Hariharan Gurumurty (31), who works in a bank and lives in Kandivli, thinks roads in Pimpri-Chinchwad are far better than ones in Mumbai.
“The Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation knows how to make quality roads,” says Gurumurty, who regularly visits his mother in Khadki, on the western fringes of Pune. “After the old Pune-Bombay road was widened and redone, a 45-minute drive has been reduced to a 15-minute zip.”
Pimpri-Chinchwad — a small industrial town adjacent to Pune — was what lay along the road to Mumbai. It was always what you passed, never where you stopped.
But the town is now playing catch-up with its neighbour, with roads that will put Pune’s best to shame and affordable residential areas that are drawing young professionals away from Pune’s posh neighbourhoods.
“We were always a resource-rich civic body. We have just rescheduled our priorities,” says Ashish Sharma, the town’s municipal commissioner of 15 months. “We have been growing in the shadow of Pune for so long and we think it is time we claimed our space as a vibrant, independent town in its own right.”
The efforts of the civic body here are not just making people sit up and take notice but, at a far more fundamental level, are offering an affordable and accessible living space to innumerable people who could otherwise be squeezed out by the realty rates and congestion of Pune.
Lending a hand — a large one at that — in pulling Pimpri-Chinchwad out of the shadows are several projects under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission, which are jointly funded by the Central and state governments. The projects — worth Rs 2,601 crore — include work on sewerage systems, water supply systems, stormwater drains, solid waste management, slum rehabilitation and bus rapid transport systems (BRTS).
About Rs 738 crore has been sanctioned for the BRTS, which includes the widening of four arterial roads. The projects will get 50 per cent of its funds from the Centre, 20 per cent from the state government and the rest from the local civic body.
Apart from the 12.5-km stretch of the Pune-Bombay Road, three more roads — all connecting pockets of frenzied residential and commercial development around Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad — are being redone to accommodate the ever-increasing traffic. Flyovers and underpasses are being added, foot overbridges placed and trees transplanted.
The Aundh-Ravet road is one on which work has begun. A drive along the 14.5-km stretch connecting Aundh — Pune’s posh and congested western suburb — to Ravet shows work in progress.
‘Experience the best of estate living,’ screams a hoarding with the advertisement for a residential project in Pimple-Gurav. This road, till recently, simply connected Pune to NH4. But now it is bustling with traffic between thriving suburbs like Pimple-Gurav, Pimple Saudagar, Nigdi and Akurdi and the heart of Pune.
Living in one of these many residential pockets and working in Pune is now far more affordable and comfortable than it ever was before.
“Houses this side of town are cheaper than those in Pune and people can now think of travelling for five more minutes,” says Kapil Arora, a 32-year-old graphic designer. Arora’s daily commute from his home in Pimple-Saudagar — a neighbourhood that is developing faster than he remembers in the last 25 years — to his office in Pune is a breeze.
Monthly rent for a two-bedroom apartment, for instance, in Pune’s eastern suburb of Wadgaon Sheri is Rs 12,500 whereas in Pimple-Saudagar — five extra kilometres away — it is Rs 9,000.
For someone who has seen Pune struggle with the plight of its roads and infrastructure over the last 10 years, the silent and fast development of Pimpri-Chinchwad is nothing short of bewildering. And it is not eight-lane highways that are changing lives, but well-made strategic roads that help the common man get home from work on time for dinner.