Expanding Pune: Balewadi has mega development plans in line but meagre means to fulfil them
Balewadi has seen exponential growth in the last decade following the funding spurt for Commonwealth Games in 2008, but still struggles because of unavailability of water, consistent electricity and wellmaintained roads. Hindustan Times investigatesUpdated: Mar 03, 2018 14:56 IST
Balewadi is used to being in the news. From housing the Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex in 1994, to hosting the Commonwealth Youth Games in 2008 and now, its proximity to the Rajiv Gandhi Information Technology Park - Maharashtra’s largest IT park - Balewadi is a headline staple.
Located alongside national Highway 4, along the Mumbai-Bengaluru route, the development boom came with the central government sanctioning ₹100 crore for the development of the area ahead of the Commonwealth Youth Games. A nondescript village was soon turned into a hip Pune suburb; an area Puneites considered moving to; an area that today houses a high street with 17 restaurants and a Cummins campus spread over 10 lakh sq ft.
Surely, Balewadi is set in terms of infrastructure and civic amenities? It is not. At least according to residents in the area.
To Balewadi’s north is Pimpri Chinchwad, Hinjewadi and the Mula river, while the south has Baner and Baner gaon. Towards its east is Aundh and Pune city and the west is dominated by the National Highway 4.
For the past ten years, Balewadi has witnessed a steady growth in terms of spacious residences. It has become an area of choice for renting a house for many of IT / ITES employees, who now prefer the area after Aundh and Baner. The IT sector in the area provides employment to around 3.5 lakh people and contributes significantly to the state’s economy.
While software companies are working 24x7, significantly relying on electricity, many residents allege they are facing power cuts almost everyday. Adding to their woes is the traffic chaos during peak hours as most commuters going to IT parks pass through Balewadi, according to residents.
“I bought a flat here in 2010 considering the fact that it will be easier for me to commute to my workplace. However, it has turned out to be bane as the traffic jams and power cuts are making life difficult for people in the area now,” said Shreeram Ratnaparkhi, a 37-year-old IT professional.
Most of the residents who have shifted or opted for Balewadi hail from areas nearby including Baner, Aundh and Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation.
Mahesh Malawade shifted to Kunal Aspiree (housing society) in Balewadi from Baner in December 2016 to his new home, which is larger and spacious. However, Malawade complains that water supply in the area is pathetic and that he has to rely on water tankers. He added that many roads in the area are also very small.
Though Balewadi corporator Amol Balwadkar had most of the area covered with Pune Municipal Corporation’s (PMC) pipelines and assured residents of constant water supply, many residents still complain of inadequate water supply and are forced to rely on water tankers. Another local resident, Devang Khatanhar, said the road connectivity he was promised never come up.
Amol Wadkar , a resident of Balewadi, said that there is no sewage water draining facility at many housing societies. “We have to pump the water to the nearest drainage by spending lakhs of rupees every month and have no street lights on the roads. Further, uncontrolled traffic, illegal stall vendors on both sides of the road, rash driving of vehicles and water tankers and poor quality of roads add to the chaos,” said Wadkar.
Balewadi enjoys advantageous proximity to Baner and Aundh and the well-defined social infrastructure in these locations. It is well-connected to other important areas of the city via road. The area saw a significant growth spurt after the Commonwealth Games was hosted there. “Balewadi is about 20 km away from the city’s airport and 10 km away from Pune railway station. It is also advantageously located alongside the Mumbai - Pune expressway. It has good schools, colleges and hospitals in place and also has the benefits of a well-planned area, making it an upmarket housing destination which will continue to wield its clout over the years to come,” Wadkar added.
Shamkant Kotkar, a local builder, began constructing societies in Balewadi in 2000. “It was the next choice after Aundh and Baner as it gave good accessibility to buses for people to travel to Mumbai. The connectivity to the IT park in Hinjewadi and the fact that one could stay close to the Balewadi stadium really helped in the sale of houses,” said Kotkar.
Educational centres and connecting roads also attracted a lot of people. The real estate property rates in 2000 were between ₹1,500 to ₹1,800 per sq ft, but now, the asking rate hovers between ₹6,000 to ₹9,000 per sq ft.
Though there are almost 25 hospitals near the area, in Aundh and Baner, with the latest to open being Jupiter hospital, there is no PMC-run hospital in Balewadi.
A part of Baner and Balewadi was known as Banerchi Wadi with farmers forming a small village of 40 houses on the banks of the Mula river,” said former corporator Dynaneshwar Tapkir. “The main livelihood for Balwadkars was farming, with Jowar being the most important crop. Even when the Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex was built in 1993, the village was still under the jurisdiction of the gram panchayat. In 1997, it was acquired by PMC, but development began only in 2002.”
The first builder to approach and construct apartments in the area was Sunshine Builders, in 1995, followed by Lunawat, Aditya Builders, Rohan Builders and Elite Builders.
According to Amol Balwadkar, corporator , prabhag no 9, “The village was special for many reasons and also had a very thoughtful panchayat which realised the potential of the area early on. Balewadi is surrounded on three sides by the Mula river. This village marks the end of the Haveli taluka and is also the first village which marks the beginning of PMC’s boundary.”