Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Urban face of Rurals !

“There is no logic that can be superimposed on the city; people make it, and it is to them, not buildings, that we must fit our plans.” … Jane Jacobs..

The Canadian writer who wrote the book “The Death & Life of Great American Cities” has perfectly put the focus on how the urbanization should be done & looks at the contrast we are doing! Recently there was a news in most of the newspapers about allowing High Rise Buildings with increased FSI even in rural i.e. villages all round our Maharashtra State. Our Honorable Chief Minister has cleared the file or proposal for the same. It was also mentioned that like in Metros now the individuals who will be building (here read developer or builder) now can avail all the additional FSI for staircase, passages, balconies etc by paying the premium o the concerned governing body. And further the news said that this will increase the revenue in State Govt’s kitty by nearly   Rs 3000 crores! This is supposed to open up an avenue for more homes in rural i.e. fringe areas around the Metros like Pune, Nagpur, Nashik & which in turn will help in making the same available in affordable prices as the land rates are comparatively low here. Also this will reduce the burden on ever increasing demand for the basic infrastructure in these Metros. Wow, great initiative, solving so many problems of housing in one go, is what as usual the common man will think.

That’s the beauty of our society; we get happy very easily & without really waiting for results from such announcement. Have we not witnessed it right from announcements like cancelling of Urban Land Ceiling act saying it will make homes affordable? And then tons of assurances from every authority related to this city about improving public transport & dreams like Metro have been shown to us; & see the recent news where the top bosses themselves saying that they are not sure when the Metro can come in existence! Well keep Metro aside but who has stopped all these from strengthening the existing bus system i.e. PMPML! But we always believe in new dreams so who cares what has been shown to us earlier?

Coming back to giving more FSI along with height in rural, first we need to understand what this means. All over the State there are three types of building regulating bodies; one is Municipal Corporation for bigger cities i.e. population more than 3 lacs. Second is Nagar Parishad or Municipality for town up to 30,000 populations. And then in rural areas which don’t come in any of these are controlled by Town Planning & Collector. It’s mainly this third segment which was having no defined rules & regulations for building permission & where height, fsi was restricted in compare to first two segments. Those who may not be knowing before 11 stories buildings came in existence in Pune, city like Jalgaon has 17 storied building! This is because of Municipality & Municipal Corporations can make their bylaws & get the same approved from Urban Development Ministry. But no such provision was there in rural & that’s why the growth was restricted.

Especially the fringe area where large land bank is available around the Metros was deprived of proper building rules & the potential of the land was getting wasted. As we can’t increase land nor can create it, all we can do is to use the potential of the land available to fullest so as more & more houses will get available thus making them cheaper! In a way its perfect line of thinking but what about other side of the coin? As you can’t build just homes & make them affordable as the term affordable have many dimensions. Also a home needs basic infrastructure for living or else it becomes botheration for the system. Look at the slums spread all over the Metros like Pune & Mumbai, in one way they too are homes & affordable but are they livable is the question! Similarly by increasing height & giving more FSI, the Govt may create more homes & also have decent income in form of various premiums but what about four very basic things which a home need. And they are Water, Power, Road network & Drainage! Then follows things like Public Transport, Schools, Medical facilities, Markets & the list goes on.

Just take a look in the villages ( Now you even cant them villages as they are very much part of Pune) around our Pune city & you will realize, there are not even defined roads leave apart network, no street lights, no water supply as most of these villages depends on water tankers. Things like drainage not even in existence & power grid isn’t yet established. At many places regional plans have not been made so development is haphazard & social infrastructure like schools & hospitals are not even in planning leave apart in existence! Now if this is the scene then are we not making new vertical concrete slums with just announcing height & additional FSI? Things like biodiversity & environment are not even thought of while doing all this urbanization.

Why rural, even the villages which have been taken in PMC & the new 34 villages which have been announced to be merged in PMC newly, take a look at the condition here. Not even tar roads are there, public transport isn’t in far sight. No water supply scheme have been planned here yet, neither even the water demand has been calculated for the same. The MSECL i.e. power supply company don’t know anything about these merging & the load demand which will be coming from these future urban hubs & have done no ground work that how they will be supplying power to all these new developments! Rather it’s these areas where the growth will be tremendous as the existing city has been reached at its saturation level & the scene is same around all big cities. We are witnessing the chaos of traffic & fights over water in main Pune city itself. Unfortunate that we haven’t learnt anything from our past mistakes about urban planning & started making new ones by announcing such policies. And we think we are developing & making growth!

Yet the time hasn’t gone; the planning as well infrastructure authorities should come together & put their head down & focus on these potential pockets of urbanization. Plan meticulously the infrastructural needs of these areas considering their growth potential & make it in existence, at least the basic needs. Also strengthen the system’s infrastructure for handling such huge work load or else all this will lead to illegal constructions & we won’t be having any system to stop or control the same. And then only allow the growth related policies & do it fast as the growth doesn’t stop for any policy. The ever increasing population & its needs are like a cancer which won’t wait for anybody to announce any policy. It’s up to us whether to wake up & treat it in proper way or to get victimized of this growth & explode in to pieces. It’s high time to understand the problem from within & here role of every person is important, as this is something very important for our future, rather survival!

From Media to NGO's to Associations of Professionals as well The Developer’s, all should unite & pressurize Govt for proper infrastructure within the urban as well rural life. As the gap between the two is fast vanishing & so should be our actions. Mere announcements for making the Govt popular won’t work but the outcome should be seen on ground level & that should be the criteria to rate the efficiency of the Govt. Or else the day to see the Death of the City we love isn’t far & we all will be responsible for that, mind it!

Sanjay Deshpande

Sanjeevani Dev.

MSEDCL (Power) Committee, Credai, Pune

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