Coordinates: 18°34'40"N 73°52'56"E
See Dhanori Lake on wikimapia
Dhanori Lake is located on Survey nos. 47 and 90. Its area is nearly 11 hectares.
According to the Pune Development Plan, S. No. 47 is a residential zone and S. No. 90 is an agriculture zone. In the Survey of India map of Pune, published in 1971, this area has been shown as a quarry.
The lake started off as a quarry. However the quarrying came to a stop nearly 3 decades ago as per the residents of that area as it filled up with water. This was the result of tapping an underground watercourse and this watercourse has filled up the lake. Now it has become a perennial lake and the depth of the water even in summer hardly changes.
The quality of water is potable as per a report from a TUV certified lab. Nearby residential areas pump the water for their use.
The Gai Wadar Mazdoor Society used to be the owners of these lands. The current owners M/s Vijaykumar Mehta & Ors have approached the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) for constructing residential buildings after filling it in. This would extinguish this aquatic ecosystem, which is used in multiple ways by the surrounding population as well as by migratory and resident birds and other flora and fauna.
The Dhanori Citizens Forum, a mohalla committee affiliated to the National Society for Clean Cities Pune is making efforts to preserve Dhanori Lake. According to the NSCC, the lake provides habitat to several migratory and resident bird species, and local people fish here with nets and line.
The citizens groups are suggesting that the PMC should take steps to conserve the lake. They suggest that the Pune Development Plan Development Control Rule 11.1.b should be considered, which mentions inter alia that:
- Nothwithstanding the above, the authority shall be entitled to take cognisance of the existence of all water courses whether shown on the Development Plan or not while sanctioning layouts and no person shall take any action without the permission of authority which results in reducing the water way or closing or filling up of any existing water course.
Further, permission to build by the PMC would contravene the provisions of the Development Control Rules 11 for Site Requirement.
Potential Conservation Measures
Potential legal/policy instruments that may be used to conserve the lake include:
- Community Reserve under Wildlife Protection Act
- Biodiversity Heritage Sites under Biodiversity Act
- Eco-sensitive Areas under the Environment Protection Act (see for example the notification S.O.319(E), [7/5/1992 - Restricting certain activities causing Environmental Degradation at Aravalli Range]
- Natural Heritage Sites under the Maharashtra Heritage Act (possibly used by citizens in to protect a couple of wetlands that were similarly threatened (check in Nagpur Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan)
- A Supreme Court judgment on wetlands may also be used:
- <<<Supreme Court orders of July 25, 2001, in Hinch Lal Tiwari vs. Kamala Devi and Others, Civil Appeal No. 4787 of 2001, regarding wetlands within settlements, held that ‘the material resources of the community like forests, tanks, ponds, hillocks, mountains etc. are nature’s bounty.They maintain delicate ecological balance.They need to be protected for a proper and healthy environment which enables people to enjoy a quality life which is the essence of the guaranteed right under Article 21 of the Constitution.The Governments, including the Revenue Authorities...having noticed that a pond is falling in disuse, should have bestowed their attention to developing the same which would, on one hand,have prevented ecological disaster and on the other provided better environment for the benefit of the public at large......the State shall restore the pond, develop and maintain the same as a recreational spot which will undoubtedly be in the best interest of the villagers.>>>
- The Government of India is considering a National Wetlands Policy and action plan, and has signaled its intention to give wetlands greater conservation coverage than they have currently (see draft regulatory framework in pdf
- Intelligent Pune's article which took the lid off the issue for the first time
survive concrete assault?
Pune has three sterling examples of deserted stone quarries having turned into natural water bodies and then restored to landscaped gardens. The Model Colony Lake, the SRPF Lake in the SRPF premises on Pune-Solapur Road and the Shahunagar Lake in PCMC have added to the city's natural heritage. A similar large-sized quarry lake at Dhanori is presently in the eye of the storm after the neighbourhood noticed dumping of debris by a builder a few weeks back. Intelligent Pune invoked Section 4 of the RTI Act to inspect files pertaining to building activity in this Lake and found out that despite the PMC not having given a go-ahead to the developer's plan, debris was being dumped to fill up the lake. While the PMC has ordered `stop work; notice Intelligent Pune wonders why the natural lake at Dhanori cannot follow the Model Colony Lake example. An insight
Partha Sarathi Biswas
When stone quarries are left abandoned, the natural springs from below or the rainwater convert them into natural lakes. Pune's sterling example of such an abandoned quarry having turned into a beautiful lake garden is the one at Model Colony Lake. This is thanks to residents of Model Colony who fought tooth and nail for over two decades against PMC's repeated attempts to turn it into a commercial complex. Now, another stone quarry which has turned into a natural lake is being filled up to make way for a concrete jungle. The lake in question is the large and sanguine lake at Dhanori near the residential conglomerate of Ambanagari and other housing societies.
