City of the future

Print edition : December 18, 2009

The pilot Bus Rapid Transport system in Pune has ensured smooth travel on busy roads.-PHOTOGRAPHS: BY SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Urbanisation is a relentless process, which has come to stay and has to be factored into all our developmental thinking and development processes.

- Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the launch of the JNNURM.

THE Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) was launched in December 2005 by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in keeping with its Common Minimum Programme. It was a form of reform that urban areas in the country desperately needed before they spiralled into haphazard and over-flowing cities.

The JNNURMs objective is to create economically productive, efficient, equitable and responsive cities. It consists of two sub-missions: Urban Infrastructure and Governance and Basic Services to the Urban Poor. An important goal is to encourage cities to improve the existing levels of service in a financially sustainable manner.

The JNNURM is designed to support water supply, including the setting up of desalination plantssewerage and sanitation; solid waste management, including hospital waste; construction and improvement of sewage and storm water drains; road network; transport; construction and development of bus and truck terminals; renewal and redevelopment of inner-city areas; development of heritage areas; preservation of water bodies; integrated development of slums, that is housing and development of infrastructure; basic services to the urban poor; and street lighting.

Pune does not live under Mumbais shadow and has a unique identity. One of its biggest assets is its citizens awareness and their readiness to double up as activists for their city. Against this background, the best thing that the government and the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) did was to launch the JNNURM for the city. Pune, which is rapidly developing into a metropolis, can now serve as an example for the rest of the State with the success of the mission.

In a review of the missions progress in Pune, which started in 2007, it was noted that while there was improvement in many areas, much more needed to be accomplished for sustainable development. We are encouraged with the rate of progress and believe that we will meet the deadline of December 2012, said Pravin Ashtikar, Deputy Municipal Commissioner, PMC, who is in charge of the JNNURM. Ashtikar said that the Central government had sanctioned Rs.2,441 crore for the missions work in the city. Of this, Rs.1,024 crore has been spent on various projects. We are working as per the governments schedule and guidelines and we will meet our targets, he said.

Transportation infrastructure is a key area of the JNNURM. The pilot Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) system has been completed on the Satara road and the Solapur road along with six terminals. Subways on the Nagar road, the Banner road, the Sangamwadi approach Road and New Alandi road have also been completed. In addition, 28 BRT and Commonwealth Youth Games (CYG) corridors have been approved under the mission and work should begin soon, officials say.

A look at some of the projects shows that the JNNURM has improved the look of the city. For instance, BRT bus lanes and bus stops have ensured smooth travel on busy roads. Similarly, cycle lanes have ensured faster movement on roads. In Pune, where a large number of people use two-wheelers, it was essential to have lanes designated for smaller vehicles. On some roads, broad pavements have ensured the safety of walkers and enhanced the citys looks.

A sewage treatment plant at Mundhwa in Pune. The city generates about 567 MLD of sewage every day, of which roughly 70 per cent is treated.-

According to a PMC review, the current status of the CYG and BRT Phase-I is that (1) 80 kilometres, out of a proposed 113 km of road stretch, have been widened; (2) 71 km of a proposed 86 km of footpaths and cycle tracks have been laid; and (3) all road works are expected to be completed by March 2010. In addition, 16 km of water supply lines, 60 km of storm water drains, 76 km of telephone ducts, and 45 km of electric ducts have been laid in the city.

One of the main areas of focus in the JNNURM is to provide efficient transportation. Some 473 buses are required in Pune under the mission. The process of acquiring them has begun and one can already find them in many areas on the BRT tracks. With buses, new terminals and stops must follow. New terminals have been proposed at Chinchwadgaon, Hinjewadi IT Park, Lohegaon, New PMC limit/Wagholi/Chandan Nagar, near Dhayari Phata, and at Warje Malwadi. Additionally, there is a proposal to expand the existing terminals at Swargate, Hadapsar Gadital, Shivajinagar and PMC building, Kothrud depot, Khadki and Nigdi.

Sewerage projects under the JNNURM in Pune include sewage generation and treatment. Phase II of the project should be complete by 2015. The current treatment capacity is 305 MLD (million litres/day) and a treatment plant under construction will take care of another 262 MLD. Lake, river and nallah improvement plans are an integral part of the mission in Pune. An estimated Rs.99.96 crore has been placed to construct and improve drains in order to prevent the contamination of natural water bodies and to develop heritage sites. Additionally, Rs.97.78 core has been earmarked to renew and manage sewage disposal.

The water body improvement scheme includes construction of weirs at Bund Garden and Mundhwa, improvements to the Katraj and Pashan lakes, nallah improvement, bioremediation and landscaping along nallahs and rivers, dredging of the Mula and Mutha rivers, channelisation work and lake formation on river beds, and construction of retaining walls along river banks.

A critical aspect of the JNNURM is that it reforms some of the fundamentals in the municipal corporations of cities. These include accounting, taxation, information accessible to citizens, e-governance and GIS mapping. With regard to Pune, accounting reforms at the PMC are being carried out as per the guidelines of the Government of Maharashtra. And its staff members are undergoing training in more efficient accounting methods.

Further, public information such as property tax, tenders, development control rules, city development plans, annual accounts and budgets are now available on the PMC website. The Right to Information Act has been implemented, thereby furthering the corporations commitment to the mission.

E-governance facilities such as online tender submission, work management system, online building permission system, issuance of birth and death certificates, self-assessment, and a complaint redress system are now operational. In addition, kiosks in 144 wards for tax payments, property tax collection, issuance of birth and death certificates, e-tendering and octroi are available.

Work on GIS mapping of properties is also in progress. Mapping of roads, water supply lines and sewage lines is almost complete. Property tax, an area that is normally a web of confusion, has been cleaned up by the PMC. According to the review, after the JNNURM reforms were implemented, 93 per cent efficiency has been achieved in property tax collection. There has been a significant migration to the self-assessment system. Local camps and a website for addressing tax issues have been set up. Assistance and a dispute resolution mechanism are available with regard to tax matters.

The second aspect of the mission is to provide basic services to the urban poor. Towards this, the PMC has identified people in the urban poor bracket with defined criteria after fresh enumerations for the Below Poverty Line (BPL) category. Services such as public toilets, primary education, group water connections, and drainage connections will be provided. A reproductive health programme, education for children from six to 14 years, and improvement in housing and provision of security are also on the cards.

The JNNURM will, in its first phase, be extended to 60 cities with a population exceeding one million, State capitals, and 20 other cities of religious and tourist importance. State governments will have the flexibility of substituting the designated cities with others. PMC officials believe that it is only a matter of time before the city becomes one of the most progressive in India and a world-class metropolis.

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