700-crore development project of the Mula-Mutha river. The foundation stone for the riverfront development project was laid by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but environmentalists have raised serious concerns over its possible impact on nature and riverside localities.

“Environmentalists have raised serious concerns over the proposed riverfront development project, which is likely to turn into a disaster in future. The citizens and environmentalists are not against the riverfront development project but are concerned over its impact. Everyone wants the river to be clean and beautiful. The project to ensure no untreated water is released into the river has already been taken up. The concern is about the riverfront development project,” said Chavan.

The former mayor has called a meeting of all stakeholders, including citizens and environmentalists, for a detailed discussion on the project on May 16. “The civic administration recently gave some clarification on issues raised at a meeting conducted by NCP chief Sharad Pawar. However, the clarification is not satisfactory and there are a lot of questions about the project,” she said.

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