Experts and activists who under the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan have been campaigning for a well planned metro, may have some hope now
Unarguably, public transport is the biggest issue concerning Pune. With nearly 25 lakh private vehicles on roads, more than 70% of which comprise two-wheelers, traffic chaos on roads has turned commuting into a nightmare. Add to this is poor show of the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) in the management of public transport buses and BRT routes.
It was against this background that the Pune Metro proposal was floated in 2008. However, predictably, lack of application and transparency put the metro proposal, made haphazardly by the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) into a whirlpool of controversy. The Detailed Project Report (DPR) of the Pune Metro was passed by 143 out of 144 corporators unanimously in a few minutes, without even studying the proposal. When the lone independent corporator Ujwal Keskar asked for its copy at that General Body meeting where the resolution was passed, the city engineer replied that "He had forgotten to get it''. So much for the seriousness of the most expensive project ever to come to Pune, then estimated to be over Rs10,000 crore.
Things began to derail in 2010 when the PMC declared it would choose the least priority corridor of around 16 kms, completely elevated running though congested roads; would demolish heritage structures and residential buildings, would go over sensitive areas like Pune Railway station (for which permission was not sought) and 4 FSI would be permitted along the corridor which would lead to unimaginable congestion and stress on civic infrastructure. The haphazardness also reflected in the casual manner in which the DPR stated levying of an array taxes on citizens for any number of years without giving specifis; location of metro depots which were opposed, one by the College of Agriculture authorities and the other at the Kothrud garbage dump, earmarked for ShivShahi Pratishthan.
The Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan (PMJA), an umbrella of organizations comprising civic and social activists, civil engineers, architects and urban planners and corporate leaders campaigned rigorously through mass awareness campaigns through PPT presentations and intense dialogues with political leaders of the city and state as well as officers of the PMC administration. The demand was an independent assessment of the faulty DPR and to consider an underground metro for the maximum effect in terms of passenger utlisation and undisturbed progress of work.
Hyderabad Metro is a sterling example of the progress of its elevated metro stuck due to 60 per cent of land acquisition either in litigation or vehement opposition. The Jaipur elevated metro too has brought in demands by citizens of stopping work midway due to enormous inconveniences to citizens. In Mumbai, the fully elevated 12 km Versova-Ghatkopar corridor which was scheduled for completion in December 2010 is not even 50 per cent complete. The second corridor of Charkop-Bandra-Mankhurd also fully elevated and scheduled to complete in December 2014 is yet to clearances from MoEF, Coastal regulation autorities, Fire department, civil aviation and railways. Now, wisdom has dawned, as the third corridor of Colaba-Bandra which was to be partly elevated is now going to be completely underground.
Despite intense dialogues with stakeholders by the PMJA, the PMC passed the defective Pune Metro proposal wherein a large part of the funding was to come from the state and central government. However, it is languishing with the state government since the last one year. Thankfully, deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar declared last week that after seeing the mess that elevated corridors have created in cities like Mumbai, Hyderabad and Bangalore, he would support underground metro for Pune, even if it is not as cost-effective as the elevated metro, since in the long run the former would be more beneficial.
Underground Metro for Pune which was one of the primary demands of PMJA seems to suddenly have a glimmer of hope. In a Press Conference organized by PMJA on Monday evening, Arun Firodia, leading industrialist and an integral part of the PMJA campaign through MCCIA's social NGO Janwani stated that, "We welcome the statement by Pune's Guardian Minister Mr Ajit Pawar supporting underground Metro for Pune. As against the common perception that an underground metro will take time, it, in fact can be implemented faster as there would be very minimal land acquisition issues; no shifting of utilities as an underground metro would be below 15 or 30 metres; no disturbance or inconveniences to citizens as work would not be on the road - the machines would be working smoothly and uninterrupted below the soil.''
Narendra Bhagwat, underground metro expert who was a consultant for the Bangkok, Bulgaria and part of Delhi underground metro said, "Pune being in the Seismic Zone IV, it was unadvisable to have an elevated metro. Underground metro is ideal for Pune as it has hard rock, which is extremely good for the corridor. All over the world, it has been observed that an elevated metro has a life of only 20 to 30 years whereas underground metro lasts more than 100 years as has been witnessed in cities like London and Moscow.''
Talking about the costs, KK Gokhale, railway engineering expert said, "The DMRC's DPR has touched upon only the construction cost for the elevated corridor which PMC has chosen to build first but it has not taken into consideration land acquisition charges, shifting of utilities etc which it has put the onus on the PMC. Also, an elevated metro corridor has to go along the road design whereas the underground metro has no such restrictions and therefore the routes will be shorter, thus saving upon money and the network between stations would be more comprehensive and easier to build.''
Civic activist Prashant Inamdar said, "DMRC report also states (Chapter 4, pg 2) that underground metro is preferable over elevated metro if corridor is on busy roads.''
So, what is now required for the consideration of Underground Metro as the elevated metro proposal is already with the state government? Experts stated that, ``there is already a few kilometers of underground metro line planned in the present DPR - all that is required is modification in the plan.'' Corporator Ujwal Keskar who is also keen on a underground metro plans to seal it technically in the parliament of the Pune Municipal Corporation in a day or two before the code of conduct comes into effect for the PMC elections to be held early next year.
(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife. She is also an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She can be reached at [email protected]).
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