Pune’s Metro – What will happen to Pune and Punekars?

“The Metro will pass along the road right next to my bungalow. Will my property rate rise or fall? Can I continue staying at my bungalow with my family? Or will this mean that I need to redevelop, amalgamate with four other neighboring plot owners and build a commercial building on this property?

While trying to answer these questions, I was suddenly overcome with a feeling that while I have been so engrossed speaking about the Metro, its technical implications (Elevated or Underground) and about the densification of the city due to 4.0 FSI, what had remained completely unaddressed by me, were the socio-economic implications of a Metro on a middle class Punekar!
I will attempt to write this blog post demystifying some of the myths and presumptions of having a Metro in Pune and its direct relevance to a life of a Punekar. For the time being, I will keep aside all of my objections to the Metro and discuss this subject, hopefully as unbiased as I can.
Lets take an example of the Metro’s first proposed alignment – from Vanaz, in Kothrud to Ramwadi in Viman nagar. This line will pass on elevated tracks, about 20 meters (approx. at the level of 6th or 7th floor of a building. See photograph at the end) above Karve Road, on large columns that will be placed at the centre of the road. The total expenditure of the Metro will be shared as Pune will have to generate about 10% of the total cost, the State Government will grant about 20%, the Central Government will assist by an additional 20% and the remaining 50% will be made available through loans and other financing mechanisms. To generate the 10%, Pune has proposed a 4.0 FSI in the Metro Influence Corridor, where property owners will have to buy additional FSI at a premium rate to consume 4.0 FSI. Of course, not all properties can avail the 4.0 FSI. The plot size will have to be at least 20,000 sq ft to be able to get permission to build with 4.0 FSI.
There are two things that are to be achieved through the mechanism of 4.0 FSI. One, is to generate money for the Metro and other Metro allied development and second, is to increase the population density (number of people living in an unit area) close to the Metro line, so that there will be a chance that more people will use the Metro. So, if you have a property in the Metro Influence Zone, there are two sides to the coin of development that you will see in the next 20 years. One side, is that, if you have a property less than 20,000 sq ft and wish to redevelop your property for commercial gain, you will have to start talking to your neighbors (or get a Developer to do it), amalgamate adjoining plots to form a plot size greater than 20,000 sq ft and plan a Residential cum Commercial building on it, which will consume 4.0 FSI. Of course, to be able to consume this FSI, you will also need adequate road width abutting your plot, there should be adequate water supply, drainage infrastructure and waste management systems as these will be pre-requisites for getting State Environmental Clearance for large projects (more than 20,000 sq m built up area).  Second side is that, if you already own a plot size large enough and have wide roads adjoining your property, you will effectively see a surge in your property value.

So effectively, I see few things happening in the city of Pune:
1. All constraints of amalgamation, investment and environmental clearances prohibits the property owner from using the available 4.0 FSI, which will mean that the plan to densify the city for the Metro will fail. There is a Cess that will be levied on properties that will fail to redevelop after the work on Metro has started. So, with the Cess amount and the additional FSI premium consumed by some property owners, the Pune Municipal Corporation will generate enough for the Metro kitty.
2. For lucrative properties which will be economically attractive to redevelopment, we may find that property owners are unduly coerced to sell or amalgamate or redevelop their property when they don’t want to. The creation of a Land Mafia, could be one of the potential outfalls of this.
3. For home owners who currently reside in bungalow units along the Metro zone, it will mean that it is an end of an era of single homes and your options will be either to redevelop, stay in the same place in a new residential cum commercial building or move outside the city for bungalows or suburban apartments.
4. We will see massive 4.0 FSI redevelopment in pockets of the city along the Metro, without really adequate civic amenities like water supply and drainage or parks and primary schools.
5. Further, if such a  massive built space creation happens in reality, I wonder if any studies have been conducted to see its impact on Pune’s housing market, its migration pattern and its employment trends. If we are to attract so many ‘outside’ citizens to Pune to densify the city, for each formal job addition, we will see 5-6 more jobs in the informal sector. So, with inadequately proposed land for EWS Schemes, this formal housing/commercial space will create informal housing or Slums all over the city at a very fast rate that we have ever seen. So, the hills that Punekars want to save as an environmental resource, will end up getting dotted with slums.
6. Once the Metro construction begins on its alignment, the additional density and the congestion will reach the zenith for some time till the construction work progresses. Punekars should pray that thsi construction goes smoothly, or any land acquisition mired in a legal battle will mean that this period of Metro construction extends beyond the estimated and causes havoc with the traffic situation in Pune.
7. Once the Metro is up and running,  we will have a great mass transit that traverses the city. But this will have to be integrated with an effective bus transport system and even rickshaws to really make Punekars use the Metro instead of their private cars or two wheelers. If this does not happen, then once again Punekars may revert back to using their two wheelers for their daily commute.

Having laid down multiple options here, it is important to ask at this point, whether any studies have been done to assess the above ‘scenarios’ of socio-economic impact on the city and its citizens. If not, whether you support or oppose the Metro, we citizens should unite in demanding from the civic administration relevant studies and analyses before going further with any plans, proposals or projects that they feel are “good” for the city! Or once again, like a badly designed BRTS, Punekars will end up with a ill-designed Metro that does nothing for the city or its citizens.

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