The Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC), which is on a spree to construct flyovers and new roads to solve the city’s traffic problems, will have to reconsider its strategy if it wants Pune to be a part of the ‘Smart City’ programme planned by the Centre.
The Union urban development (UD) minister Venkaiah Naidu has asked civic bodies willing to participate in the central government’s ambitious plan to do away with strategies that encourage usage of private vehicles. In a communique to the state governments, the UD minister has stated that the public transport and non-motorised transport should be on top of the agenda and local governing bodies must start working towards making cities congestion-free using sustainable solutions.
The central government’s directions come at a time when the PMC and local politicians are strongly batting for a new road network, widening of roads and a series of new flyovers across the city. City NGOs have repeatedly objected to the move and have pointed out that politicians are more interested in the tendering and bidding system which involves massive amount of money.
“Smart cities do not just mean building skyscrapers, constructing glossy buildings and constructing wide roads for private vehicles to zoom up and down. We intend to promote ‘walk to work living’, use of public transport instead of private transport,” said Naidu. The government in its draft has stated that it was not against all proposals of road widening, but the civic bodies must keep in mind that this was not a sustainable answer to the problem of traffic congestion in cities. The government has hinted that there should be a simultaneous and effective disincentivization on use of the personal automobiles.
“Ease of being able to move from one place to another is at the core of the smart city plan. Seoul, Singapore, Yokohama and Barcelona (all considered smart cities) have a sound transport system as the core of their “smartness”. The transport system emphasizes on walking, cycling and public transport as primary means for mobility with personal motor vehicles being actively discouraged. In fact, smart cities lay considerable emphasis on walkability in cities. The pedestrian is given a place of prominence as every trip has a leg that involves walking,” states the government’s note on smart city scheme.
City MP Anil Shirole said that the proposal submitted by the Pune city for its inclusion in the ‘Smart City’ programme has given thrust on public transport. “We completely agree with the central government’s idea of promoting public and non-motorised transport. In fact, the city BJP leaders and MLAs have approached the state government seeking assistance to improve the city’s bus service” said Shirole.
PMC’s standing committee chairman Bapu Karne said that the civic body was providing all support to the PMPML. “Recently, the PMC allocated funds to the PMPML and the PMCs plans to improve traffic situation in the city are in consonance with that of the central government’s plan,” he said.