Pune’s Mula-Mutha River Rejuvenation Plan

The first approval for the Pune Riverfront Development was in January 2016. Since then, numerous accounts and questions have appeared in the media. Right from claiming that such massive grand projects are merely ‘election promises’ by the BJP government to the usual cynical Puneri comments of ‘nothing ever happens in Pune’, the air around this project is, quite frankly, that of curiosity and apprehension as well.

In the past 30 odd years and probably also before that, Pune’s rivers have captured the hearts and imaginations of countless architects, planners and urban designers. In the hallowed libraries of academic institutions to personal libraries of architects in the city, there are bound volumes of student and professional work who have worked on urban design proposals for Pune’s riverfront. These proposals range from simple designs for rebuilding of historic Ghats to proposals for river transport. Despite the availability of so many ideas and access to so many professionals who would have probably worked overtime to accomplish Riverfront development, it took political willingness and proactive initiation at the central government level and simultaneous securing of funds to begin seriously the task of River rejuvenation in Pune.

The statement that “most Indians were ignorant before 2014 and impatient thereafter” is evident when even a mere mention of the Riverfront development in Pune is greeted with severe criticism and cynicism. Despite this, HCP and allied teams seems to have had a frenzy of activity past two years, culminating the first phase of this project – Preparation of a Feasibility Document & Conceptual Master Plans.

In January of 2018, the Conceptual Master Plan was tabled in the Pune Municipal Corporation. The following article is a snapshot view of the various studies, analyses and proposals that have emerged out of this report.

The City of Pune lies at the confluence of two prominent rivers, Mula and Mutha. The Mula is 64 km in length, starting from Mulshi Dam till its confluence or sangam with Mutha, and runs about 22 km within Pune city. The Mutha originates from Khadakwasla Dam and flows 15 km till sangam with Mula, approximately 11 km within Pune. Further downstream, Mula-Mutha meets Bhima 50 km away from confluence of which about 12 km lies within the jurisdiction of Pune Municipal Corporation.

Since its approval in January 2016, this multidimensional, large and ambitious infrastructure project has numerous steps and extensive studies, before even any conceptual ideas can emerge and can be put down on paper.

The following is a quick chronology of the studies and surveys that had to be undertaken to arrive at a Conceptual Master Plan for the River Rejuvenation:

January 2016                           Data Collection commences
February 2016                         Hydrology & Hydraulic studies commences
April 2016                                 Environmental Impact Assessment studies commenced
June 2016                                 Conceptual Strategies emerged
August 2016                             Base Map Preparation
December 2016                       Hydrology & Hydraulics Studies report
January 2017                           Work related to land records, mojani etc began
March 2017                              Total Station Survey Commences
January 2018                          Conceptual Master Plan submitted to PMC

Through the various technical studies, site visits and opinion surveys, the HCP team has highlighted the core issues that plague the rivers in Pune and which need to be priotitized in the plan prepared for River rejuvenation. The existing condition of the rivers is summarized as:

There is a significant threat of flooding during the monsoon peak rainfall days

The landuse of the city has restricted the flow of the river to a narrow channel


The river is polluted due to the outflows of the nallas and the untreated drainage network

It is a dry river bed for a significant part of the year due to the dams

The river banks are inaccessible at most places

The river offers very limited access across it, thereby creating a barrier

Underutilized and unused river banks


As a part of the preliminary studies, a topographical survey is conducted for the entire river stretch. This is an important first step. The profile of the river is surveyed and cross sections are created for every 25 m along the entire stretch. The next important step is to create a base map – an important document on the base of which all further proposals and finally execution will depend. A Base Map overlays all layers of information on a single map to allow multiple data to be analysed simultaneously. A good Base Map has emerged to give a clear picture of how, which and where land is used along the river, what is its topographical character and its relation to the river’s hydrology.
The preparation of a base map marks a very preliminary, but a very important milestone for a project. This map, with the most updated and correct information will form a source of authentic information for the future. So a rigorous process is followed to prepare and validate a Base Map, a seemingly simple, but an extremely sensitive and cumbersome process for planners and policy makers.

On the basis of the above identified issues and concerns and the subsequent technical studies, the first ideas of a Concept Master Plan have emerged for the riverfront in Pune. As we see it, the riverfront plan for the city will have to reduce the risk of Flooding, clean the river water and stop further pollution, retain and replenish water in the river, create a continuous public realm for the city along the riverfront and conserve and enhance heritage structures dotted all along.

These primary objectives have led to a list of recommendations and conceptual ideas.

Flood Control
Primarily, the entire riverfront is divided into three main zones namely, the urban Embankments, the rural embankments and the engineered section. So along the 44 km stretch of the rivers, we find that almost 92km embankments have the following character.

Cleaning up the River
Cleaning up the river water and ensuring that further contamination doesn’t happen, the city will need to realign its sewerage network. Currently the piped outfalls are discharging sewage directly into the rivers. Haphazard sewerage laid lines and uncovered areas which do not have a piped drainage network will have to be plugged if we want to see a clean river. Under this project, the sewerage network of the city will need to be fixed and additional capacity of Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs) are proposed. Further, the civic STPs will need to add a layer of tertiary treatment in addition to the primary and secondary treatment of sewage.

The nallas that traverse the city and finally meet the river at some point are discharging polluted water into the river. This pollution is occurring along the entire length of the nallas. To create a piped network in all these areas will be an impossible task and quite out of the scope for riverfront rejuvenation project. Hence, a natural root zone technique is proposed for these nalla outfalls to reduce the overall pollutant load coming into the river. Eventually, plugging of all the discharge points along the nallas will help fully help cleaning river water.