Three decades ago, the upper crust locality of Model Colony had witnessed a similar incident. The sprawling six-acres of the water body was to make way for a four star hotel and a private school. Now another natural water body more magnificent and bigger than the lake in Model Colony is threatened with premature extinction.
A lake which is more like a river The Model Colony lake with all its grandeur is but a dwarf in front of the lake in Dhanori. The lake in Dhanori is spread over 22 acres of land. Being the nearest source of fresh water, this lake has been supplying drinking water to the near by localities. The Lake is particularly a boon to the neighbourhood since there is water scarcity here. Thanks to the pristine quality of the water, a natural ecosystem has sprung up with a large number of fish, turtles, snakes and water birds nesting near the banks of the lake.
Signs of development It all began a month earlier when residents of Ambanagari residing opposite the lake noticed the debris being dumped into the lake and they confirmed it was being done by a developer to reclaim the land. This led to a mild protest amongst them with some of them filing an RTI application to ascertain the events that led to the dumping of the debris. But though the mandatory 30 days have passed the residents have still not received any reply from the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC).
When environmentalists of the city became aware of rubble being deposited in the magnificent water body, it raised many eyebrows. Tasneeem Balasirnorwala, founder member of Pune Tree Watch (PTW) and member of Pune Tree Authority (PTA) had initiated a discussion on the Yahoo Group for the citizens on May 8 on this issue and then filed a formal complaint with the PMC.
Pune Tree Watch takes objections
In an email to the Municipal Commissioner Parvinsingh Pardeshi, dated May 9, Tasneem stated that "This is the case that Pune Tree Watch chanced upon where a huge wetland, source of fresh water is at stake now. We are absolutely horrified to see the enormity of the situation that has been completely ignored by the development planners of the city and the city engineer's department. This is the first basic foundation of eco-housing attempts gone wrong; purpose of Rain Water Harvesting being defeated and all that should not be done for construction activity, being done. At the state of the current environment affairs of the city, we need to be a bit more honest with our resolve to save the environment and contribute to cooling the climate 'construction'.
Her email also provided facts about the lake and mentioned how the lake has become an ecosystem of its own. She stated, "Moreover, the water body and the area around it is home to snakes, ducks, fishes, mongooses, tortoises and even flamingos. Section 9 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, clearly prohibits the hunting of any of the wild animals mentioned in Schedule I, II, III and IV. And Schedule IV covers mongooses, ducks and flamingos. Further, the term 'hunting' under Section 2 covers poisoning or an attempt to do so as well as damaging or disturbing the eggs or nests of birds. Filling the lake with diesel and other chemicals is nothing short of poisoning. Trees have also been cut in the surrounding area, which is also owned by the current developer. We are in the process of finding out if the permission to fell the trees was given or not." On May 12, Pardeshi directed the city engineer Prashant Waghmare to stop the illegal draining of the quarry. Pardeshi's instructions to Waghmare read: "Dear Prashant please organise a site visit from the relevant officers and stop illegal draining of quarry."
