Pune civic chief’s revamp plan starts with Rs 18,000 crore for public transport
In an exclusive interview to Hindustan Times, civic chief Kunal Kumar, who admits that Pune has been neglected, believes that a developed city is one where the rich travel by public transport. He outlines strategies to deal with water issues, garbage management, slum management and infrastructureUpdated: Jul 04, 2017, 12:24 IST
The Pune municipal commissioner Kunal Kumar has admitted that Pune has been a neglected city. In a special interview to Hindustan Times on the occasion of its launch in the city, the 38-year-old civic chief outlined the spectrum of challenges for Pune.
He pointed out that barely 15% of commuters used public transport while ideally 60% should be using it for a city of Pune’s size. “In the short term, we should be able to push ourselves beyond 40% by 2021,” he said. While traffic and parking were chaotic and haphazard in the city; water supply is low, garbage management is challenging and the river has been reduced to a dumping ground for sewage and construction debris, he said.
The civic chief said that ₹18,000 crore had been allocated for a comprehensive traffic and transportation plan which would be operational before the Pune metro begins in 2021. Kumar sought to dispel the notion that the ambitious smart city project was all about creating ‘a glamorous, technologically driven city’. The objective, he said, was to use technology in an optimum manner with minimum harm.
“Smart city is with planning for the city for the next 30 years. We have 51 different projects under smart city and we need ₹30,000 crore to execute these projects. The state and central governments will provide ₹20,000 crore and the PMC will have to raise ₹10,000 crore through innovative ways,” he said. Of the ₹30,000 crore, almost 60% will be spent on traffic and transportation, he said.
The public transport system will have several components such as new buses, roads, bus terminals, parking policy, and a congestion charges policy, among other steps. “We have already tied up ₹24,000 crore and money is not the constraint. What we need is buying of ideas. For example, the idea for a metro was proposed in 2009 and it saw the day of the light in December 2016. Creation and buying of ideas is very crucial,” he said.
Kumar said that the pace of development in the next four years will be four times more than what we did in the last ten years. For this to happen, political consensus, citizens’ involvement and the capacity to implement would be needed. The need for equitable water supply, better garbage management, better slum management and river cleaning and beautification were the other challenges faced by the city, he said.
According to the civic chief, Pune is blessed with ample water supply but needs to have more reservoirs and a better distribution network. “Pipelines are old and citizens in the fringe areas are not getting water. About 10% of the city’s population is not getting water and therefore, there is a need to improve the water supply and revamp the system, he said.
One serious issue is unregulated water supply resulting in wastage of water, he said and noted that just as the water tax was approved by the general body, leading to a concrete, financially backed water policy, Pune, too, should take similar harsh and strong decisions on parking.
The civic chief said that Pune generates about 1,700 tonnes of garbage daily and treats only 800 tonnes. There is no capacity to treat 800 tonnes of garbage, which is another big challenge for the city.
He agreed that garbage management was not organised and there was a need for the people to pay a small charge of ₹50 or ₹100 to waste pickers to help clear the garbage. “This needs to be done out of a sense of responsibility. You cannot create a green city without the participation of the people,” he said.
Kumar noted that “massive infrastructure” was necessary for good garbage management and the project undertaken by the PMC would be completed in two and half years.
“All vibrant cities like Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru have slums. Bigger the city, bigger the slums, that is the reality. Pune’s 30% population, almost two lakh families, live in slums. Pune has 571 slums and housing for the economically weaker people is a key element of our agenda. Schemes like Pradhan Mantri Avas Yojna and slum rehabilitation schemes are already there but we need to have a market mechanism wherein micro finance is available to the people for low cost housing,” he said.
The civic chief noted that Pune needs to improve its infrastructure with footpaths for pedestrians, and space for cycles. The infrastructure also needs to cater to storm water drainage and sewage, he said. In his view, the 44-km of Mula-Mutha river passing through the city needs to be managed well. Although the river was a blessing for the city, it is being treated criminally, he said.
“We discharge sewage and dump debris there. We want to rejuvenate the river. It should be safe even in the worst flood situation,” he added. He stressed that discharge of sewage in the river has to be stopped and river beautification on both the banks needs to be planned. ₹3,000 crore was being spent for river rejuvenation.
“Citizens should be able to enjoy the river through recreation activities but this cannot be done because of private properties. We must work on these elements,” he said.