Unless Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities as well as the Tier 1 cities give priority to infrastructure for walking, cycling and BRTS, the inherent competitive advantage these non-metropolitan cities have to develop will be lost leading to greater migration to tier I cities, causing them also to suffer due to inadequateness of the infrastructure.
The nation is in the process of rapid urbanization. This does not mean and need not mean new urban centres developing. Currently there are 48 cities which are one-million-plus, which will become 58 by 2021.These include 15 cities that are two-million-plus which will become 20 by 2021.
Maharashtra has three two-million-plus cities (Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur), seven one-million-plus cities (Thane, Pimpri-Chinchwad, Nashik, Kalyan-Dombivli, Vasai-Virar, Aurangabad and Navi Mumbai) and eight half-million-plus cities (Solapur, Mira-Bhayandar, Bhiwandi-Nizampur, Amravati, Nanded-Waghala, Ulhasnagar, Sangli-Miraj-Kupwad and Akola). There are about four cities of neighbouring states on the south (Hyderabad, Hubli-Dharwar, Belgavi and Bellary) which lie in reasonably close proximity while seven cities lie in the northern neighbouring states (Ahmedabad, Surat, Indore, Bhopal, Vadodara, Jabalpur and Raipur).
While different kinds of infrastructure are required to facilitate efficient running of the urban areas, it is largely the transportation sector that makes or mars quality of life of city dwellers.
Following the conventional methods of planning, there is great desire to provide infrastructure that would speed up intra-urban travel by motorized transport.
Flyovers and road widening are hallmark of this kind of infrastructure development. The casualty invariably is, chopping down of trees, not providing space for safe pedestrian movements and the non-motorized vehicles and roadside vendors. Since these exist in any city, they begin to take up the ‘widened’ carriageway spaces.
Speeding vehicles in urban areas are the main cause of large number of fatalities seen on Indian roads, in particular the roads in Maharashtra. Therefore, all road infrastructures must be designed with safety of the vulnerable section of road users and traffic calming measures kept in mind.
Considering that road congestions occur due to excessive use of motorcars, which lead to increased air and noise pollution with global warming, climate change and health repercussions, following the National Urban Transport Policy (NUTP) of minimizing use of personal motorized vehicles should be looked at with great deal of seriousness. This means providing public transport where it does not exist and improve upon it where it does.
Since practically everyone walks and as many as 15% to 30% use bicycles even in two-million-plus cities, infrastructure must give considerable importance to all of the needs of carbon neutral mode of mobility.
Recently, the committee headed by “Metro Man”, E Sreedharan recommended that private use of motorcars must be discouraged and providing parking space near Metro stations would actually encourage its use. Therefore, he went on to state that such facilities should not be provided.
However he also said that every city with two-million-plus population must plan for providing Metro rail connectivity. There is this misconceived mindset that rail-based mass rapid transit system is most efficient as it has very high capacities. The problem with such systems having very high capacities is that one has to provide a network of road public transport to feed the capacity and also provide space for parking motorcars.
Greater use of personal motorized vehicles option adds to the road congestion. The Metro rail option also requires large sums of money and the investments cannot be recovered by fare box collections. When you have so many Tier 2 Tier 3 cities demanding funds to put up Metro rail, firstly one must understand that money will go where it is likely to get recovered i.e. in mega cities (ten-million-plus) and metro cities (four-million-plus). Trickling in of funds means extended periods of construction and deteriorated quality of life over long period for a city’s citizens. It was wrong on the part of the Sreedharan Committee to recommend this and thus raise aspirations which cannot get fulfilled in all the 15 two-million-plus cities of India (three of Maharashtra) and not provide for growing transportation woes in these Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities.
The right thing to do is to have Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) in place at costs as low as Rs10 crore/km and enhance it with growing demand as against the elevated metro which would cost as high as Rs250 crore/km. BRTS needs to be designed, not just put in place. Frequency of service should be as high as 90 seconds if not higher. The buses need not be the big 52 seaters; even a 10 or 16 seater bus will do exceedingly well to start with. High frequency will make this workable. If the cost of running such system is high from a city’s per capita income level, then this form of public transport can be subsidised, which the government would have done so anyhow to metro rail infrastructure, 20 times of what the BRTS would require.
Even in Mumbai, the decision to go for Metro is wrong because it needs more than Rs60,000 crore; to complete the project it would take nothing less than 25-30 years and provide significantly inadequate capacity which will not ease the overcrowded suburban railway system. In the process of its implementation, besides causing hardship to Mumbai citizens, it will deprive other cities in the state from getting the much-needed infrastructure and thereby deny utilization of the inherent competitive advantages these Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities have currently.
Inter-city public transport needs to be planned; too, to meet growing demand but local needs of rural environment must be kept in mind. Since large number of road accidents take place on these roads, attention to details need to be given in designing these highways of growth. When the Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities have good inter and intra connectivity with public transport, they will begin to provide livelihood to many and the need to migrate to metro and mega cities on this count will diminish.
