Pune Smart City project brought good footpaths; but falls short on other promises

Initiative in Aundh, Baner, Balewadi (ABB) has failed on certain specific fronts - resident engagement, public transport and smart parking initiatives
Smart footpaths allow for proper resident engagement. (In pic) A smart footpath on Jungli Maharaj road.(HT/PHOTO)
Smart footpaths allow for proper resident engagement. (In pic) A smart footpath on Jungli Maharaj road.(HT/PHOTO)
Updated on Aug 03, 2019 04:41 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, Pune | ByPrachi Bari

While there was much excitement when Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the Smart City Mission in Balewadi in 2016, many of the residents today feel that despite all the publicity razzmatazz, several things are missing from the big list of promised projects.

“It was great initiative by PM Modi to incorporate Smart city project with people engagement. We were looking forward for the things which were lacking in Aundh Baner Balewadi to come under Smart City. Footpaths have been done great and walkable that’s only the plus point we have. Smart city have failed on several points like the monthly meeting of Citizen engagement with smart city have been called off for past year.

So no update or suggestion are welcomed from any forums and individual,” said Rupesh Junawane, resident of Aundh

Most disappointed were the residents of Balewadi for none of their suggestions were included. “I was member of citizen participation before Smart City began in Balewadi, but when we raised questions over their way of working in the area, especially with road infrastructure, parking and water recycling, we were not invited again for citizen participation. Instead, they took up projects like place making and gardens which were of least importance when then road infrastructure was important,” said Vijay Varangaonkar, resident of Balewadi.

People’s feedback and concern of current changes on roads should have been looked into, said Junawane adding that private land have been acquired without concern of owner and are asked to go to court and after 2 years, no TDR or simple process made separately to society’s who have handed over land in Sanghvi nagar.

He added that roads with commercial interest have been revised to 24 meters from 30 meters passed in PMC, local corporator have field case against same in court.

Many of the residents feel that the roads have less carriageway and big footpath adding to the increasing traffic on all five roads: Mahadji Shinde, Parihar Chowk, ITI Road, Ambedkar chowk, Nagras road, Bhale chowk.

The residents also said that three different gardens were supposed to be built in ABB plans for which were shared by Smart City, yet after 2 years nothing has happened.

Ranjit Gadgil, working with NGO Parisar said, “Overall the whole mission has been a disappointment. As per the Smart City Plan for Pune, we were to expect a substantial increase and improvement in public transpor and NMT along with so called “smart parking”.

We were promised 100 e-buses and 100 e-rikshaws, 8 km BRT to Hinjewadi and “smart” bus stops, but none of this has materialized. While the Smart City boasted about the Public Bicycle Scheme (PBS) that had been launched by private operators (with no assistance, financial or otherwise) from it, now that the operators have departed, the Smart City has failed to intervene and ensure the service for people. The Smart City Plan has a provision of 10 crores for 1200 bicycle and 112 cycle stations, but there is no sign of it. In the Pan City proposal we were to see “real time tracking of buses using GPS”, which would have enabled people to use smart apps to know when the next bus is arriving, but again this is also a non-starter.”

Some interesting projects, innovations have been taken up, such as street design, public bicycle share, environmental sensors, Zero Waste (which is to start shortly) etc. “The PSCDCL staff have also been open to discuss many innovations. Many discussions, hackathons, conferences and events have been arranged which surely help bring new ideas. There is a lot more to do with IT support in public services.

Structured and inclusive participation processes of the citizens should also be enhanced with IT support, beyond social media and complaints management. Improved communication about project details would be helpful.

For example there are 12 to 13 projects on mobility. How these will help reduce private vehicle use, reduce emissions and improve sustainable mobility and improve our quality of life - if this can be communicated by PSCDCL it would help to bring public support for the projects,” said Sanskriti Menon, resident of Aundh.

Smart City projects have won 14 awards; reflects our commitment, says CEO

Since inception in 2016, the Pune smart city development corporation limited (PSCDCL) has commenced work on 55 projects out of the total proposed 62 projects and has spent Rs. 240 Cr from the funds of Rs 450 Cr in its coffers.

Initiating Smart City projects in the Aundh, Baner, Balewadi (ABB) areas, the Pune Smart City Development Corporation Ltd (PSCDCL) has won major accolades and 14 awards. These awards are for projects such as Smart Placemaking, Lighthouses, Smart Public Bicycle Sharing and PMC Care.

Although residents said that the bicycle sharing initiative had failed not just in Pune city but also in the Smart City area, Rajendra C Jagtap, chief executive officer (CEO) of PSCDCL claimed that it was running successfully in ABB.

According to the PSCDCL, it has so far completed 12 projects in the area based development model while the work for 26 projects has already commenced. Besides, 17 projects are in the tendering process and seven in the DPR stage.

“Our awards clearly exhibit our commitment towards developing the city in a smart and efficient manner. Having said so, I do accept that this is just the beginning and we still have a long way to go,” Jagtap said.

He acknowledged that a few projects had failed to garner the expected pace and needed to be expedited. “I have been personally monitoring the process of three projects to be executed by the PSCDCL viz. transit hub, 24X7 water supply and E-corridors. While initially the projects received a good response from all the stake holders, they got stuck in the basic hassles of lack of coordination eventually which is delaying the projects,” he said.

PSCDCL has planned a sophisticated Transit Hub at Balewadi in the ABB area to integrate multiple modes of transport including the proposed metro by PMRDA, BRT, city buses, MSRTC, private buses and other para-transit services.

According to him, one of the hurdles that the PSCDCL faced was the funds crunch until last year which has been overcome as of now.

“We get Rs 200 crore every year, Rs 100 crore from the central government and Rs 50 each from the state government and the Pune municipal corporation. Currently we do not have any problems pertaining to the funds crunch and the work for the projects using these funds is underway,” he said.

BOX: Rajendra Jagtap speaks on

•Working with PMC and other government agencies: Often we feel that it they are in their own silos. At times, it gets very difficult for us to push any new ideas. To be able to overcome this, we need a very strong political leadership with a strong will which will help us achieve a common pace of work. Ultimately, because of this silo, some projects will emerge out to be successful while some may not fortify. Few projects get completed and some do not see the light of the day. All the government agencies need to take lead in doing the projects voluntarily and with that a lot of positive work can be done.

•Vision for the future: The flexibility that we have to undertake and execute the projects is quite distinct from the rudimentary old existing organisations. Technological advancements that we have can provide solution to a lot of problems which we have in the city. Hence, besides taking the works of PSCDCL to the level of it being followed by others, we also envision that we become a consulting wing of the PMC eventually.

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Friday, December 03, 2021