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Gera in News

Hsg society pools land civic body in troubled waters

Pune Mirror - 22 February, 2015


Builders refuse to see link between dipping water table and the swimming amenities, claiming they are just too few in number to make a difference

Raising concerns about the Pune Municipal Corporation's (PMC) draft development plan (DDP) turning a blind eye to the city's depleting groundwater levels, the planning committee members appointed by the state government to examine the proposals, have sought a clamp down on private swimming pools. Such amenities in new projects have to be discouraged, they have categorically said.

"Swimming pools, whether they draw on the municipal's supply or other groundwater sources are a drain on the city's natural resources, which are public property," pointed out city-based architect, Sarang Yadwadkar, who is part of the state appointed panel of experts. "We have recommended that if not discouraged, the builders should be levied heavy development charges. The footprint of the swimming pools and allied structures should be included in the Floor Space Index (FSI). Heavy annual cess should be levied on all private swimming pools in proportion to their volumetric capacity. The water being used in the pools should be compulsorily recycled at regular intervals to minimise intake of fresh water," he added.

Besides, Yadwadkar, the panel included Mumbai-based urban planners A R Patharkar and Akhatar M Chauhan (principal of Rizvi College of Architecture) and botanist and environmentalist Sachin Punekar. After studying the DDP for about a year, the group submitted their report to PMC last week. Picking on the civic body for ignoring an important element in development, such as groundwater, the report pointed out, "While preparing the DP, it was essential to survey the underground aquifers using a competent agency to identify the areas from where groundwater is recharged. These spots should be identified, notified and marked as 'groundwater recharge zones'. These areas specifically have to be protected from soil capping, sewage leakages, and soil pollution, deploying appropriate building control rules."

The experts have noted that the groundwater table in the city has been dipping in the past few years and blamed it on unrestrained soil capping and the water supply system getting contaminated by leakages from sewage pipes. They are not impressed by the civic body's encouragement to housing societies for rainwater harvesting, offering tax breaks. "There has to be community-oriented rain water harvesting done at locations which hold promise of proper seepage of water that can feed the groundwater table," Yadwadkar pointed out.

But PMC officials are in denial of the worries being voiced by the experts. "There is no problem with our ground water resources. In 2009, we approached Groundwater Surveys and Development Agency

(GSDA) to do a study of the situation here. Their survey indicated that ground water in the city has risen. We are boosting this trend with our property tax rebates for rain water harvesting. New construction will mean more rain water harvesting, which will inevitably recharge the water level," insisted VG Kulkarni, head of water supply department at PMC. Interestingly, K C Wankhede, deputy director of GDSA, refused to qualify this claim, stating, "We submitted our report to PMC and our findings are with them. I cannot comment further."

Predictably, experts' opinion and recommendations have raised hackles of the realtors. "Pools are an expensive amenity that not every builder can provide, and not every society can have bore water in its premises. There are also maintenance issues. With such limiting factors, the ground water depletion cannot be linked to swimming pools. Further, corporation can always go into the metering system and charge us accordingly," said Hemant Naiknavare, vice president of Confederation of Real Estate Developers' Association (CREDAI). PMC officials were unable to quantify the number of pools they have allowed in the city so far.

"It is an absolutely an anti-development attitude by the committee members. They only have academic experience and don't know about development. We are offering swimming pools to boost sports among citizens," said Satish Magar, managing director of Magarpatta Township Development and Construction Co Ltd. "It is an ill-logical idea," dismissed Rohit Gera, managing director of Gera Developments Pvt Ltd. "There may be barely 500 swimming pools in the city, banning them will hardly resolve the water problem," he said.

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