Thane: Satellite City has a long way to go to be an independent city
Thane is considered to be among the fastest growing cities within Mumbai Metropolitan Region. The Satellite City has grown immensely as a residential and commercial centre. As the city’s current development plan will complete 20 years in 2023, civic officials have started to resurvey the city and prepare a new plan. Hindustan Times talks to experts and town planners to understand an ideal plan that would help residents to have all the basic amenities in their vicinity and help develop job opportunities, better macro transport facilities, social amenities, improved health and infrastructural facilities
Thane, known as a satellite city of Mumbai, has now expanded well in terms of population and is also creating housing and job avenues. According to urban planners and designers, it is high time that Thane is now considered an independent city as it is no more completely dependent on Mumbai for job opportunities.
For example, the boundaries of Thane city comprising Bhiwandi and Rabale have become logistics and industrial hubs, respectively. The city itself has Asia’s largest industrial belt at Wagale MIDC, which provides jobs to over 60,000 people.
Thane, however, is still lagging behind in providing basic amenities like good public transport, health, education and open spaces among others. Experts suggest a planned development model on the lines of Navi Mumbai for a city like Thane. This can now be possible as the old developmental plan for the city is completing 20 years in 2023 and the city needs to be re-planned.
“The per square metre population within Thane city is way beyond the limits. People move cities in search of job opportunities. The overall development of any city is also on job opportunities and the facilities in the vicinity for the residents. Hence, there needs to be earmarked zones that will focus on providing job opportunities for all including those involved in daily labour and the working class,” said Pramod Nimbalkar, former Executive Engineer of Town Planning in Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC).
In the last two decades, Thane city has expanded and branched out in various directions. However, finding basic amenities within the vicinity of residential areas has become difficult for many.
“Those who are staying in Thane and beyond have to make use of the public transport to reach their workplaces. This is because we have a concentrated development pattern in Thane city, wherein some areas are commercial while some others are demarcated as residential. Instead, if we develop a 15-minute city with all basic amenities and infrastructure within the vicinity, it will easily bring workplaces closer for people and provide increased job opportunities,” said Mayuresh Bhadsavle, Urban Development Practitioner, Thane.
An ideal 15-minute city would include varied amenities and facilities like open spaces including civic-run gardens, bus and metro depots, civic and private schools, cycle avenues and tracks, public health centres, reading or recreation halls and commercial workspaces within fifteen minutes radius of one’s residence. Moreover, in a metro city like Thane, people should not be complaining about the lack of basic facilities like water supply, solid waste management and electricity supply, according to experts.
MAKE PARKING SPACES
When it comes to availability of open spaces, it includes making parking spaces available near one’s workplace, residence or utilising the ample open spaces available in the city rather than building parking plazas at random locations, suggest urban planners. Most parking projects in the city have failed to take up. The ‘Pay and Park’ did not find any takers, but authorities claim that the work of underground parking at Gaondevi ground is in the final stages. The Parking Plaza near Jupiter Hospital is spread across 1.20 lakh sqft plot but is now functional as a field hospital for Covid care.
“Until the pandemic exists, this space will be utilised for the same. After that, we’ll take a call on whether it should be used as a parking facility. Currently, we have set up oxygen plants and a complete Covid care set up at the Parking Plaza,” said an officer from the TMC.
“There are certain wide roads that have spaces adjacent to the footpath that can be utilised for parking. This will not only provide multifunctional ways of utilising an area but also providing more space closer to one’s residence or work place for parking. Just having essentials within a ward will not suffice. Having these within the vicinity for residents are essential,” added Bhadsavle.
Areas like Majiwada-Manpada ward in Thane are well developed with many townships and well-planned housing complexes. However, there are slums and encroachments in areas within the ward. There are ample avenues for green or open space in these townships but the situation is not the same in areas like Kisan Nagar, Mumbra, Diva and some parts of Kalwa as well.
“Many areas of Thane city are well developed and include planned townships. However, areas like Naupada, Mumbra, Diva and Kisan Nagar continue to be cramped up for spaces. It is essential to look at the overall development. For example, a look at Naupada Kopri ward shows us that there are open spaces and parking areas in Naupada but the same cannot be said for Kopri as it is full of informal settlements,” said Bhadsavle.
LACK OF PG COURSES
As per the 15-minute city plan, availability of schools and educational institutes in one’s vicinity is a must. Thane city has a lot of schools of various boards. Also, colleges are available for graduation and other courses. However, lack of post-graduation courses, institutes or options for higher education can be noted in the city.
“Neighbouring cities of Mumbai and Navi Mumbai have made use of the space to make way for institutes that focus on higher education. While Thane city has ample options for school education, there is a lack of post-graduation or higher studies-related facilities. Students are compelled to travel further towards Mumbai or Navi Mumbai. Navi Mumbai has huge campuses for such institutes, which Thane city is lacking,” said Dr Fleur D’Souza, retired professor, St Xavier’s College and a resident of Charai in Thane.
