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Experiences and Encounters in Pune

Strengthen Reporting Framework of Pune’s Environment Status Report

Posted by Sanskriti on August 10, 2009

What is the ESR?
The Environment Status Report (ESR) for 2008-09 of the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) was recently tabled before the General Body (see Sakal Times Pune’s Environment Report is Scary )

The PMC is required to produce its ESR annually, under the BPMC Act. The purpose is to indicate the status of environment management in the city and identify the areas where mitigation measures are required to be considered. Pune has been publishing annual ESRs for over a decade.

However, a recent MPCB study analyzing the ESR produced by cities in Maharashtra states that ‘As a result of weak analytical framework and inconsistent data, the effort has remained only till compiling information on various environmental issues with ESRs having little role to play in action planning’.

It further suggests that ‘ESR data can be used to assess the environmental performance of the cities. ESR also can play a key role in mainstreaming environmental considerations in development policies. Since it is a document produced by the ULBs, it can trigger action at the city level. ESR it is a document which is published for citizens. If outreach of ESR is increased; then it will increase the awareness among citizens about the environmental issues and encourage public participation.’

Pune’s ESR is probably the best amongst the ones produced in Maharashtra. It is a single point source for information on sectors such as where does Pune’s water come from, how much sewage and waste is generated, the situation of traffic and transportation etc. However, its usefulness as a planning and budgeting tool is certainly limited. The main issue being that it reports the data that is provided by the departments, not necessarily that which is needed to measure progress. Citizens also know that many of the figures bandied about are estimates rather than actual measurements (such as there isn’t a weighing scale at the land fill so how do we know what quantity of kachra reaches the landfill, or how do we know the quantity of ground water abstracted since no one even knows the number of bore wells in the city).

Effort by the PCEF
The Pune Citizens Environment Forum (PCEF) was set up in 2007 with the Municipal Commissioner as Chairperson. One of the tasks it took up was strengthening the reporting framework for the Pune ESR. Over the last few months, a core team from the PCEF worked closely with the PMC Environment Cell to incorporate indicators drawn and adapted from various sources.

We first considered the framework developed by UNEP and GRID Arendal as the City Environment Reports on the Internet (CEROI), a few years ago.

Apart from CEROI, two important recent initiatives which have a bearing on reporting by urban local bodies:

  1. Standard Service Level Benchmarks (SSLB, and link opens a 2.2 mb pdf in a new window) created as part of the JNNURM: The SSLBs have been created to introduce an appropriate system for information management, performance monitoring, and benchmarking, by a Core Group on Benchmarking under the Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD), Government of India. A framework has been prepared for water supply, wastewater management, storm water drainage, solid waste management services and urban transport. Public disclosure of performance using the standardized service level benchmarks is likely to be mandatory in the near future under the JNNURM.
  2. Guidelines prepared by the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) in June 2009 after its ‘Evaluation of Environmental Status Reports of Cities in Maharashtra’. This document provides a Driving Forces- Pressures-State of Environment-Impacts-Response (DPSIR) framework that could be used for preparing ESRs. The MPCB guidelines are likely to become the standard reference for preparation of ESRs in Maharashtra.

Efforts to improve the Pune ESR reporting framework will need to take these two documents into account. These are generic guidelines and some thought should be put into adapting them for use in Pune. Such adaptation may pertain to the content/ indicators as well as to the phases in which the current data collection and reporting systems will change over time to become more coherent and usable against the overall mandate of the ESR framework which pertains to environmental quality and health of citizens.