Utilisation of capital based on local affordability will only create islands of prosperity. If the state or the nation is to have balanced and equitable development, it must adopt large number of projects that are not highly capital intensive.
(Sudhir Badami is a civil engineer and transportation analyst. He is on Government of Maharashtra’s Steering Committee on BRTS for Mumbai and Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority’s Technical Advisory Committee on BRTS for Mumbai. He is also member of Research & MIS Committee of Unified Mumbai Metropolitan Transport Authority. He was member of Bombay High Court appointed erstwhile Road Monitoring Committee (2006-07). While he has been an active campaigner against Noise for more than a decade, he is a strong believer in functioning democracy. He can be contacted on email at email@example.com)
A huge inventory pile-up in the December quarter has led to the rush of ‘discount sales’
One has to usually wait for at least a month into the New Year for the off-season sales to start. But not in 2012. Most retailers, including Pantaloons, Shoppers Stop, etc, are offering discounts on their products at the beginning of the year, when usually, there are no discounts. Shoppers Stop, Big Bazaar, Ezone, etc, have started with their discounts from the beginning of January. Westside, too, has started advertising for its big sale with the ‘come prepared’ commercial.
The rush is prompted by an inventory pile-up, on the back of diminished sales in the last quarter. “We are offering more discounts—even on products like iPad and new tablets and phones,” said a Reliance Retail salesman in Navi Mumbai. “We have seen little offtake; and the stock should be cleared up.”
While brokerage reports have placed FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) as a bankable sector, retail is now viewed as a prospective weak performer in the third quarter of FY2011-12 (Q3F12). A report by IDFC Securities says that big retailers like Shoppers Stop and Pantaloon Retail are looking disappointed. “Same-store sales growth across formats is expected to be in low single digits. Pantaloon Retail’s revenue growth is expected to be at 10% with same-store sales growth at 4%-5%. Shoppers Stop, is expected to report low single digit same store sales growth and HyperCity losses are expected to be at Rs160 million”, it says.
Apparel seems to be one segment which has seen a diminished consumer interest in the past six months. The IDFC Securities brokerage report also says that Pantaloon Retail will see an expected 20.6% decrease on a year-on-year basis for the December quarter in profit after tax while Shoppers Stop will see a paltry 5.4% expected increase for the same period.
Westside is now offering up to 60% off on its products; Shoppers Stop is offering discounts on various products like kids’ apparel, jewellery, footwear, kitchenware and home décor. Ezone belonging to the Future Group started with the discounts with New Year’s weekend. The already struggling premium brand, Espirit is going for a flat 40% off, while Mango, Raymond, etc, are also trying to clear the stocks while there is demand.
“The thing is, many retailers have seen mostly same-store growth in sales,” said an analyst, “but if they can’t clear their stocks, even these ‘pet’ stores will see fewer footfalls.”
The project is a partnership between Servtec and the Brazilian investment fund manager, Rio Bravo Investimentos, and will comprise of 12 units of Suzlon's S95 - 2 MW wind turbines.
Suzlon Energy has informed BSE about the Suzlon Group winning a 24 MW order in Brazil. Suzlon Energia Eolica do Brasil Ltda. - subsidiary of Suzlon Group, the world's fifth leading wind turbine maker - announced a new order from the Servtec Group to set up, operate and maintain a 24 MW (megawatt) wind power project in the state of Ceara, Brazil. The project is a partnership between Servtec and the Brazilian investment fund manager, Rio Bravo Investimentos, and will comprise of 12 units of Suzlon's S95 - 2 MW wind turbines.
The project is scheduled to be commissioned in phases by December 2013 and is expected to offset over 43,000 tones of CO2 annually. This is the second partnership between energy and engineering major Servtec and Suzlon, which already has 155 MW of wind capacity operating across four wind farms in Ceara.
Mr. Lauro Fiuza, Chairman of the Board - Servtec Group, said: "Suzlon is a market leader in Brazil and has immense experience of wind markets in emerging economies. We are confident to work with them in this second enterprise. They are the right partners for us in expanding our renewable energy footprint in Brazil. We look forward to a very rewarding long term relationship for both companies."
Mr. Tulsi Tanti, Chairman - Suzlon Group said: "Brazil is today a very important economy on the world stage, and a leading adopter of wind energy. As Brazil deepens its commitment to powering economic growth on green energy, we are proud to bring our technology, service offerings and vast experience to this market. With the trust of renowned companies like Servtec, we are poised to make the most of Brazil's wind potential."
Suzlon established its presence in Brazil in 2006. In just over five years, the company has installed 11 wind farm projects with a total installed capacity of 389 MW and employs over 180 people. Suzlon operations in the country are located at Ceara State, with sales offices in Sao Paulo."
In the late afternoon, Suzlon Energy was trading at around Rs20.25 per share on the Bombay Stock Exchange, 3.05% up from the previous close.