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Pune, India’s ‘best’ city, has worst public transport

An analysis of 20-year data shows mismatch between city’s record growth and inadequacy of civic planning

pune Updated: Aug 26, 2018 15:15 IST
Pune,worst public transport,India's best city
The existing PMPML fleet of 2,097 buses, including 697 buses on contract, with frequent breakdowns, is short by at least 1,000 buses. (HT Photo )

Even though the housing and urban affairs ministry has ranked Pune as the ‘most liveable’ among 111 cities in the country, an analysis of civic data over 20 years by Hindustan Times has shown an alarming mismatch between Pune’s explosive growth and the inadequacy of civic planning.

A comparison of data presented in the Pune Municipal Corporation’s (PMC) Environment Status Report (ESR) since 1997-98 has shown an almost 10-fold growth (895%) in the number of four-wheelers, five-fold growth in the number of two-wheelers (400%) and just 2.6-fold growth (162%) in the civic bus fleet.

This is despite the fact that civic revenues jumped by 1,076% (11 folds) during this period: from Rs 499.28 crore in 2000-01 to Rs 5,870 crore in 2018-19.

While Pune’s population grew by 73.36% during this period, from 25.38 lakh (1991) to the estimated 44 lakhs in 2017, the city itself expanded by 126% — from 146 sq km in 1995-96 to 330 sq km — presently due to the merging of 23 villages in 1997 into PMC’s jurisdiction and another 11 in 2017.

The expansion without a matching response from civic planners, be they the PMC or the Pune Metropolitan Region Development Authority (PMRDA) has meant chronic problems revolving around poor road connectivity, public transport, solid waste management and poor water supply in the fringe areas (reported extensively by HT in its ‘Pune’s water mafia’ investigative series).

The explosive growth in vehicular population coupled with a rickety public transport in the form of the Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mahamandal Ltd (PMPML) has meant acute traffic congestion, increase in commuting time, rise in the number of road accidents and extreme stress during peak hours. The existing fleet of 2,097 buses (including 697 buses on contract) with frequent breakdowns, is short by at least 1,000 buses.

The heavy dependence of the residents on personalised transport stands reflected in Pune’s poor ranking in the ‘clean urban mobility’ index of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE). In its recent report on ‘high emission and energy use’ in urban mobility, the CSE ranked Pune in the bottom half of cities with ‘clean urban mobility’. Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Lucknow, Delhi and Mumbai fared much better than Pune.

The Ahmedabad BRTS (bus rapid transit system), which was inaugurated in October 2009 and has a network of nearly 89 km and a daily ridership of about 3.5 lakh passengers today, has consistently won national and international awards for best implementation in the country. In contrast, the Pune BRTS was the first to be launched in the country in 2006 and yet, has an operational length of barely 16 km and a daily ridership of about 1.45 lakh commuters.

Although Pune was the first city in the country to introduce the BRT on a pilot basis; poor execution meant that the service never took off in the real sense. BRT routes and expansion are now sought to be compromised by civic planners to give priority to the Pune Metro project, which is expected to begin operations only in 2021.

ESR reports fail to impact civic policies

As far back as June 2009, the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) in a report titled ‘Evaluation of Environmental Status Reports of Cities in Maharashtra’ noted that the ESRs produced by various cities were “playing little role in mainstreaming environment into policy making and action planning”.

The report noted that the ESRs were unable to transform the ‘data’ regarding environmental issues into programmes and projects to address them.

“Presently ESRs are just presenting data and many a times incomplete data. They are just a document with little role to play in action planning. Their reach to citizens is very limited and they are not generating awareness among citizens which is a prime motive of publishing ESRs,” the report stated.

According to the MPCB, with enhanced performance, ESRs can become a key document for aligning developmental policies with environmental considerations and global environmental issues.

Pune’s Environment Status, 2017-18: Key Highlights

Following were the highlights of the Environment Status Report for 2017-18 released by the Pune Municipal Corporation

* Rise in per capita carbon footprint due to explosive growth in private vehicles and rise in electricity consumption.

* Consistent rise in river pollution with COD (chemical oxygen demand) of 180 mg/l as against permissible limits of 150 mg/l and BOD (biochemical oxygen demand) of 60 mg/l as against permissible limit of 30 mg/l.

* Air Pollution: Hadapsar and Lohegaon worst affected with sulphur, nitrogen and nitrogen dioxide compounds above permissible levels. Vehicular pollution was one of the major reasons for poor air quality.

* Sound pollution: 11 areas in the city including Navi Peth, Erandwane, Khadakwsla and Raja Ram bridge registered a decibel levels beyond permissible limits.

National Ease of Living Index, 2018

* Pune was ranked the best among 111 major cities in India to live in.

* The cities were compared on four parameters- institutional (governance), social, economic and physical infrastructure

* Navi Mumbai, Greater Mumbai, Tirupati and Chandigarh bagged the first five slots, after Pune.

* Delhi ranked at 65- very close to Pimpri-Chinchwad which stood at 69. Chennai stood at 14; Ahmedabad (23), Hyderabad(27), Bengaluru (58)

* Among the four parameters and 78 indicators on which the cities were judged, Pune, ironically, got its highest rank (2) for indicators such as transportation and mobility, assured water supply, wastewater management, solid waste management, and reduced pollution.

First Published: Aug 26, 2018 14:40 IST