Civic Sanskriti: Water eco-restoration efforts

A bright blue kingfisher patiently surveyed the area from its vantage point on a branch. A gray or yellow wagtail caught the eye with its wagging tail as it ran across a creek in Satarnagar, southeast of Pune.

While we were watching these birds, Shramik Shevate, an engineer at Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC), explained about two pre-Covid water abstraction and restoration initiatives that are now bearing fruit.

Dr. Himanshu Kulkarni, director of the Advanced Center for Water Resources Development and Management (Acwadam) and water management expert Shashank Deshpande led the effort, which was undertaken in partnership with United Way, Bengaluru. Ravindra Sinha and Vaishali Patkar from Bhujal Abhiyan coordinated the initiative with local company Pramod Nana Bhangire and PMC officials who made it possible.

Stream recovery

This stream has its source east of the Mohammadwadi forest area and flows past the JSPM Pharmacy College. Since it drains nearly a square kilometer near its source, it soon transforms from a small trickle to a 30-meter-wide bed with a seasonal stream that flows during the rains.

Some wells dug along the creek and an old stone weir on the other side show that the creek was an asset to water management before urbanization took hold here. The wells are functional and nearby apartments and some remaining farms in the area draw water from them. The site is in a natural recharge zone identified through Acwadam’s initiative to map the Pune aquifers over the past five years.

Over the years, and especially during building construction and road construction in the area, a lot of silt has built up in the stream bed. As part of the ongoing restoration work, rubbish, weeds such as lantana and congress grass, and accumulated mud have been removed from the bed. The silt serves to stabilize the banks that are to be re-greened. As native plants gain a foothold even during a certain degree of erosion, the banks are slowly becoming gentler slopes again.

A small sidewalk is planned over the existing stone weir. It offers a view of the creek bed and the thick canopy of trees downstream, perhaps as the kingfisher might see.

Efforts to restore the creek are intended to improve rainwater recharge, improve rainwater transport, preserve biodiversity and create a beautiful recreational space for the neighborhood.

Infiltration pond

A water infiltration pond at the Dada Gujar School in Mohammadwadi was also revived by the PMC. This pond receives water from the west side of the Mohammadwadi forest area and the built-up neighborhood.

PMC Roads Department officials came across the pond during road works in the community. The need for space for a footpath was expanded to include a chance to revitalize the seepage pond and create a unique public open space around it.

The footpath was laid out on a cantilever along the federal government. When the pond was unlanded, two sources were uncovered. These are now protected. A stone and sand filter was created to absorb and catch the runoff rainwater from the now built-up neighborhood.

Charging wells allow infiltration into the deeper aquifers when the pond is full during the monsoons. Sinha says: “The pond rejuvenation efforts have already shown results with improved groundwater availability in the surrounding areas.”

Children from the neighborhood were busy playing on the stone stairs and the sitting area, bringing their energies to this urban setting, which our city certainly needs more of.

Both initiatives were not without their challenges. The diverse requirements of different infrastructures such as roads, storm sewers, sewers and the protection of the natural values ​​of streams, aquifers and refill areas often contradict each other.

While a citywide urban aquifer and aquifer management plan is required, the ongoing excavation and construction activities, the increase in built-up areas, and the provision of other services often affect natural environmental assets. These initiatives in Mohammadwadi show how, with a little careful consideration and cooperation, it can be possible to unite the different needs.

Sanskriti Menon is Senior Program Director of the Center for Environmental Education. She writes about urban sustainability and participatory governance. Views are personal. She can be reached at [email protected]


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