Monday, December 5, 2016

Pune, from Peti to Khoka!

“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

Jane 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. Jane Jacobs undoubtedly one of the top authorities on urban planning of cities; I remembered here this quote when my veteran reporter friend Sunil Mali asked me to share my views for Sakal News Paper's Wardhapn Din edition about Pune region’s proposed population, which soon will be touching to 10 million i.e. one core in our Desi language! Somehow the term million doesn't excite we Indians, yes its figures in lacs & crores which makes us interested! Though there is one more terminology about lac & crore which I will revel at end of my sharing! With Pune & Pimpri Chinchwad, more commonly known as PMC & PCMC together we are already approximately fift plus lacs & come Pune Metropolitan Regional Development Authority i.e. PMRDA, we are soon expected combinely to reach magic mark of one crore population city or region whatever you may call it! 

As Jane says it’s the people which makes the city & obviously it’s the people around which the entire planning should be planned but is it happening so? At least the past of Pune region doesn’t indicates planning around people neither the present, as all we think about is traffic, roads, water, drainage & things like that. Agreed all these aspects are important but these things are materialistic, they don’t define life in totality! I personally feel a city should make people at peace & be energetic with their positive vibes & that may be a bit vague target to achieve but all we need is little bit understanding of people’s needs & their life style. One can be at peace in a city by cohesive effect of physical as well social infrastructure i.e. things which I mentioned above like roads, water supply & then right from gardens to play grounds to cultural platforms as they too count most if you want to make citizens at peace. And social outings are the best outlets for citizens’ positive energy, look at Paris, Mother of Arts & not just a tourist place! Most importantly the city should offer its infrastructure to every citizen in equality & not just by his or her paying capacity or status!

So let’s see where we stand on all these aspects & expectations, as I remember my first exposure to dear Pune way back in 86, as a young boy from rural of Vidarbha I got down by Maharashtra Express on a rainy morning at Pune station. For me then also everything was like from story of Gulliver’s voyages i.e. journey to an island where every scale is ten times bigger. Have never seen so big railway stations as my home town has just one platform & a single rail with three coaches connects us to main line. What was more amazing that I haven’t sat in an auto rickshaw as then still in most towns of Vidarbha its man driven rickshaws which were common. But then there were tangaus too i.e. horse cart as well double bus which is called as “Joad Bus”. My first journey on Pune streets from station to my college, MIT which was on Puad road, was by tangua.  And trust me it took so much time as we crossed Nal Stop & then paud phata, buildings started thinning & I thought I am being driven out of Pune! Later on also till nearly 90’s the city used to end by chandani chowk & it’s just once in a month we use to cross river & go to MG road & camp. Traffic was much more then also in comparison to Amraoti or Nagpur but still you can cross the entire city in thirty minutes max! While going to my home town in vacations which is on Nagar road side, once the S.T bus used to cross Agakhan Palace we get to feel Pune has left back! This might seem story of a different era but that was the scene just twenty five years back! Pimpri Chinchwad I have never gone then neither knew that it’s like twin city of Pune as even khadki-dapodi were the terms to call somebody as less sophisticated in compare to Punekars!

And when I roam now for my work from Kiwale which is west side end & to Wagholi i.e. eastern end of city, I don’t believe myself this is same city where I started my career! Now no more one can identify PMC & PCMC separately, the khadki-dapodis are center now & road to my college is all aligned by buildings. One requires more than two hours meeting two ends of the city & all roads are buzzing with traffic till late night right from early mornings. Every young boy graduated from rest of Maharashtra wants job in Pune, even from other States too, is this we call development or progress? PMC & PCMC authorities trying hard to match the living needs of this ever growing city & now there is PMRDA because with sudden rise on education facilities as well jobs in Pune region the next thing is housing in entire country! When I say housing it’s not just homes but as I mentioned earlier homes with basic needs & then affordable to all those who wants to set foot in this city! Since 2000, the city saw rise to new specie i.e. IT’ans, & all thinks money is in ample to IT industry jobs which isn’t true anymore. Ample may be in compare to other industries but the so called progress has also raised expense bar on every front for the resident in Pune region. Right from fuel costs which are huge, thanks to poor public transport to education, health care, entertainment, everything costs here. Gone are the morning show Rs 5 tickets’ of movies, now a family going to movie has to shell out minimum thousand rupees for a movie outing is a fact. And balancing this life style you have to match EMI’s of home loans & that takes out peace of mind for most of the youngsters!