Retaining Water in the River
A conceptual proposal for new water retaining structures and water replenishing mechanism is proposed to ensure minimum water flows in the river. The water replenishing will be using treated water from STPs. This will also attract people to the rivers and create a linear waterfront public space for the city.

Reactivating the Ghats on Mula-Mutha
Existing ghats, which have for many years served to connect people to the river, will be refurbished and new ghats will be integrated with embankments to allow people access the river.

Integrating Festivals on Mula-Mutha
Ganesh visarjan in Pune is an important socio cultural activity. Visarjan tanks today are an eye sore and people often refuse to use them as they lack the sanctity of river immersion. Visarjan tanks are proposed to be aesthetically integrated in the embankment design to create a well defined but continuous immersion tank. This will check pollution and also provide a pleasing intervention for idol immersion.

Redevelopment of areas around Heritage Religious Structures
Omkareshwar mandir and its surrounds are proposed to be developed to bring devotees closer and in connect with the river. Gardens along river banks, like Sambhaji Park, will be opened up to provide a connect with the river.

Activating the Riverfront for Urban Recreation
Considering that the 44 km of the riverfront are completely surrounded by urbane areas, it is important to address the need for urban recreation in this project. Boating and such recreational facilities are proposed. Eateries, street shopping areas will create a lively recreational space in the evenings.

Addition of Bridges
River is identified as a barrier that separates the two parts of the city and hence the proposal has proposed numerous connecting bridges across the river. This will probably ease the traffic pressures currently on the existing bridges and also allow more pedestrian access across the river, thereby making the two parts of the city come closer to each other.

Landscape & Urban Design along the riverfront
The riverfront development project will be a canvas to showcase landscape and urban design ideas for landscape architects and urban designers of Pune. This will be a place where Pune can showcase its public art, Pune’s culture of music and dance too can form a large part of making this area lively.

Possible means for revenue generation
The Conceptual Master Plan ends with recommendations for revenue generation through four primary means namely, Utilization of new available land within the flood lines, which will become safe from the threat of floods due to the proposed development. Secondly, from monetization of land owned by the government, along the riverfront. Thirdly, as the proposed embankments reduce the threat of floods, the restrictive Development Plan restrictions on certain lands can be removed and these can be opened up for development. Finally, the proposal also suggests a 500 m buffer zone along the riverfront to bring in land value capture mechanisms to generate additional revenue. This is based on the principle, that the land value in the areas adjoining the proposed development, will significantly rise.

Pune – leading by example
After the Sabarmati Rivefront and Varanasi riverfront, Pune’s Mula-Mutha is slated to become one of the first few riverfront development proposals in India. Ambitious and fraught with challenges, Pune can finally get the Open Space it deserves – a liner public space which is accessible to all her citizens. In doing so, the year after year instances of flooding and constantly increasing pollution in the rivers, the River Rejuvenation Plan for Mula-Mutha hopes to tackle these issues and give a new way forward for Punekars. And like, with so many other things, Pune’s project will be few amongst others, will lead by example and will get replicated in other cities of India.

For further information on the River Rejuvenation project for Pune’s Mula-Mutha, visit http://puneriverfront.com/index.php#river_development

  • Pradeep Gupte
    Posted at 22:28h, 10 May

    आपण काही “चांगले” होण्यासाठी प्रामाणीक प्रयत्न करतो व आपला वेळ घालवतो, पण “मनपा” मध्ये आर्किटेक्टला किंम्मत शून्य.
    कोणालाही नवीन “चांगले” काही करण्यात “इंटरेस्ट” नाही.
    राजकारण्यानी कांही प्रपोजल आणल्यास “वाव्वा व होयबा” म्हणायची सवय झाली आहे.
    मधे मोठ्ठा “गाळा” असल्याशिवाय राजकारणी सुध्दा पुढाकार घेत नाहीत.
    तुम्ही म्हणाल हे “निगेटिव्ह” विचार आहेत, बरोबर आहे पण हाच “अनुभव” आहे व हीच आजची पध्दत आहे.
    कोणालाही जबाबदारी नको आहे.

    आर्किटेक्ट प्रदिप गुप्ते

  • Ranjit Gadgil
    Posted at 22:28h, 10 May

    While the effort to clean-up Mula-Mutha is welcome, there are some serious issues with the concept as presented by Ar. Bimal Patel and his team.
    1. The project does not pay any attention to the river’s ecology. The massive concrete walls and barrages to store the river water will turn it into a series of artificial ponds. It is also proposed to remove natural features in the river, such as rocky outcrops. What will remain will not really be a river in the true sense.
    2. By narrowing the river, the water levels will rise. During monsoons this will put back-pressure on the streams (nallahs) that flow into the river and may cause flooding. The project does not address this issue.
    3. While one of the objectives of the project is to provide public access to the riverfront, right now there are plenty of public access lands all along the river. These could be cleaned up and made more people-friendly. It isn’t necessary to pinch the river and build massive concrete embankments to make this happen.
    4. The project will force the displacement of many poor settlements along the river. While they will be re-located, the same space will be used for commercial development and high-end apartments. The poor will essentially pay for the rich to enjoy an artificial water body outside their office.

  • Madhavi Chitnis
    Posted at 01:12h, 11 May

    Very well written and well thought over plan Anagha!

  • Swati Gole
    Posted at 01:35h, 11 May

    The initiative by PMC to address problems of river and improve dire condition of the river is to be applauded. However the River Front Development project does not address many important considerations, as can be seen by the project goals.Specifically project goals do not take into account health and functioning of the river ecosystem. These considerations are of critical importance for the long term health and functioning of the river. Hence the project designers must involve citizens and NGOs that are knowledgeable and experts in river ecosystem management.

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