Thursday, March 26, 2015

Smart City, Dumb City or Dead City?








“Dull, inert cities, it is true, do contain the seeds of their own destruction and little else. But lively, diverse, intense cities contain the seeds of their own regeneration, with energy enough to carry over for problems and needs outside themselves.”… Jane Jacobs

Jana Jacobs was an American-Canadian journalist, author, and activist best known for her influence on urban studies. Her influential book The Death and Life of Great American Cities argued that urban renewal did not respect the needs of most city-dwellers. And the book is all time great for those who are related to urban planning. This is one of her many quotes which describes city life in depth realistic way as well in philosophical way too!

Recently my journalist friend Barnalee who works for a city fortnight paper asked me as they have started a column which will feature common citizen’s views about his/ her surrounding problem  as citizen he/she face in day to day life. She asked whether I can write few for the said column. Well for a writer in me it’s like we say in Hindi “neki aur puch puch!” means what better chance I can have than express myself as we Punekar (after spending more than half of my life in Pune sometimes I conveniently considers myself as Punekar, though I am not one tenth yet) just love to find problems everything around us! Agreed we are to right most of the time but it’s said that a diehard Punekar can find imperfections even in perfect of the specimen! And here is someone asking me problems around my own surrounding. That way when millions are living in slums or illegal structure, with no proper water of any of public health facility or access to proper education, leave apart public transport types luxuries, I am far better placed. As I have my own home in a fairly good locality & I have my own vehicle as I need not have to depend on public transport. With my fair income I have good medical services available to me & my family & my kids go to better college for their education. Am I a happy citizen, which I should be by normal definition but, is it all? As a citizen this question I often ask to myself as what about other so many hidden hurdles in my city life that too in the city like Pune! Agreed we are much better off than many of smaller villages & towns yet the kind of taxes we pay & the outcome isn't worth! And as a citizen my duty don’t end just being happy & contended with me, myself & my family but the entire surrounding & people who are part of it also should have a better life & it’s not responsibility of just some municipal corporation but mine too! And many things can be easily taken care, it’s just as no one cares so no one does anything! And most of these problems are for entire city & not just for one locality!

Take example of the area I reside in, its central part of city off Karve road & peaceful as its close by to river & a green belt! But the green belt is being used for all sorts of purposes like marriage lawns & exhibitions & hotels, defeating the very purpose of making it green! In addition to that traffic jams due to parking of all the visitors to these places on roads & processions in high pitch volume DJ with speaker walls! Why the local body can’t ensure that the purpose for what the green belt has been reserved is being used for the same? Or else then convert it in commercial zone & then allow these uses by following the norms for parking & many others! Repeatedly the residents around have complained to all the known authorities but no response! And in addition pollution of sound as well environment due to fire crackers all the day along! This indeed is problem not for my locality but for entire city as thousands of restaurants & commercial establishments don’t have enough parking spaces or whatever is there has been encroached for other purposes & all their visitors park their vehicles on the roads which are already choked with the millions of vehicles!

Then the road from Mhatre Bridge to Rajaram Bridge is like 
Formula 1 race track, such is the attitude of people driving vehicles on here! The road is in good condition but what about the road users & their civic sense of driving! Police are there but just to check helmets or license but no speed offences ever registered! Why can’t be there speed breakers & dividers is another question I ask as at-least in last seven years seventy odd accidents has happened in this stretch yet PMC says its traffic police's call & traffic police says its PMC's job! Speed breakers is something like a laughing stock as if you see the designs then in Pune will get you all sorts of them! Some are built in such a way that one has to look for them & some are built in a way where the passer by driver is worried that not only they will break the speed but the vehicle also! And then speed breaker signage’s are rarely there so the driver himself has to look for the speed breakers & most don’t ever get judgment of the same, making speed breakers themselves a cause of accident! Yes as a citizen I consider this also as mine as well for all those who ride on the streets as a big problem!

There is a Nallah right behind my building which once used to carry rain water & had dense foliage of various plants along its beds which were home to many birds like king fisher & mainas. But it’s now has been been concertized killing all the biodiversity around & now it’s been home to mostly drainage water & garbage & pigs as well stray dogs roam here! Same is with the river which is also part of my locality & the same river flows through most of our city! The river water is so much polluted that it only attracts kites & crows & mosquitoes! Why can’t we have a clean beautiful river as Pune is blessed with longest riverfront within the city but it’s a curse to neighborhood than boon! I consider this as a problem of entire city & not just mine!

And then always over flowing garbage bins is another unwanted scene around. No timely lifting of garbage is there. You go to any part of our city & you will found heaps of garbage around the corner of any road or at any open place adjoing to the road! Every society is supposed to treat their wet garbage within their premise by vermicomposting & dry garbage only to be collected by pmc. Yet its citizen like us only who throws wet garbage also in the bins or just in open along the roads & it’s our municipal corporation only which doesn’t have any solution for the same! This is problem of my city & I too am responsible for the same!

