By Arya Das
Once the paradise of western India, Pune city, which is a blend of oriental and the wild western culture, has shown all signs of decay in the last 10 years. Unplanned development, industrialisation and population pressure has distorted the city beyond recognition. The skyline, which was once beautiful with green hills and tall sandal wood trees is now defaced with ugly buildings all around. Alongside the buildings are slums, which sprung along with the construction activities. Pune, which was once a pensioners? paradise for its extremely good climate has become an urban ghetto with roads giving way during normal monsoon showers and pollution increasing to hazardous levels. Unreliable public transportation system has resulted in an increase the personal vehicle population in the city to over 15 lakh. Every year nearly one-lakh vehicles are registered in Pune. And the city produces 7.8 lakh tonnes of carbon emission which ranks Pune as one of the eight most-polluted cities in India. Pune city is crumbling under the weight of Mumbai as people move out of Mumbai at the slightest opportunity, to settle in Pune. The flood caused by heavy rains, which choked the dilapidated Mumbai drainage system and killed nearly 500 people has triggered a new debate in Pune. Pune'scivic infrastructure has collapsed too. Its two rivers have become drains, its air is not suitable for breathing and the ground water is heavily polluted.
Until 1992, Pune was one of the most beautiful cities in Asia. In the 90s, industries and the IT sector found Pune attractive. With huge public expenditure, infrastructure was created to lure private investment in industries and IT sectors. Today, the city has become the number one in netting FDI investment in IT sector. Infotech export from the city reaches Rs 6000 crore and domestic sales is at Rs 1000 crore per annum. An estimated two lakh students trans India and abroad come to Pune for IT education. Around 25,790 industries in the city trade to the tune of Rs 30,000 crore per annum and employ two lakh people. More than 65 per cent of the city'spopulation of over 40 lakh works in the unorganised sectors. And for them life becomes hell as they have to travel through the city'spotholed roads, breath hazardous air and pay unreasonably high prices for vegetables and other items. The much-expected benefit from industrial and IT sector growth has not helped the common man.
The industry and IT sector in the city has increased the purchasing power of a miniscule percentage of people who are instrumental in the rising cost of everything. Today the real estate prices are such that they are out of reach of a large percentage of people. The city has witnessed unplanned development, deterioration of roads, power cut for long hours, drinking water shortage and rising costs of basic amenities. The worst hit are the city roads. Many hospitals in the city report an increase in spinal injury during the rainy season. The city authorities, in a desperate step, have made helmet compulsory for two wheeler riders to prevent head injuries.
Pune has suffered a lot due to aggressive construction activities. Many picturesque green hills have disappeared under the pretext of development, which only make a miniscule percentage of people richer. The forest cover in the city has given way to new concrete jungle. Pune city is going to add 100 acres of land around it for construction activities and as per new norms minimum 25 acres of land is required to build a new township. What is the logic behind so much of construction when the civic amenities in the city are in a miserable state? From where will water come when the water table is going down every day due to less seepage of surface water. The concrete area, which covers the soil surface, results in drying up of the water table. Is this a globalisation effect? Wealth and comforts to a few and a hazardous life to the majority of Puneites! It is high time Pune gets back to normalcy.
(The writer can be contacted at E-21, NBRD Colony, 459, Sallisbury Park, Pune-411037.)