Mumbai University’s sub-centre started in Balkum has teething troubles even after seven years of its inauguration. A two-storey building set up in a vast plot of land allotted to the University of Mumbai by the TMC, continues to be hardly in operation. “There is a lack of a coordinator appointed in the centre. This is one of the reasons that the campus has to get the university’s approval for every work. Moreover, the maintenance is also very poor. Proper housekeeping staff is also not appointed,” said Mahadev Jagtap, senate member of University of Mumbai.
Although the university has started with law and business courses, and more than two lakh students were supposed to benefit from the two sub-centres, the university’s lackadaisical attitude has put them in a lurch. This is one of the reasons that many prefer to travel to Mumbai or Navi Mumbai for higher education.
“Every year, when students fill up online admission forms for first year college, we notice that most choose to go outside Thane. Colleges within Thane are usually the second or third option for students. This could be because of the lack of appealing campuses and a holistic education facility within the city” said a professor from a college in Thane.
Advait Vaidya, in-charge of the University sub-campus in Thane, said, “We currently have a strength of 242 students for both BBA and LLB courses. Till now, online classes were going on as per the State Government guidelines. We shall reopen the college in February.”
According to urban planners, an ideal city would include all the basic facilities like water supply and solid waste management. However, in Thane, some residents continue to grapple with lack of water supply and solid waste management. Some areas in Thane city are facing water supply issues. These include areas like Kisan Nagar, Mumbra, Kalwa, Diva and parts of Ghodbunder Road.
“While there are plans to become a Smart City, the basic issues of the people are not catered to. Water supply is a severe problem that can be solved with basic management and planning by the civic authorities. There are many parts of the city where water is illegally drawn or potable water used at construction sites. These need to be identified. Moreover, the water that we receive from the civic body is potable water that should not be used to wash cars. For example, in my society, we make use of borewell water to wash cars. Similar concepts can be implemented by other societies as well. Mostly, everyone has borewell facilities nowadays,” said Satyajit Shah, civic activist, Thane.
Last year, TMC had planned to store water from the dams of the district as the irrigation department had decided to execute 14% water cut in the district. The real estate boom has also added to the acute water crisis in the city, according to activists.
WASTE SEGREGATION, HEALTH CENTRES
“TMC is yet to strictly implement waste segregation in the city. It needs to be percolated in the minds of children as well in schools in order to ensure families implement the same. The corporation is hardly taking efforts in this direction. An announcement regarding single-use plastic was also made but no efforts were taken to ensure its implementation. Most big housing societies have a solid waste plant. Is the civic body involved in recycling of e-waste and plastic? Also, is the civic body ensuring that the solid waste plant in societies is functional? Through CSR and Smart City Projects involved in marketing, the compost prepared by societies can easily generate revenue,” said Vaibhav Satam, RTI activist, Thane.
Thane city is spread over 127sqkm while the population of the city is 22 lakh. As per the norms of the National Urban Health Mission (NUHM), there should be one primary health care centre for a population of 50,000. The city at present has 27 primary healthcare centres. Thus, each centre caters to a population of over 1 lakh – double its capacity. As per the health department, around 52% of Thane’s population reside in the slums of Mumbra, Kausa, Diva, Kisan Nagar, Srinagar, Warlipada, Kokanipada, Ambika Nagar, Lokmanya Nagarpada Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 4. These are also the areas that lack access to health care.
Considering the current pandemic situation, for the Thane civic body, managing funds for any kind of development would be an issue. In the current pandemic situation, the main focus of any civic body would be to maintain the health infrastructure, if not creating new ones. If the complete focus is on maintaining the healthcare facilities, it will lessen the focus on other developments.
“Not necessarily to build new health systems but maintaining the existing facilities will definitely be the focus. For the next few years, the civic body will definitely give priority to the healthcare system. This will leave the corporation with fewer funds for other developmental plans. Lack of funding will be an issue for TMC in the next few years,” added Nimbalkar.
TMC COMMISSIONER REACTS
Meanwhile, Dr Vipin Sharma, commissioner of Thane Municipal Corporation, did not comment on speculations about TMC not having ample funds. He said that TMC is already in the process of converting Thane Global Hospital to a cancer centre. This is a part of improving health infrastructure and medical facilities within Thane city.
“We are augmenting health services in the last two years. With the pandemic, the medical facilities at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Hospital in Kalwa and Thane Civil Hospital have improved. Even the private health facilities in the city have increased the number of beds and services. All of this will definitely be beneficial as it has added to the health infrastructure in the city. Development is a gradual process that will take place over a period of time,” said Sharma.
He also denied that Thane has a lack of open spaces. With the creek on one side and hills on the other, Thane city has natural greenery available, according to Sharma. “Moreover, many lakes have been beautified such that people can enjoy the natural beauty that the city has been endowed with,” said Sharma.
He added, “We are also keen on having bigger institutions like IIM or MBA colleges in the city. These will not only provide quality education but also provide job facilities in the city. We are open to such institutes and are also trying to provide such opportunities for the youngsters. TMC has already provided a substantial amount of land to the University of Mumbai to conduct courses.”
The main focus for the new Developmental Plan would be to plan the city in such a manner that the real estate boom and the increasing population within the city are also taken into consideration while improving the civic and transport infrastructure, Sharma added.