Tuesday, November 4, 2014

City on steroids...is this a real development??

During my recent visit to India I saw big enthusiasm among people about the issue of development. One reason for this can be the theme of recent general election for parliament, after many years some election was fought on the issue of development. This also had a backdrop of some phenomenal economic development in last decade or so, people in India are experiencing phenomenal economic growth in last few decades and this all has created lot of enthusiasm among common people about more economic development. I don't think any one will disagree to the fact the economic development is necessary for any country to become independent and self sufficient, and like others India also needs this. This is the reason many cities in India are growing very fast, but the main question is are they growing in right direction? 

My home town Pune was previously (just couple of decades back) a small city with beautiful climate and was surrounded by beautiful hills. Since last decade or so it has grown very fast, so fast that if someone who visited this city 8-9 years back visits it now he/she may not recognize that it is the same Pune. It hosts large number of software and other companies, industrial and economic growth of this city in last decade or so was phenomenal. This growth has also resulted in real estate boom in this city, prices of properties and lands are skyrocketing, there is some type of construction work going on on each available free land. This has resulted in lot of unplanned growth of Pune, people and builders didn't even spare the hills. Many hills are now occupied by some sort of construction (legal or illegal) almost up to the top. It is really hard to imagine that the place on which these buildings or homes are standing was a beautiful hill just few years back. Development as such comes with some side effects which are manageable if handled properly but unplanned and uncontrolled development comes with many serious side effects. These side effects can have very serious consequences in long term, they can harm not only the environment of that city but also lives of the people who live in it. As expected pollution levels are going up in each and every city of India, neither there is no proper mechanism to monitor this nor any serious efforts are made to put any check on this really serious problem. Unplanned growth of cities is putting lot of stress on already overburdened infrastructure of those cities. Traffic conditions are horrible in many places which cause a lot of inconvenience to travelers, people's habit of not following any traffic rules is also contributing heavily towards making this mess more chaotic. 

Current Pune looks like city on steroids, growing uncontrollably in direction wherever it can find empty space. Definitely growth is happening and people are getting richer, one can see economic prosperity coming in families but at the same time quality of life in terms of proper infrastructure, school system, government services, etc. are not improving. Government offices are still very crowded with rampant corruption, economic development has not been able to check corruption in any way. Public school system in still in horrible condition and it is really tough task to get your kid admitted in any good private school without any political influence or paying heavy donation. There is a upper middle class who can afford to do all these things as they earn enough money to support this type of lifestyle. But at the same time there is no change in lives of many lower middle class people who are some how stuck in same vicious cycle of poverty and lack of proper education. Stress on city's infrastructure is immense, Pune really needs a metro, mono rail or something like that which can reduce the number of vehicles on its roads. Current public transport system is not able to satisfy the requirement of growing population which needs reliable alternative to commute in the city. I think this is the story of more or less all growing cities in India. Some cities like Delhi and Mumbai managed to modernize their public transport system but even there also still there is huge gap between demand and supply.

I wish that concerned authorities think consequences of this unplanned growth very seriously and take appropriate steps. Once the city grows with many illegal and unorganized constructions it is really difficult to get rid of them just because so many people occupy these places and it is impossible to take any action against them. This has happened in past and it seems administration has not learned any lesson from these incidents. I only hope that economic or real estate growth happens with proper planning and according to available resources in that city. This will allow people to enjoy comfortable life without being worried about if they can reach hospital in time during any medical emergency because of heavy and undisciplined traffic on roads of the city. People of Pune also should play very important role in this, they need to follow traffic rules and try to keep their city clean. If Pune can show that a growing city can be disciplined and well organized may be it can become a ideal example for all other cities to follow. City on steroids will grow for sure but that growth is not healthy and natural and I think people of Pune (or any other city) want their beloved city to grow naturally retaining its beauty and natural climate. Let's see if people choose a planned and organized growth or they are fine with this unorganized rampant growth which might create more problems than solutions.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

[Copyright : Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]

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