What is ailing Pune ?
– By K P Baney
Pune is called by many names. Pensioner’s Paradise, Gateway to South, Oxford of East, Queen of Deccan, Detroit of India, Silicon City, Cultural capital of Maharashtra, names which will make anyone proud of Pune.
Pune has Giant Industries like Telco, Bajaj, Bharat Forge. It is home to Infosys, Wipro,. It is Head Quarters to Southern Command, house to National Chemical Laboratory, NDA, NIBM etc. Pune has diversity. Pune is indeed a prized City.
But Pune is ignored by Government, and local authorities. It does not get required attention from the Authorities. The City is expanding at very fast rate. Will it be able to sustain the growth? We have to really plan and augment our services, which are bursting at its seams.
So, let us list out, for once, our weaknesses, and see as to what is ailing Pune.
Roads are not broad enough. Surfaces are not hard and smooth. Pot holes are common site. It becomes worse in monsoons, when water collects in these Pot holes, which get bigger and bigger with flow of water. Repairs take time and money, it looks like continuous job, a drain on the funds.
Wise Chanakya, wrote centuries back, that road surface has to be like back of Tortoise. Hard Surface, spacious Camber, and absolutely dry. What is lagging on roads is Camber, and therefore water does not drain out. Camber will allow water to flow towards edges of road from where it is drained out through storm-water drains. Stagnant or standing water on roads, makes roads weak and vulnerable.
It is really shame, when water, even on normal shower, gets accumulated outside Engineering College, which is hardly 200 meters away from the river. Storm-Water drains are either not provided, or they get clogged, and therefore useless. We could provide open gutters/ channels on side of Footpaths, which could be easily cleaned. Storm water drains, if provided, should be of bigger diameter, which could easily be cleaned. Grill on top of Manholes should also be fixed with net of suitable size so as to prevent bigger particles getting in the net- work and clogging the drain.
Road dividers, constructed in bigger lengths also restrict free flow of water. Some small openings could easily be provided, at regular intervals, which will allow movement of water from one side to another. Gaps will also work as expansion joints for the divider wall. High road dividers, effectively reduce driving road width. Smaller road dividers (6” to 9” height), and railings are therefore better.
Little thought, and little expenses, in providing Hard Surface, Camber, and Storm water drains (or road side Channels), could greatly reduce maintenance cost on roads.
Either Foot Paths are not there, or Foot Paths are narrow, and encroached upon. In either case it does not serve the purpose. Foot-paths outside Central Buildings is occupied by the vendors selling vegetables and fruit. Foot-Path outside Sasoon Hospital is encroached by ready-made garment vendors on one side, and the other side is occupied by Urchins. Both these places are just opposite office of Collector, who also happens to be Zilla Dand-Adhikari. If authorities cannot control misuse of Footpaths, then why provide these at all? At least the funds could be saved and diverted to some other useful development.
On our Second day, in Engineering College, for one of the periods, regular Professor had not come. One, Mr Marathe took the class. He engaged the class in discussion. People, do not walk on footpaths, instead they walk on roads. What to do about it? Many suggestions came. Footpaths should have railings on the side. Laws should be strict, violators to be heavily penalized, etc. Summarising, he said that Human Being, by his very nature, always chooses better and comfortable solution. Provide Footpaths sufficiently wide, without any obstructions, and provide better flooring material on Footpaths than that of the road, people will automatically, by choice, walk on Footpaths, than walking on roads. There was no need to pass strict laws, for not walking on footpaths.
So, either provide footpaths, as suggested by Prof. Marathe, or do not provide footpaths at all.
Improve Water Supply
It is agreed that there is shortage of water overall. But there should not be water shortage in Pune. In Bangalore water is fetched from 80 KM. Pune is very lucky in that sense In Pune, we are floating on water. With number of Dams around, we should have no shortage of water. It was calculated, a couple of years back, that about 45% of water is wasted due to leakages in Municipal lines. That is why figures of water supplied by Irrigation Department, and water admittedly received by Pune Municipal Corporation never tallied. Add to that leakages from Water sumps, private water tanks, and private water pipes, the wastage is colossal. There are no water meters. There are no water audits. We cannot even know, as to how much water is really wasted. Shouldn’t PMC have some measuring devices placed at several places to find out the facts, and take corrective steps, where necessary?
PMC calculates water consumption as 135 liters per day, per capita. With today’s urban life, and use of washing machines, actual water consumption is much higher. The norms should therefore be revised to 200 liters per capita per day, or 1000 liters per family per day.
Suggestions of Water Harvesting, water recycling etc are good suggestions, and welcome. But instead of pushing compulsive laws, there should be incentives given. Compulsions and Controls bring corruption, and no effective purpose is achieved. Incentives, on the other hand, are voluntary, and therefore more effective.
Create Parking Spaces
More than 100,000 vehicles are being added, on Pune Roads every year. Where is the Parking Space? “No-Parking” Boards are seen everywhere. Carrying away vehicles, by Traffic Police, is common sight. Hardly, any new Parking is created. Effort should be to create more and more Parking Spaces, than putting no parking boards.