Suggestions for Further Work on Pune ESR Framework

A concerted effort to improve the reporting framework was put in jointly by the Environment Cell, the Ultra Tech team (contracted by the Environment Cell for production of the ESR 2008-09) and the PCEF core team. The following seem to be important areas of future work to get to the next level of improvement:

  • Assessment of the reporting framework of Pune ESR 2008-09, especially against the SSLB framework and MPCB Guidelines, as well as identifying areas for adaptation of these frameworks for use in Pune
  • Identifying / mapping actual data collection systems of various departments
  • Creating a year-round mechanism of data collection and analysis, especially data to be disaggregated at the ward-level (as Prof Aneeta Benninger has suggested for years)
  • Providing a mechanism for non-PMC entities (citizens, colleges, NGOs, researchers) to share their information/ data and also to identify research/ study needs, promote citizen analysis of the ESR, and to commission future research

Ideas are needed for creative sharing of the content of the ESR and its analysis.  Discussion sessions at every ward office? Sector-specific seminars by NGOs? Seminars in the universities idenitfying needs for studies and research? What about areas not currently included in the ESR  – such as needs of the informal sector, employment data, status of biodiversity, ground water management etc?

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3 Responses to “Strengthen Reporting Framework of Pune’s Environment Status Report”

  1. Civicus said

    From your post one forms the impression that the Pune ESR has been prepared by different contractor agencies across the years, and that too without a prescribed standard reporting framework having been laid down (despite the SSLBs that you mention). If this is indeed so, the MPCB comment on “inconsistent data” comes as no surprise.

    One would expect such a framework as a basic requirement stipulated from the very outset, if not by the central authority that mandates the preparation ESRs under the 74th Amendment, then by the ULB assigning the task to the contractor. Ideally, as it is an annual requirement, there should have been ab initio a dedicated in-house department or cell within the ULB for the task working round the year. This would ensure consistency in reporting and would facilitate the correction of errors, if any, by established statistical methods.

    It seems from the Sakal Times report that you cite that such an entity is now in place and has completed the work “without the help of any outside agency”. Hopefully this will improve the quality of future reporting and bring about consistency and compatibility, serving to enhance the value of the ESR as an input to planning and budgeting.

    As far as press coverage goes, I fear the Sakal Times comes across as being very inadequate and amateurish in comparison to the ToI Pune edition of the same date [http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/NEWS/City/Pune/ESR-lands-PMC-in-hot-water/articleshow/4846686.cms]. Amitabh Dasgupta tends to make sweeping statements, and his comment on the “huge disparities to due unequal development of areas” betrays a lack of understanding of how cities grow and develop over time.

    May I take this opportunity to suggest that mediapersons seeking to focus on urban planning and development issues (and also other citizens expected to play a role in the ESR and DP processes) be made to undergo orientation that equips them with a basic understanding of the processes and issues involved. The posts on this blog suggest that Pune is richly endowed with professional, educational and field-based organisations which can carry out such orientation.

    • A K Kumar said

      The task of assigning (contracting) work like preparation of various reports to outside agencies by municipal bodies happens due to three reasons:
      1) The municipal staff does not have to do the work themselves, often by feigning incomptence
      2) The work can be given to contractor who over-quotes or over-invoices to bribe the officials and their political bosses
      3) The municipal body is at liberty to reject the report in part or full, without being held accountable for the expenditure involved

      The Sakal Times report correctly delves on this, even though the TOI report is exhaustive. No great understanding of urban dynamics and demographical inequalities is required of how cities in India grow. They grow haphazardly because of deliberate neglect and apathy and ‘nurturing’ of vote banks.

  2. Deepak P. Dedhia said

    We must stop burning of garden waste. Our society of row houses has its mandatory empty plot next to the main road of Mayur colony area. All bungalow owners come and dump their garden waste there and then someone comes and sets fire to it once in a while. There are huge heaps of waste and so one can imagine the magnitude of the fires and the smoke produced. Mayur colony area is known for its greenery and beautiful bungalows but if one were to be shown only this plot, he or she cannot be expected to believe that this space is part of the Mayur colony area. The PMC has a sanitation department shed and a garbage bin there and people use the plot as a dumping ground because it is next to the garbage bin. Tonight I cannot sleep because of the smoke coming into our house in spite of the windows being closed. My 8 year old son is wheezing and can’t sleep. The sanitation workers do not do anything to collect the garden waste and deliver it to farmers for making compost, which I believe they are supposed to do. How can we stop this menace?

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