The biggest challenge in front of PMRDA authorities is & will be to take care of this housing need of the citizens of Pune while the city keeps growing. I said deliberately PMRDA as PMC & most part of PCMC has been saturated now with hardly any space for new development & again thanks to ever changing policies of Urban Development, redevelopment is crippled under the rules like TDR use, Height & Parking restrictions as well double staircases etc. So with nearly 3000sq km area under the belt PMRDA is the only hope now for home aspiring migrants in Pune region. By me first step to deal with this challenge for PMRDA is to make a Development Plan i.e. DP of all this area & provide infrastructure to the same. Looking at the speed with which our DP’s are made I think we need to mark deadlines & follow them. Because most unfortunate thing about our Pune city till now is our rulers announce big things in big way, may it be Metro or DP or BRT or HCMTR or 24 Hours Water Supply scheme but fails to plan them in time & none of these big announcements ever comes in reality! Latest entrant on this front is ring road for the city, which will be backbone for PMRDA’s DP. And just following the infamous Pune tradition already this ring road is in trouble even before its alignment gets final as State Road dept also has planned one ring road & now a tussle has been started over which ring road to be finalized & who will make it. Rather before any development starts in Pune region the ring roads existence is very important as the first thing any new development needs is connectivity to work areas as well to core of city & surrounding cities. No doubts about needs of ring road but the doubts are about capacity of the system which is supposed to make it reality! The major problem with present city is haphazard planning with no defined work zones, recreational zones, public places or residential areas. This has made traffic monitoring as well public transport functioning extreme difficult as we don’t know at what time of the day how many people will travel & to which destinations?  So any time of the day every road is crammed with vehicles & you can’t blame traffic police alone for poor traffic management as you can’t have a police behind every vehicle especially when the driver is a Punekar need is so! So PMRDA should not focus its attention to the just ring road but plan extensive road network all across the region right from beginning. Remember, good roads are like veins & arteries of any city & if you make them proper half of your future problems are solved in planning only!

Regarding planning of Metro, let’s not restrict Metro with PMC or PCMC limit, as all over the world major development happens around the Metro terminals or at the end stations & Pune won’t be exception to the rule. If we connect the ends of the Metro in areas which are already developed then we are killing the very purpose of it! Rather best thing will be plan a Metro route along the ring road & extend present Metro tracks to the ring Metro, so as it will help entire Pune region & not just to reduce traffic within the city! The ring road & ring Metro combine will be great advantage to open up thousands of hectors of the land for housing which or else is lying undeveloped due to no connectivity!

Another challenge in front of Pune region is water supply to this one crore population as the present agreement of PMC  with Irrigation Dept barely covers demand of present Pune city & everyday day we keep on reading tussle between the two agencies. With area as vast as PMRDA, two main hurdles I foresee; one is source of water & another is network of water lines. Since ages no new dam has been planned to fulfill future demand for drinking water of Pune region & with nearly 3000 km area, especially the eastern part of PMRDA which don’t have any perennial water source, we need to create new storage as well distribution centers. No more Pune which once was considered as "water heaven', enjoys the said tag. Everyday some or other locality suffers from shortage in water supply & especially the suburbs face acute water problem in summers. PMC has started putting condition on sanction plans that it’s not responsible for water supply, a convenient approach but definitely not a thing of pride for 2nd Smart City of the country. At present PMRDA also has copied what PMC is doing but when we consider ourselves largest planning authority of State we can’t get away shrugging our responsibility especially a essential front like water supply!

One major aspect to be taken in consideration from Delhi pollution problem is maintaining bio-diversity across the Pune region as that’s the only cure for disease named pollution! Knowing Punekar’s if we are thinking one crore population then we might be looking at the same numbers of vehicles; as its jokingly said in Pune that here new born baby before it starts walking learns to drive a two wheeler! Along with controlling air pollution PMRDA has to be very keen about development within all the existing dam’s catchment areas which mostly comes under PMRDA planning. So to maintain the rainfall/ runoff quantum towards these dams as well keep the probable water pollution levels is one main challenge we have to think of. And then there are usual factors like waste water, garbage, electricity network along with recreation as no city prospers without good social exposure avenues & Pune is fortunate on this front. Right from Savai Gandharva type classical music events to NH 7 type modern day rock music events all around the calendar year, the city provides lots of cultural & social appetite to its citizen. PMRDA should create spaces for all such events & many more which will come along as the city grows!

Knowing about working of PMRDS the biggest hurdle is its constitution as for now it’s just a planning authority so the big question is who is responsible for the execution all above fronts which are a must for making living of citizens of Pune region comfortable. Any planning is of some worth only when it gets executed as it has been planned & in specific time limit; so who has the answer on this aspect is what I am interested in! As there only lays fate of Pune’s one crore population or else in local business language code name for money matters, one lac is “one peti” & one crore is “one khoka”! Adhering to this terminology of Peti & Khoka, if PMC/PCMC & PMRDA all of them together along with “Mai Baap” State Govt doesn’t act  fast & deliver then we will end up saying Peti was better than Khoka, means Pune was better what it was with population in digits of lacs than this one crore mark! 

Sanjay Deshpande 

Sanjeevani Dev.

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