Running on schedule

Print edition : December 18, 2009

BY SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

MUNICIPAL Commissioner Mahesh Zagades vision for 2012 is of a Pune that is cleaner, greener, and energy efficient. He aims to bring about a cultural change among its citizens rather than enforce rules. While steering the implementation of the JNNURM, Zagade is also working out a comprehensive plan for transport and infrastructure building. Excerpts from an interview:

What is the progress on JNNURM projects?

All are on schedule. Fourteen projects together worth Rs.2,441 crore have been approved, and we have completed work totalling Rs.1,024 crore so far. This covers roads, transport, sewerage, sanitation, and lake and river improvement.

What problems did you face in implementing the projects?

Since Pune is not a greenfield city, and land is either privately held or defence land, we have had problems of acquisition. But these are not huge impediments.

What are the citys major weaknesses?

Let me enumerate the strengths: good climate, a culturally developed society, proximity to Mumbai and the fact that it is graduating from manufacturing to services. The weaknesses emerge from the strengths. With a population projected to touch 37.29 lakh by 2012, the city has a decadal growth rate of 50 per cent against the national average of 21.4 per cent. The challenges are to provide adequate infrastructure, transport and water and to manage traffic and solid waste.

One of the problems seems to be solid waste management.

The city generates 1,300 tonnes of garbage every day. Some of this is converted into Refuse Derived Fuel [RDF], which task we have outsourced. Though there is a capacity to process 800 tonnes of waste each day, but because of a court matter, a capacity of 500 tonnes remains idle. We hope that will be settled by early December. We are adding a capacity of 200 tonnes to convert 1,000 tonnes of waste into RDF soon. In addition, a work order for composting 200 tonnes of garbage has been issued to some companies. This should become operational in four months. Our mandate is to have 100 per cent treatment through landfill and processing.

About 35 per cent of the population lives in slums. Given the projected influx, how do you plan to prevent further growth of slums?

The PMC survey has declared 564 slums with 1,15,000 hutments. Two of the 14 projects approved under the JNNURM come under Basic Services for Urban Poor [BSUP]. A sum of Rs.520 crore has been sanctioned for slum rehabilitation, and 20,600 dwellings are being built. The slum rehabilitation authority, which is an independent body, is working on building dwellings through private-public partnerships. More importantly, we want to ensure that no new slums come up. My endeavour is to bring in reforms in the system, and increase the geographical accountability of the administrative units. An ordinance has been issued and an FIR will be filed against both violators and officers.

I am also trying to set up a 600-strong police force [currently the squad is 50 strong] to check encroachment, under a police officer of DCP rank. The standing committee sanctioned Rs.9-10 crore per annum for the purpose, beginning with fiscal 2010-11. Recruitment will begin soon.

As in most urban areas, open defecation is a problem in Pune. How will the PMC tackle this?

In the current years budget, we have a programme for building toilets and have allocated Rs.3.75 crore for the purpose. At present, 5,000 toilets are under construction in the Hadapsar and Warje areas. We are working towards 100 per cent control of open defecation.

What is your estimate of funds that need to be deployed to bring the citys basic infrastructure up to acceptable standards?

We need Rs.800-1,000 crore to overhaul the water distribution system. The JNNURM has allocated around Rs.1,000 crore for road development. Another Rs.1,400-1,500 crore will be required for road infrastructure such as flyovers, bridges and underpasses. Finally, 17 lakh motorised vehicles on the roads today means 500 vehicles every 1,000 people on par with Japan or Germany. So another Rs.9,000-10,000 crore for a metro.

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