Development Plan for Pune 2007-2027 – A 6 Point Agenda for Modifications

All Punekars are aware that the buzz is afoot to sanction the Development Plan for the city of Pune in 2013, almost 6 years late! The Plan is now published and open for citizens’ suggestions / modifications which need to be filed before 27 April 2013.

In one DP related meeting held by Sajag Nagrik Manch and Parivartan, very relevant and critical issues were raised. The most important one from the citizen’s side was, if the Government has been taking its time preparing the Development Plan for the past 6 years, why this sudden rush to finish off the process of citizens’ suggestions and objections? Are 30 days, effectively only 22 (considering the holidays), enough for the citizens to access the Development Plan, possibly print it out,  locate their own neighborhoods and land holdings and actually see what kind of reservations, if any, are placed that will either benefit/not benefit them in their day-to-day lives and take formal objection with the Government, if not? And, almost all these enthusiastic citizens who will do the above exercise will be full time working professionals and/or extremely busy working mothers who will have to expend evening hours in accomplishing this in time. So I think, we need to question, whether the Government really is facilitating the process of Public Participation or  is this just a gesture of tokenism?

Further to the above, I raised 6 technical points in the DP that really needs closer scrutiny and without a rethought to these, I predict, a major lowering of Quality of Life in our beloved city.

Point no. 1: Proposed Land use Allocation does not follow UDPFI Guidelines
The Urban Development Plan Formulation and Implementation (UDPFI) Guidelines are formulated by Government of India based on empirical studies across Indian cities. So it gives a fair idea as to what is commonly observed in Indian cities today and what are fair benchmarks to be followed for Planning in Indian cities.  In the Proposed Land use of Pune’s DP, we see a Commercial Land use allocation of 1.38%, down from 2.54% in the Existing Land use survey carried out in 2007 and seriously falls short of the UDPFI Guideline of 4-5%. So, with commercial spaces available in shortage, I predict that it will fuel Informal Commercial activity in the city, leading to other issues like footpath encroachment and street crowding.

Secondly, if we compare the Residential land use allocation in 1987 DP (36.55%), Existing Land use Survey of 2007 (20.48%) and the Proposed DP (32.11%), we see a very interesting trend. Why wasn’t the allocated residential land use in 1987 DP implemented by 2007? So when we say that we need to have a 35% residential land use allocation in the city (as per UDPFI), we need to take a review of why current residential land did not getting developed in the past 20 years, instead of carving out more and more land for residential land use in the Proposed DP?

Thirdly, the land use allocation for Recreational Area is a dismal 6.9%. It was about 9.8% in the DP of 1987 and during the Existing land use survey it was found to be just about 6.89%. So, one, it shows a dismal performance of the Municipal administration to acquire Open Space reservations. Second, all the land use allocation since 1987 for Recreational Spaces is very very low compared to the UDPFI guideline of 15%-20%. The guideline states that about 10-12 sqm of recreational open space is required per person. With simple arithmetic, the 6.9% land use and the current population of 26 lakhs within Pune city, we know that it is about 4 sq m per person. Further, as we will have this Plan valid till 2027, we are surely going to see the city’s population rise to 40 lakhs. Then, this Recreational Open Space comes down to a mere 1.25 sqm per person. This means End of Playgrounds and Gardens for our children in our city!

Lastly, the land use allocation for Traffic and Transportation as per UDPFI is about 15% and Pune’s current DP gives this allocation to about 15.25%. However, its important to know that in the Existing Land use Survey, it is found that about 15% of Pune is already under roads! So, when we are shouting at the top of our voices demanding Public Transport, a dismal 0.25% land use is being allocated to bus depots, bus transits and other transport infrastructure essential to have a good public transportation system!

