Public hearing was a farce, say activists
PUNE’S civic authorities are moving ahead with the metro rail project.
City mayor Mohansingh Rajpal has announced December 12 as the date for laying the project’s foundation stone even as city planners questioned the need for the expensive transport system. A public hearing organised on June 18 to get people’s views on the project was wound up in a hurry after a scuffle broke out between activists opposing the project and the organisers.
“The public hearing was a farce. In spite of repeated requests, we were not allowed to speak. We had to snatch the microphone to voice our concerns,” said Neeraj Jain of Pune non-profit Lokayat. After the meeting, the activists tried to submit written objections. Officials refused to accept them, saying it was an informal meeting. The hearing was called by the mayor and chairperson of the Pune Municipal Corporation’s (PMC) Standing Committee. On June 23, the non-profits organised a protest demanding the project’s scrapping. But the general house of PMC approved the elevated corridor between Vanaz and Ramwadi on June 25.
The standing committee of PMC had accepted the detailed project report prepared by the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) earlier in January. The metro project envisages a network of 75.5 km at a conservative Rs 17,935 crore. Activists claim the cost will go up to Rs 30,000 crore. To begin with, the PMC is going ahead with one of the two routes in phase1.
“The DMRC’s project report clearly states that its objective is to identify the best metro rail corridors in the city. It does not even claim to justify the need for a metro system,” pointed out Parisar, a non-profit working on integrated transport system for the city. It said a project as expensive as this cannot be undertaken without a comprehensive study clearly identifying the need for it. If metro project is implemented without integrating it with other modes of transport, people will not leave their personal vehicles, said Jain. Delhi is facing this problem. Its metro ridership is way below the projected figures (see ‘Carriage of convenience’, Down To Earth, April 2010). International consultancy firm Wilbur Smith and Associates had prepared a comprehensive mobility plan for Pune last year but it is independent of the DMRC report.
This mobility plan is yet to be adopted by the general house of PMC. The Pune Technical Coalition, representing 13 institutions of architects and urban planners, said there are not enough commuters to justify building a metro. Metro can ferry 30,000 to 50,000 people in one hour, whereas the projected figures for the Vanaz-Ramawadi route is 11,000 commuters in 2031.
VKJ Rane, former chief of public sector enterprise IRCON International Ltd, questioned the choice of standard gauge tracks over broad gauge for the project. The capacity of a broad gauge coach is 74 per cent higher; it can be built here 40 per cent cheaper, he said.