The domestic animals like cows & buffalo's is another story as they roam all along the footpaths & cow dung can be seen all the stretch of the road, no one takes any action on the owners of these as its their responsibility to keep the footpaths clean if they use these paths for their animals!  And courtesy our rulers as they are hard paving every single inch of the roads , footpaths so there is no soil cover where this cow dung once used to get mixed with & used to get disposed of naturally! Now it remains there for days stinking & making the surrounding unhygienic. In the rains scene is far worse as the cow dung makes the surfaces of footpath so sleepery that no one dares to walk on them & poor pedestrians getting exposed to more accidents by using road area to walk. Nobody ever even addresses this issue & by me it’s a big dent to our city’s hygiene as well aesthetic & so it is a problem of my surrounding! Same is story of stray dogs because of river around they have shelter at day time along river bed & at late night & early morning these dogs roam around the DP road making life of road users miserable!  Stray dogs is a menace all around the city & no one has any solution for them is a truth. At night these dogs chase every two wheeler & poor riders have to face threat of accident to avoid the chasing dogs. No statistics is there for how many actual numbers of such stray dogs is there in city & what kinds of measures are being taken to curtail them.
Road digging is something now which seems to be part of our city life. One road is neatly paved with tarring on some day; here also while tarring or concreting no space is left around the existing trees along the road blocking all chances of water seepage around its stem which is totally wrong. And then on next day the same very same road digging starts, some time its gas pipe lines or its optical fiber lines or its MSEB’s power cables anything but a question every citizen of this city has why they can’t put whatever they want under the road before tarring it? No one has answer to this question & needless to say it’s our money which is going in that digging. After digging is finished the post road surface making is like a fraze in Marathi “bhik nako pan kutra aawar” i.e. “the medicine is worse than the disease’; such is the way they make the patch work of the damaged road. That too digging is done in single day & the repair goes on for months which become cause of again many accidents by vehicle sleeping due to dirt or excavated material which remains unprotected along the road!

Public urinals & toilets is one more problem where all are turning a blind eye! Either there are no such facilities at regular intervals & if there are then they are in such condition that even a blind, deaf & senseless person also won’t dare to use them. Rather under whose control these public toilets are maintained is a question no one answers! What I feel is all the local elected members as well officers of pmc should made compulsory to use public toilets as well lavatories under their wards or jurisdiction each day at least once, so they will know what kind of state these facilities are! There are no signages in any locality showing locations of public toilets making people use footpath or road side open spaces for their natural call, making the city dirtier! The citizen living around these public toilets are equally at fault as neither had they put pressure on the system to keep it in useable condition, nor they themselves come forward collect some money & maintain them!

My kids have never played on any open ground as there is no ground around my locality; I mean public ground which isn’t there right from deccan to kothrud. All they can play is around the side margins choked by parking of vehicles or risk their lives by playing on roads. Why can’t we have public play areas large enough to accommodate the residents of any neighborhood?  Again no answer by anyone!

The list of day to day problems in the city is endless & my brain gets tired by recollection of the problems we face yet we keep on calling ourselves Pride Punekar! DPs i.e. Development Plans are made, gets lapsed & again we make new DP’s but what about simple day to day living issues? Why we need a policy or any DP for providing clean public toilets to the people of this city? We can’t maintain the existing roads & new plan new roads or think of widening existing roads! We can’t make use of existing green belts for greening & we make new reservations for biodiversity which eventually will become new slum diversity! It’s not just one ward or some part of the city but entire city is suffering  rather bleeding is the perfect word & everybody is either blaming somebody or ignoring the bleeding as if it’s none of his business!

The media does keep on shouting on many of these problems but never consistent or is busy in showing it’s their news effect if at all some action is taken! What’s need of time is a platform where the pressure will be created & put on the concerned system & let the system perform or get punished!

On one side we are talking about becoming a smart city but the bitter fact is we are a dumb city when it comes to serving the citizen. Somewhere this dumbness is going to make pay every industry in this city, majorly the real estate! As gone are the days when people would have come to stay here considering Pune as best living option. With the reputation of a city having numbers of problems unless we accept reality & start working to remove the flaws we will be dead city soon from the dumb city status! But then looking at the approach of the citizen we may be alive as our heart is beating but seems our senses & mind has become dead towards our city! As we call us Oxford of East but here half of the city population even doesn’t come out of their homes to serve their basic right to vote; no wonder we will soon have a dead city as that’s what dead bodies deserve!

Sanjay Deshpande

Sanjeevani Dev.

Please do visit my blogs to know about our philosophy at Sanjeevani ! (Click the links below)

http://visonoflife.blogspot.in/2015/02/story-of-toilet.html

http://jivnachadrushtikon.blogspot.in/
Social Side of Sanjeevani ! (Click link below)

http://www.flickr.com/photos/65629150@N06/sets/72157627904681345/

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http://www.punecorporation.org/GRS/Complaint/LaunchComplaintCitizen.aspx

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