RTI Forum for Instant Information (RFII) inspects files In light of the above situation the writer, also a member of the RFII invoked Section 4 of the Right To Information Act, (RTI) 2005 for file inspection at the PMC regarding the legal status of the lake. The inspection of files was conducted by the writer and another staffer of Intelligent Pune, Medha Godbole. After intimation about inspection of files on May 3, the writer and Medha visited the Municpal Commissioner's office on May 11 and were directed to the Sangamwadi Ward office for inspection of files. (See BOX)
What the documents revealed • The plot consisted of a number of survey numbers namely 47/ 1B 47/2/1+2/2A+2/4B, 47/2/2B+2/4A, 47/2/3, 90/A/2, 90/B and 90/A/1/2. Vijay Kumar Mehta of Lunkad Builders is the owner of this land while the project is to be executed by the architect Prakash Deshmukh • The project comprises 172 tenements of residential and a commercial complex • The complex is to come up on the lands with the survey numbers starting with 41 encompassing a total of 15,072 square meter of the area. The proposal has plans for seven buildings with one commercial and the rest being residential • For the complex, the plan mentions an underground and an overhead tank each with capacity of 70,000 liters for water supply • Approach road to the society being there, the plan mentions laying a six meter wide road for the whole project • The parking place was designed to have 1175 square meters of area for cars, 688 square meters for two wheelers and 258 square meters for cycles • The development charges for the plan was designated at Rs 9,03720 half of which was to be paid at the time of submission of the application while the other half was to be paid with in six months of commencement of work or before the plinth inspection which ever came first • The de-watering report dated February 13, 2007 was drawn up by A N Watve a partner of Y S Sane Associates. It stated, "The construction of building in S No 47 and 90 Dhanori, Pune will be done in the following manner: We will fill up the existing quarry partially by using soil and murum which will displace the existing water from quarry. This will be removed by de –watering. After completing the consolidation of filled materials in layers up to 10 feet above existing levels, we will complete the consolidation by mechanical compaction. The partially compacted area will be used to construct the building. The foundation method for the building will be cast in situ bored piles with 5mm thick MS liners. On completion of piles we will have piles caps and then the building will be constructed."
History of the land It appears that the land on which the quarry stands once belonged to different owners. By the year 1964 the whole land was with Yerwada Gai Wadar Mazdoor Cooperation Society Limited. The Title Opinion drawn up by Suryakant Sawant a Kalewadi based lawyer provides a brief history of the land. "It is seen from various agreements that the society was using the said land as a stone quarry. The said quarry was closed subsequently by the order of the collector. The society thereafter decided to use the said land for residential purpose, by developing the same and carrying out a scheme thereon. It appears that society prepared a private lay out of the land (excluding the excavated quarry portion) consisting of plots and roads. The societies vide resolution passed in the general body meeting resolved to entrust the said work to a competent builder." As of now the whole land is under the ownership of VijayKumar Mehta of Lunkad builders as per the Power of Attorney drawn up on October 31, 1994.
Land zoning partly residential partly agricultural In the report drawn up on February 19, 1998, Ratnakar Marathe, the then deputy collector of Pune had declared that "the land at survey no. 47 and 48 are partly included in the residential zone and partly affected by 24 meters and 12 meter roads and survey no 90 is agricultural and no development zone as per revised development plan of Pune Metropolitan Regional area." "Dumping debris illegal"- deputy city engineer The plans were submitted in March along with the relevant documents but in April, the deputy engineer of Building Permission department on PMC rejected it on grounds of non compliance with quite a few rules. Chief amongst them were the absence of the Development Plan report and the Potability report. The architect was asked to re submit his plans again with the requisite documents once again. But it seemed that it was not done. As a result no permission was given to start construction. On March 25, this year, the assistant engineer of Building Control Department had conducted a site visit and found that debris was illegally being dumped into the water body to displace the water. In his report to the city engineer, it was pointed out that this work was done at the behest of Vijay Kumar Mehta and the Lunkad Builders. The report had recommended that under the Section 267 of Bombay Province Municipal Act, (BPMC) 1949 to issue Stop Work notice. In his report the assistant engineer had also asked the deputy engineer for his guidance and advice. In his file noting the deputy engineer had curtly remarked "On what do you need guidance for? Issue Stop Work immediately."
Attached also were the reports filed by the senior inspector of the Alandi Road Police Chowky confirming the same. It was also recommended that the builder be fined and the area be cordoned off to prevent the entry of workers. But when Intelligent Pune had gone to the lake in the month of April, we had seen workers at the site and debris being filled in the water body. When contacted regarding the status of the building plan, Prashant Waghmare, city engineer stated, "We have not sanctioned the plan so there is no question of issuing any permission to the builders to go ahead with any construction. In fact we have ordered `stop work' notice for illegal dumping of debris. If you want to know more, then please contact the builder."
