Wednesday, January 21, 2015

PUNE METRO - A Case of “Biting” Off More Than You Can “Chew”?

I wrote this post in June 2012, when the Pune Metro was approved/announced.

In typical laid-back “Puneri” style  nothing much has happened since then.

However, there are some murmurs in the media about a difference of opinion about the Pune Metro – should it be elevated – or should it be underground?

I suggest a third option – why not scrap the Pune Metro metro – and if the powers-that-be are hell bent on building a metro in Pune  why not have the Metro on a “ring route?

I wrote this more than two and half years ago, in June 2012  and it holds good even today  since, like I said above  nothing much has happened since then.

So, here is the post once again as food for thought. 

Ramblings of a Retired Mind

Pune was once a lovely city – a salubrious pensioner’s paradise with a laid back culture. 

Pune had a distinct charm – both parts of it – the “city” which was the Oxford of the East and the cantonment or “camp” – verdant, spacious, well-laid out.

I don’t know why the powers-that-be are hell bent on ruining the charm of Pune. 

First they “industrialized” Pune.

Then they made it an “IT Hub”  and an “Auto Cluster”.

Now they think they can make it a “metro” by building a metro (pun intended).  

Try as you may, it is difficult to suddenly change the culture of a place – especially Pune’s laid back culture. 

It seems the planners haven’t learnt their lessons from past infrastructure debacles and those who don’t learn from history are condemned to repeat it.

Let’s take a few examples.

The ambitious BRTS (Bus Rapid Transport System) is an unmitigated disaster. 

This grand public transportation project was supposed to be a panacea for transportation ills which would solve Pune’s transport and traffic problems and be a boon for commuters. 

More than 10 years have passed, the BRTS is still incomplete, and has proved to be a massive failure with huge amount of public money gone down the drain. 

Further, the PMPML Bus System which operates the BRTS is so inefficient that public transport has become a curse for commuters – a bane rather than a boon. 

Someone said that the BRTS is successful in Ahmedabad 
 but then Pune is not Ahmedabad.

Likewise the Metro Railway may have been successful in Delhi 
 but then Pune is not Delhi.

Pune has its own pace of work, especially as far as infrastructure is concerned. 

Roads are dug up for months without end as repairs and the never-ending road widening work goes on endlessly. 

To cite an example, road widening work on a 100 metre stretch of road from Wakad Chowk to the Hinjewadi Flyover is going on for more than 3 years with no signs of completion in the near future and the road is dug up again and again causing traffic congestion, danger and inconvenience to everyone. 

Road widening (for BRTS) from Aundh to Chinchwad and Hinjewadi (a 10 Km stretch of road) started more than 5 years ago and is progressing at snail’s pace with the end nowhere in sight. 

The “prestigious” Baner Road built for the Commonwealth Youth Games is still incomplete in patches.

We have even forgotten when these Commonwealth Youth Games were held – maybe it was more than 6 years ago. 

Pune does not have a civilian airport and depends on the air force airport for operating civil domestic flights (for international flights you have to go to Mumbai). 

Plans for constructing a civilian international airport were conceived more than 10 years ago but these still remain on paper. 

Meanwhile, in much less time, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Kochi (Cochin) were able to create world-class international airports.

Unlike other cities, Pune is not geared up to take on large infrastructure projects. 

In Pune, things move slowly in quite a laid-back lackadaisical haphazard fashion.

Before embarking on a flight of fancy like a Metro Rail, it is time to do a reality check. 

If you are a Punekar, tell me, in your wildest imagination, do you think it is possible to complete the proposed Pune Metro Railway Project in 5 years? 

Don’t you think it is better to first complete the unfinished work on ongoing infrastructure projects like BRTS and Road Widening and focus in vital issues like improving Water and Electricity Supply instead of indulging in flights of fancy and building castles in the air and wasting resources on unfeasible, unviable, ambitious pipe-dreams like the Pune Metro.

I shudder to think of the scenario if and when construction work starts on the Pune Metro – Debris, Pollution, Obstructions, Dug-up Roads, Disruption of Telephone, Electricity and Water Services due to the digging, Traffic Chaos due to diversions – it will be a terrible nuisance and the inconvenience will be awful, and from past experience of Pune, the work will go forever endlessly till eternity. 

They want to make crisscross metro lines right through the crowded congested city from Kothrud to Kharadi and from Katraj to Chinchwad. 

Tell me, is it practically feasible to easily implement such a mammoth and difficult work on ground in these densely populated areas? 

Just imagine the chaos it will cause. 

And will the Metro Railway really benefit a majority of Punekars and will it actually lead to de-congestion of traffic on roads? 

Has any study been done on this as to how many people will actually use the metro rail on the routes planned and are the routes planned really optimal. 

If you are determined to build a metro in Pune, why not have a “ring route connecting Hinjewadi, Katraj, Kondhwa, Hadapsar, Mundhwa, Kharadi, Wagholi, Talegaon, Hinjewadi with feeder bus services into the city.

Though it is claimed that the Pune Metro will be completed in 5 years, we know from past experience that it may even take more than 25 years 
– and even then the work may not be fully complete.

In Pune, there is a penchant for leaving work incomplete and sometimes it seems that there are vested interests who benefit from these inordinate delays since time overruns result in concomitant cost overruns too.

So let us not bite off more than we can chew. 

Dear Powers-that-be:

Let Pune be as it is. 

No more “modernization” and development  please. 

This so-called “modernization” and development has already caused enough damage.

For example, the season of winter has disappeared in Pune. 

Rainfall has reduced with every passing year. 

Before taking up ambitious ventures, let us tackle the existing problems first (water scarcity, electricity shortage, terrible traffic and pathetic public transport).

Let us not take up more than we can deliver.

Let us not bite off more than we can chew. 

Why embark on ambitious projects like the Pune Metro which may take many years to fructify and may not be of much use in mitigating problems.

Let us deploy our resources on making Pune a better place to live in as it is here and now.

Please let Pune be as it is. 

With each passing day of “modernization” and development Pune is dying.

Do not kill Pune  but please try to revive it. 

If you want a modern cosmopolitan metropolitan city why not build a new satellite city nearby with state-of-the-art facilities, amenities and infrastructure (like airport, transport, roads, metro and what have you) or townships planned in advance. 

Yes, if all these IT Firms had built townships for their employees within their campuses we would not have this huge traffic problem and dense concrete jungles in the city of Pune. 

In Pune, where there is no place left to build infrastructure, the best way to solve the transportation problem is to minimize the need for transportation by building “walk to work townships and satellite self-contained suburbs. 

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All stories in this blog are a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the story are a figment of my imagination. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

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