Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Making of a Mega City or Mega Slum?

This City is what it is because our citizens are what they are...Plato

Recently there was a seminar involving prominent personalities from the city about discussing the future of the Pune city which is fast on the track of becoming a Mega City. Speaking on technical terms a Mega City is the one which has population above 10 million i.e. 1 crore. Sometime its co related to population density also i.e. per sq km population more than 2000, which is for USA or European countries  because if you take Mumabi, then as per 2011 census the population density is nearly      20000 per sq km. And on same account Pune city has already crossed it with approximate population density over 10000 per sq km area! But on scale of total population it’s yet to be achieved honor of Mega City. With present rate we will reach one crore population mark by 2040 is what expected, means in hardly less than 30 years. My personal opinion is we will reach that mark in 20 years only with whatever exposure I have in real estate till now. The seminar was especially for the challenges we will face in becoming Mega City & solutions for the same. I had been honored to be one of the speakers as real estate has to play a key role in this process.

My main concern is, are we really going to become a Mega city just because there is increase in population? Presently I am taking my younger son's study who is in 10th standard & while going through the Economics subject I came across two terminologies & they were Growth & Development. The difference between Growth & development many won’t understand. But growth is a natural process where as development has to be worked out. I realized how similar this is when applicable to the city in context of becoming Mega City on population scale! In last many years whatever growth we are seeing or talking about city is not development but it’s just increase in volume & no one has worked for it. It’s like an orphan growing as per nature's law & our leaders are happy in taking credit for the same calling this as development which is just a growth. People keep on coming in this city as it offers them job, education but what about the living comforts? Many may not like my statement but see the graph of the city in last 20 years & what we see around is just number of more New Townships for a particular class, IT parks, Malls or Automobile Show rooms or Educational Institutes, does means the city is developing? In actual the kind of standard of life the city provides to its citizen that decides whether the city is really growing along with development & even a small kid living in the city can tell how poorly we have done on this front!

And the main reason for this situation is we haven't yet understood the concept of Mega City. Leave apart technicality but a Mega City to me is one which is self sufficient, well equipped with all sorts of infrastructure from water to public transport to environment to education & not only for present population but for the generations to come here. And for that what we need is to understand the problems first & accept them. Time & again our leaders as well administrative officers have gone to abroad to visit developed countries & practices they have used to tackle their problems. But have we seen even a single implementation of any such which can be called as outcome of their visit? The answer is clear No because for that we need to change the system which is responsible to implement the solution. All the problems which we are facing today, every major city of the world has gone through similar ones; may it be garbage or traffic or water but then they have a single handed responsible organization to deal with that problem & here is where we are repeatedly failing in our city. For instance see the governing bodies which controls development as well various infrastructure like Water, Power & even Communication of Pune City & surroundig . We have Pune Municipal Corporation, Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation, the surrounding fringe area is controlled by Collector & Town Planning with local Gram Panchayats then we have three Cantonments & one Pradhikaran. These all are just for basic development under their jurisdiction having individual development plans of their own & each body is supposed to execute the DP of their own. And all these organizations are collecting taxes from their respective residents for the so called infrastructure they are providing or supposed to be providing to their residents. Then we have MSEB ie MSEDCl now for power, BSNL for telephones & other private players for mobile services, we have PMPML for city public transport along with ST ie State Transport for rural, we have local trains which are under control of Railway, we have water supply in fringe areas with Jeevan Pradhikaran & roads in fringe areas are being done by Zillah Parishad which are supposed to be in tune with Municipal Corporations development plans. And lastly the water supply of the Municipal Corporations is governed by Irrigation department & the two bodies are all the time in fight with each other over the exact volume of water supplied. This is just tip of iceberg; there are many other issues like public health, education, public safety or security as well art & sports & biodiversity within the city, which we never even take in account when we use the term infrastructure! Above all the culture of the city which is backbone of any society; high need is there to look what we are doing for conserving the same.

Tell me, does the city or a common citizen understand such boundaries when someone says I am living in Pune? All a common man is interested in is what infrastructure he is getting against the taxes he is paying to the respective public body. Just calling some city as Mega City isn't going to solve the problem. We need to streamline the entire system of which a Mega City will be the outcome or else population wise we may become a Mega City but with the present system on the basis of life style it will be a Mega Slum is a fact. Because presently there isn't any co-ordination between any of above organizations is a known fact. For e.g. PMC charges heavily for digging their roads for laying power lines or telecom lines making these services costly for the citizen. But they can’t take in confidence the MSEB or BSNL before making their road & make the arrangements for coming years in advance by which the roads would not have been required to dig ever. The same PMC dug the road for laying water lines or drainage lines or rain water lines continuously & repeatedly for three different times but as these departments are of its own for that they don't have to pay charge, thanks god or else it would have also become more costly for us!

Above is just one example for no dialogue between the different governing bodies. Another is security cameras on roads for traffic control. It’s now over that 5 years the cameras have been installed but who will maintain it i.e. PMC or Police, has  not yet been decided so no action has been taken on millions of photographs of traffic laws breakers in the past is a truth which we came to know via news papers! There has been N numbers of such non co-ordination & who is the sufferer of it? Of course it’s the citizens of the city who helplessly keeps on cursing the system & continues their living in the city & keeps paying taxes yet for the services they don’t get. Are we going to call this as Mega City just we will be of population above one crore in few years? It’s high time that we have to go above politics & individual or any parties interest development & have one single body governing every development here if we really want to make this city a Mega City. Like in USA they have all authority of city planning as well infrastructure with Mayor & City Council; we also must think on these lines if we really mean what we want this city to become i.e. a  Mega City.

Then comes the issue of providing homes to these one crore would be citizens of the Mega City. With the kind of rates of flats, how many people are going to afford a decent home is a main question. And for that we need to define the boundary of the city & then plan for the homes as well services for the same & we need to do it real fast. We all are witnessing the circus which is going on for finalizing the Development Plans of the old & new city. It’s easy to blame builders for the same as well rising prices of the homes but real culprit is non availability of good developed land & age old by-laws which don't permit to utilize the potential of the land to fullest thus making scarcity of homes in city or fringe area. This is one of the main reasons of increase in illegal construction as well slum growth. As people are migrating in this city & they need home is a fact & we are unable to provide the same in their budget is also a fact so the outcome we are witnessing in the form of slums. As of nearly 35 % population of this city lives in slum is what surveys says, what sign is this? Illegal constructions haven't been taken in account in this survey it seems.

At the end as the quote by the great thinker says somewhere the citizens are also at blame as they collectively never raise their voice in this aspect. For being a Mega City the mindset of the citizens also should be adoptive for the concept of it & what we see on this front? We oppose even the slightest water cuts instead analyzing our uses or don’t display any civic sense while behaving in public is also a fact. To blame someone for the failure is a very easy thing but what as an individual I am doing for the cause is a question one must ask to one self. Or else we all will become the party for making of a Mega Slum in the name of Mega City & we don't need a fortune teller for this to come true!

Sanjay Deshpande

Sanjeevani Dev.

Envo-Power Committee, Credai, Pune

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