Quarry lake a natural heritage With the tentacles of urbanization spreading fast in all direction, it's the crying need of the hour to save the last remnants of the natural heritage and open space in the city. N P Bhog, eminent lawyer affirmed this very fact when he stated, "Under the fundamental duties of citizens as described by the Constitution of the country preserving the natural heritage is of paramount importance. A large lake like this, which is formed of its own, with the accumulation of rain water and springs is truly a natural heritage. It is the duty of the civic body to safe guard this body and to see that no construction activity happens there." Moreover with open spaces fast shrinking in the city, open spaces and water bodies like the lake in Dhanori assume grave importance. As Dhanori comes under one of the villages merged in the PMC limits its Development Plan is yet to be finalized. In that context, this water body is important as this could be the last wetland in that part of the town. The question that is now haunting the mind of many is whether this wetland with its fragile ecosystem will be saved?
Builders Speak- "That is no lake, the water is putrid and its better that quarry is closed down" When Intelligent Pune contacted Lunkad Builders for their comments, our phone was first transferred quite a few times before some one was ready to come on quote. We had asked to speak to Amit Lunkad, but he refused to comment saying that it was a private property and the Media should not transgress on it. After repeated transfers we were connected to a gentleman who identified himself as Subhas Deasakar a staffer. We asked him about the lake and he cut us short saying, "That is not a lake. It is a quarry in which rain water has accumulated that's all." Questioned about the environmental implication of de watering the lake he added, "The water is very dirty and unhygienic. Its accumulation leads to breeding of mosquitoes and other filthy creatures. More than 150 suicides have happened there and that quarry needs to be filled immediately." He refused to recognise the parallel to the Model Colony lake saying that the two cases cannot be compared with each other.
Quarry lakes in Pune- examples a galore Surprising as it may sound, there are 36 quarry lakes in Pune. With accumulation of rain water and opening of natural springs most of them have become unique ecosystem of their own. Of these there are three which have been conserved in all their glory as lake parks.
Model Colony Lake, a shining example Model Colony Lake, off Fergusson College Road is the most famous example of the way an urban water body could be saved and its ecosystem preserved. This six acre quarry lake was the subject of dissertation of scholar Dr Meera Bondre of the University of Pune. In her thesis of 1969, she had shown how an urban water body can be a self supporting ecosystem.
It was the sheer determination and passion of a few citizens that saved this lake from being obliterated from the face of the Earth. The six acres of land was partly under private ownership and partly with the PMC. In the year 1983 the PMC had plans to hand over the whole land to a private body for the construction of a star hotel and a private school.
Getting wind of the affair, Dr Zainab Poonawalla (founder president of Model Colony Parisar Sudarna Samitte,MCPSS) , Shayamal Desai ( honorary secretary of MCPSS) and a few like minded citizens decided to fight this decision tooth and nail. "It had become a passion with us, the lake was our fight. We were determined to fight for it come what may," ays Poonawalla.
Their demand was that the whole area of the lake be taken over by PMC and be developed as a natural park. But then the civic body had other plans. • On April 9, 1985, the PMC gave permission to pump out water from the lake. Alert citizens immediately went to the High Court which granted a stay on April 11. After three months, MCPSS approached the High Court and filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) challenging PMC's permission to develop the land commercially • In 1987, the Government of Maharashtra declared in legislation the whole lake and its surrounding areas as a natural park • Meanwhile, members of MPCSS had started cleaning operations and plantation programme in the vicinity of the lake. The members had also taken up ths issue strongly with the PMC. "It was not easy. Most of the municipal commissioners were unsympathetic towards the issue. In fact some even went as far as saying that the lake was a hindrance to the progress of the city. But we continued. It had become a habit for us to go and accost the commissioners wherever we could," remembers Shayamala. Their perseverance slowly yielded results when in the early 90's the civic body agreed to develop the lake. Escalating land prices of the area had attracted attention from unwanted quarters. In 1993, the owner of the half portion of the land moved Mumbai High Court to ask the PMC to de-reserve the land and to allow him to develop the whole land commercially. Lawyers from Bombay Environmental Action Group (BEAG) successfully defended the case and the judgment was in favor of the MCPSS. However this judgment was challenged in the Supreme Court but in 1995, the judgment came in favor of the MCPSS. The development of the lake started in right earnest after 1995. On the request of volunteers of MCPSS renowned architect Ravindra Bahn offered his services at nominal fees to design the landscape of the lake. Narendra Dengale, city architect had volunteered to oversee the implementation of the plan along with the Garden Department of PMC.
