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Monday Musings: Pune smart city not ready for the monsoon?

The monsoon visits every year around the same time. Why are we then so badly prepared year after year?

pune Updated: Jun 11, 2018 14:57 IST
Abhay Vaidya
Abhay Vaidya
Hindustan Times, Pune
Pune,Monday Musings,Monsoon
On Friday, many parts of eastern Pune such as Ghorpadi, Fatimanagar, Wadgaonsheri, Vimannagar, Kalyaninagar, Empress Garden and Pune Cantonment witnessed protracted traffic jams because of signal breakdown which happens immediately after a heavy downpour. (Ravindra Joshi/HT PHOTO)

The Pune smart city projects in the Aundh-Baner-Balewadi (ABB) cluster are budgeted at a whopping Rs 3,400 crore. Since 2016, the Pune municipal corporation (PMC), Pune smart city development corporation limited (PSCDCL) and Prasanna Desai architects, who redesigned Aundh Road, have won a total of seven awards for various projects and initiatives. Almost every other month, the PSCDCL issues a press release on the new awards it has won.

Is all of this not a waste of public funds considering that once again, Pune finds itself unprepared for the monsoon?

While our policy makers, bureaucrats and urban planners are spending a lavish Rs 3,400 crore on smart city projects, the PMC stands exposed for its complete unpreparedness for the monsoon. Is that smart or dumb planning? Decide for yourself.

Like many other newly-emerged suburbs, Wagholi has been suffering due to acute water scarcity round the year. Adding insult to injury, the roads in this suburb were flooded last week with the very first pre-monsoon showers. Many vehicles, including cars, were stuck in the waterlogged roads of Wagholi.

On Friday, many parts of eastern Pune such as Ghorpadi, Fatimanagar, Wadgaonsheri, Vimannagar, Kalyaninagar, Empress Garden and Pune Cantonment witnessed protracted traffic jams because of signal breakdown which happens immediately after a heavy downpour. This happens in other parts of the city too, including important arterial roads in Aundh, Shivajinagar and elsewhere.

Although the PMC has claimed that 90 per cent of pre-monsoon works have been completed, the fact is that the work done so far appears to be shoddy.

Civic officials themselves admit - and there is evidence to show - that at many places, stormwater drains have been choked with garbage. It is an open secret that at some places, stormwater drains have got mixed up with drainage lines, leading to overflow from the sewage lines.

While potholes have begun to show up on a number of city roads, be they of the Cantonments or the PMC, we are not sure whether the pre-monsoon trimming of heavy and vulnerable tree branches has been done satisfactorily. Last week itself, an autorickshaw driver was killed in Kothrud when a tree fell on his vehicle in one of the 24 incidents of tree collapse due to heavy rains.

The civic body has identified 450 waterlogging spots in the city and as per records, only about half of these were addressed under the pre-monsoon works. Ajit Pawar, the prominent Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader, has already criticised the PMC and the Pimpri Chinchwad municipal corporation (PCMC) for spending a lot of money on pre-monsoon works with little to show in terms of results. We can all hazard a guess as to where the money disappeared.

All of this reflects very poorly on claims of good and smart governance. It leads us to question the very concept of ‘smart city’. How can Pune call itself a smart city when well-funded and well-resourced civic bodies such as the PMC and the PCMC have failed to provide and maintain basic infrastructure?

It would have been truly smart if the Rs 3,400 crore meant for projects in the ABB cluster were instead spent on firming up the basic infrastructure of the city. What we are witnessing in the name of smart city projects is clearly a gross wastage of public funds and misplaced priorities.

abhay.vaidya@htlive.com

First Published: Jun 11, 2018 14:44 IST