At present Parking on many roads is prohibited. It will be worthwhile to broaden all roads, so as to officially allow angular Parking on both (or at least on one side) sides of roads. It may be even worthwhile to make street one way, and provide parking, where streets are narrow. If it not possible to broaden existing roads, at least new roads being proposed in merged villages, be provided wide enough. New and convenient Parking Lots (even multilevel parking) may be provided very fast. And there should be boards put up conveying, and highlighting the facility. Mechanical parking can be thought of, in congested areas. Mechanical parking is quirt costly. But considering its advertisement potential, it may become viable. Public Buildings, and its surroundings, need more concentrated attention. Parking can also be created below Fly-over bridges. Many roads are encroached by hawkers, and slum people. Clearing these roads will ease parking problem.
A couple of huge parking lots are also required for buses plying between (or passing through) Mumbai and Pune. Parking of these buses on roads anywhere, at random, results in congestion. Auto rickshaws, and hovering hawkers, add to the problem. Lack of parking schedule, and lack of convenience of toilets, does not make journey of commuters any pleasurable. These parking lots may have additional facility of Auto-parking, Petrol pump, stores, telephone facility, ATM, and like.
One finds a few slogans repeatedly appearing in Pune (and Mumbai). Hirva Pune, Swash Pune, Sunder Pune. While one can understand meaning of Hirva Pune, as Green Pune, meaning plant and grow more trees. Swash Pune, meaning keep Pune Clean. One fails to understand correct meaning of Sunder Pune. Is it to mean that Pune, as a city, should look more beautiful, and presentable? But how?
If City is to look beautiful, then all roads, footpaths, road dividers, hoardings, railings, bus stops have to be in Straight line, and Plumb, and aesthetic looking. Design, product, and colour have to be pleasing. Garbage dumps, Public Toilets have to be properly, and simply decorated. Compound walls, and so also Compound Gates of all Public Buildings are to be looked after. Air-Port, Railway Stations, Bus Stands are to be redesigned to look more pleasant and inviting. Pleasant looking things are well thought of, and may not always be expensive.
PMC does not have any qualified person, and Architect with it. PMC does not have separate department to look after this aspect. PMC has to be thinking, if it is looking for Sunder city.
Water plays very important role. Presence of water, in any forms, be it Water Fall, or Fountain, or even small pond in back yard, changes environment, and mood of people around. Presence of water, in the form of even small fountain, in office or home, brings good luck, and prosperity. Pune is lucky to have two rivers flowing through it. River stretches, instead of breeding grounds of mosquito, could be exploited to great advantage. If Nullahs in Koregaon Park, Kalyaninagar, and Shakarnagar can be converted into spots of attraction, why rivers can not be kept clean, and made into attractive and pleasant tourist places of City?
And it is simple. First, prevent sewage, and garbage, to be discharged in rivers; And second, get rivers rid of Water Hyacinth, which can easily be attempted in monsoons. Pune has beautiful stretch of water from Holkar Bridge to Bund Garden, which is extremely suitable for boating and water sports. This stretch was once selected for Asiad Games.
About 5 Boat Clubs already exist on this stretch, very much under-utilized because of quality of water. A student in Engineering college had to give swimming test of one side, or to and fro, of the river, if he was to be entitled to row Scull, or Whiff, a pair of very narrow boats, respectively. It is not thinkable to swim in that river now at all.
Cleaning, and beautifying rivers, our natural and proud heritage, has to be taken on Priority.
Getting Building Plans approved from PMC, instead of being simple affair, has become an Art in itself. Building Bye-laws are existing, and are printed. But every Building Inspector takes out his own meaning. Building Inspectors have been kept there to pass plans. But they have become experts in taking out objections, and disapproving plans. Every second plan goes to City Engineer, thereby keeping him busy with Building Plans, hardly giving him time for attending to other responsibilities of the City. Every Fifth proposal goes to Commissioner. Should passing of plans be so difficult?
It takes months to get plans approved. And the whole process is made so corruptive and humiliating; that Good Architects refuse to represent and go to PMC. Every Architect, dealing with PMC, has kept 2-3 jockeys, to pursue plans from table to table. Building permission corridors give look of a busy fish-market.
We are talking about Pune City to be on par with other World Major cities (Detroit of America, Oxford of East etc), and a Global destination. Building Permission section of PMC is a real Shame. We are talking of Simple laws, computerized records, and one-window system approvals. All this is non-existent in building permission department. Lakhs of Rupees are lost, and projects delayed, because of uncertain and unaccountable delays in approving plans.
Critical, and radical Change is essentially required in attitude of Building Inspectors, and other staff of Building Permission Department. An efficient department could be good source of earning revenues, and earning respect, and trust for PMC.
Electric Power is, now a days undisputed, and essential requirement of any House hold, Industry or Business. Unreliable Power is major deterrent to people who want to come to Pune. Governments go abroad and lure Foreigners to come and establish their shop in their States. But Power position is one single factor, which deters them to come. Today everything needs an Electric Power. Alternative arrangements, like providing Power-Back up, Generators etc are bulky, and quite expensive. Diesel Generators create noise, and pollution, in addition to problems of storage of Diesel.
Solving Power shortages, and eliminating of Power cuts, will go in long way to promote City.
Attitude, and Positive attitude
In SWOT analysis, Pune has many Strengths due to proximity to Mumbai, a Capital city of India, Weather, connectivity, diversity of people of Pune, and so on. Weaknesses are only a few, as described herein above. Opportunities are abundant. Threats are inadequate, and poor Infrastructure of City.
Weaknesses and Threats could be checked and balanced by positive attitude of the Authorities, and City Fathers.