Quarry at Pimpri Chichwad The twin township of Pimpri Chichwad is known for its industrial growth, but tucked in the by lanes of Shahunagar is an excellent quarry which has been developed as a park. Developed over an area of about 17 acres, this park is being developed by the Pimpri Chichwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC). The project was started in the year 2006 and is almost complete now. With jogging tracks and gravel paths, the main idea of the project is to leave the quarry as untouched as possible.
Quarry lake in State Reserve Police Force (SRPF) Headquaters- Ramtekdi The verdant grounds of SRPF head quarters are really an oasis amidst the concrete jungles of Hadapsar. Nestled in the head quarter grounds is a stone quarry lake which have been preserved and maintained in an exemplanery manner. Spread over an acre of land, this trapezoidal land was a quarry long back and since its disuse had turned a lake by accumulation of rain water.
G K Watre, adjutant of SRPF giving details said, "Back in the year 1998, the then commandant Suresh Khopade had the idea of developing the quarry lake. We did not have to do anything much. By engaging in voluntary services we beautified the quarry, we did not have to do any thing much, just strengthen the abutment walls and arrange for the lightening. The boats were acquired and the mini boat club was inaugurated. Thanks to the perennial character of the lake, we don't have to worry about the water level also"
An example that need to be immolated in Pune.
Conclusion Can the lake be saved? Will the Model Colony experience of citizen activism be replicated in Dhanori? With the city facing major threats on the environmental front it is hoped that the lake be saved from the tentacles of mindless urbanization and unfortunately it is citizens who have to all the time fight for it. We hope this time the PMC will suo moto take cognizance of this beautiful natural heritage and preserve it.
Box 1 The sequence of events of our file inspection • heritage and preserve it.
Box 1 The sequence of events of our file inspection • The filling up of the lake at the unused quarry at Vishrantwadi had attracted our attention since the last month. Medha Godbole, my colleague had gone to the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) and the ward office of Sangamwadi to examine the file but she was stone walled by the officers there. • I decided to go for file inspection under Section 4 to PMC to see the documents concerning the same project. • On Saturday May 3, I drafted a letter to the Municipal Commissioner expressing my intention to come for file inspection under Section 4 and faxed the same to the office of the Commissioner. I mentioned that I would be coming for the inspection on Monday 11 am with my colleague Medha Godbole. • Today, we reached the office of Municipal Commissioner at sharp 11 am but he had not arrived till then. His personal assistant was quite ignorant of the fax and told us that they have a separate officer for RTI (I guess she meant the Public Information Officer PIO) and I should approach him. • When we explained that applications under Section 4 are to addressed directly to the Commissioner and not the PIO she was more confused and asked us to meet the head clerk. • Surprisingly the head clerk was extra courteous and cordial to us. As soon as we mentioned Section 4 he went out of his way and got us chairs. He explained that the fax was duly received and the Commissioner had directed that the files be shown to us. He showed us the fax which we had sent. On the fax the Commissioner had scribbled that the files be shown and had asked the city engineer to coordinate with us. The Head Clerk guided us to the concerned office and also called the office in front of us directing them to show us the files and other documents related to the case. • *In the city engineer's office, his assistant P Pawar coordinated the whole show. He explained as the Commissioner had decentralized the systems recently, most of the files have been send to the respective ward officers. He surprised us by telling us that on Saturday itself they had located the official who had the file and he turned out to be M Gaikwad attached to the Sangamwadi Ward office. Pawar requested us to go to that office and inspect the necessary file. • The only question he asked us that weather we are social workers. On being told that we are journalists, he just smiled. • At Sangamwadi Ward office, its renovation time. Sharing office space with the office of Deputy Commissioner of Police (Zone III), the ward office at this moment consists of only a few chairs and some desks. • *We located Gaikwad who told us that he was waiting for us only. He had taken out the file on Saturday on being instructed by his senior officer. • *In spite of the make shift state of the office, he sat with us for two hours as we went through the file and also agreed to get all the Xeroxes ready by tomorrow. As the challan machines and the computers were not set up, he deputed his computer operator to come with us to the main PMC building and pay the money and deposit the challan with the treasury. "Once that's done I will provide you with the all the Xeroxes," he said
(He kept his promise and we got the selected documents the very next day)