Point no.2: 4.0 FSI in Metro Influence Zone
It is quite apparent that Pune does not qualify to become a city that can sustain a Metro. It just doesn’t have the size, the density nor the geographical spread to justify investment in a Metro. Where Bus Public transport is in a loss and  Punekars are still addicted to private vehicle ownership, area we really in a position to move to a Metro? Pune’s fascination wioth private vehicle is rightly so, because even today it makes sense to use a car or a two wheeler in most parts of the city as there is parking available and congestion is only during peak times. This will change now that the city is spreading itself in all directions. So a Metro will be actually required to connect the outer areas of Pune to the inside core city of Pune, where people would be serviced with a good, reliable bus transport. But, we now have the Metro in our dreams criss crossing the inner city and hence the DP has aligned a Metro Influence Zone – 500 m on either side of the Metro track. This Zone will have a 4.0 FSI! The logic that is given to us is that for Metro to financially sustain itself, we need good urban density. Hence we need to build more and so more people will stay along the Metro and thereby use it. The fallacy of this argument is that we will begin increasing the density from next year, but the Metro will materialise, if it ever will, only after a good 20 years! This is a classic examples of what we say in Marathi, “nale sathi ghoda vikat ghene”. So a city that can sustain itself on a bus transport system, is deliberately being pushed into developing a Metro and making provisions for high real estate to get developed in the core area of the city. Further, the DP, does not, in any section of its document, present a plan for making available water and waste management services to this mass of urban density that we will see emerging in central part of Pune.

Point no.3:  Loss of Heritage due to proposed Cluster Development

The Cluster Development strategy is typically used by Planners to de-congest areas and open up lands for gardens, parks and other civic amenities. But where and how to use this strategy is very critical. The Proposed DP proposes to implement the Cluster Development Policy in the heritage core of the city. While norms have been laid down to protect ‘listed’ Heritage structures, what will happen to the overall social and architectural fabric of the inner core city. The Cluster Development Policy will allow amalgamation of small plots into a large plot and allow 70m heights to buildings on these plots, which can come up leaving only a 5m margin space next to a heritage wada structure. Further, this kind of incentivization is not guaranteeing that land will get opened up for recreational use by residents in the inner core, because as tall buildings come up, we will see ‘podium’ being constructed, covering the entire plot to accommodate the high parking norms laid down by the Development Control Rules. As a Cluster Development Policy should, this policy does not seem to de-congest the inner core, but just incentivising demolition of our architectural heritage to make way for new, shiny buildings!

Point no. 4: Incentivized Parking Structures which are against the policy to promote Public Transport

In every city around the world, where we see efficient use of Public Transportation by citizens, we will find that the city has made it more and more difficult and expensive to use and park private vehicles. Only when this happens, people are induced to shift to Public Transport for the larger good of the city. To make it difficult for a private vehicle, its important to de-incentivize 1. smooth passage on the roads, which is automatically achieved in cities today due to congestion and 2. by making parking exceedingly costly and difficult to find.  Stockholm, London, New York, Singapore, Hong Kong are classic examples, where we find that parking of private vehicles is kept in short supply and made more expensive. But Pune’s proposed DP is actually talking about encouraging public transport and incentivizing parking in the city in the same breath!  Further, building of parking structures is not only an eye sore, because they look ugly, but they also tend to attract anti-social elements and become havens for illegal activities in cities. Do we want these to come up at corners of our neighborhoods?

Point 5: No incentive given for Redevelopment of the urban middle class housing

Pune city core will demand redevelopment of old housing stock, particularly of urban middle class who have occupied their ownership tenements in Pune since past 25-30 years. Now with changing rules of real estate, its only fair that this section of the middle class, who have saved every penny and invested in apartments are now allowed to ‘enlarge’ their homes to meet the demands of a growing family. These are the very industrious, extremely diligent tax payers of the city. But while the DP incentivizes Slum Housing, who are actually located illegally on encroached lands, offers no incentives for the middle class, tax payers of the city! For any middle class housing redevelopment, citizens will have to pay heavy Premium charges to be able to dream of having a slightly larger home in the same place that they have stayed for past 30 years! The only option, for them, to owning a larger home, will be to uproot themselves and shift to the newer housing areas like Baner and Aundh!

Point 6: The DP does not set its sight on 2027 and beyond

In many ways, the proposed DP for Pune does not seem to be addressing the future at all. The DP absolutely lacks vision in terms of anticipating future problems and making policy level provisions for these. Just a simple example is we have a massive issue of construction and debris waste in Pune. But no land reservation is allocated to such kind of requirement where we can effectively address recycling in the city. No policy is geared up to address city level energy generation. Shouldn’t a city like Pune plan on becoming a Copenhagen, where 20% of its energy is generated by the city on rooftops by solar PVs and wind turbines? So while, we are unrealistically planning the Metro, which indirectly just promotes real estate development, there seems to be no vision of where Pune really wants to reach in the next 20 years and what will be the demands of Punekars in 2027 and if this DP 2007-2027 really provides a broad policy framework to address 2027 and beyond?

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