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Saturday, September 01, 2018

5 Infra Projects That Could Put Pune Among Global Top Cities

By Ashish Mahajan
Founder, PropStory

Infrastructure is the key to the growth of any city. All major cities of the world continue to thrive as long as there is constant and consistent upkeep, revamping, expansion of or addition to existing infrastructure. In India we see this with Mumbai, Pune, Delhi-NCR, Bangalore and Chennai. Pune in particular has finally stepped out from the shadow of its illustrious sister city Mumbai. The Mumbai-Pune Expressway and subsequent highways, expressways and dedicated rail services initiated the emergence of the city from a town. Since then there has been no looking back, Pune city races at the forefront of development. It is becoming the city of choice for more and more homebuyers, not least because of its status as a tech hub.

However, of late this picturesque, landlocked city has been struggling to cope with rapid population growth. Its public infrastructure and services are sagging under the pressure. Meanwhile, the various municipal bodies as well as associated non-profit and private bodies are engaging more regularly to come up with sustainable solutions. While there are numerous solutions and proposed developments, a few of them are highly discussed and critiqued. These include, but are not limited to the following:

Pune Ring Road:
The proposed Pune Ring Road is one of the most anticipated infrastructure projects in Pune and equally one of the most controversial. There are regular updates about the budget allocation, the total distance it will cover and when the first phase will actually begin. This particular 128 km eight-lane project is expected to do much for Pune city and enhance connectivity, however, it keeps running into land acquisition hurdles. The proposed route will pass through many villages on the outskirts of Pune such as Khed Shivapur, Maval, Kesnand, Wagholi and Pirangut. The Pune Metropolitan Regional Development Authority (PMRDA) tasked with overseeing this ambitious project has to manage the unenviable task of land acquisition. The Ring Road has also become a pet topic on the development platform that every political outfit uses to contest elections.

Pune Metro:
The Pune Metro is a much anticipated mode of mass transit that will be a game changer in how Puneites commute daily. The overused Pune BRTS and terrible daily traffic snarls prompted the initial need for the Metro. Although discussions began in 2008, the final approval was received only in 2016 and on 24 December that year PM Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone. Two lines are being constructed - Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) to Swargate and Vanaz to Ramwadi - by the MAHA-METRO. The first line will be partly elevated and partly underground and second will run on elevated rails. Work is in progress with around 20% of construction completed. The Pune Metro project is expected to be completed in 2021.

Further extensions to these two lines have been proposed such as Line 3 which will run from Hinjawadi to Civil Court and will be completely elevated. It will include numerous major stops such as both phases of Hinjawadi, Wakad and Baner among others and will be a boon to those working in Pune’s IT hub. This project is currently facing land acquisition hurdles.

New Pune Airport
The proposed Chhatrapati Sambhaji Raje International airport at Purandar in Pune has finally received clearance from the Civil Aviation Ministry, however it is expected to be ready only by 2022-23. Meanwhile, the current airport at Lohegaon is grossly over-utilized as passenger traffic grew 20.6% to 8.16 million in fiscal 2017-18, compared to 6.76 million in the previous fiscal, according to AAI data. Even as the current capacity is exhausted there are plans to expand it by adding a new terminal building, solar power system, new checking counters and boarding gates as well as improved passenger amenities. This new expansion of the current airport will see an investment of Rs. 650 crore. Overall, Pune residents can look forward to a revamped airport and a brand new airport as well; something neighbouring city of Mumbai will envy!

Smart City
Pune is one of the 98 smart cities shortlisted for development under the Smart Cities Mission. The Pune Smart City Development Corporation Limited (PSCDCL) SPV was formed to plan and implement specific smart projects in Pune. A number of initiatives that residents can look forward to include better and environment-friendly transport, water, sewage and solar power infrastructure as well as slum rehabilitation. A laudable initiative that the PMC launched is the Public Bicycle Sharing service to encourage more residents to opt for cleaner modes of transport such as bicycles. The Digital Pune Hackathon 2015 was launched to solicit smart solutions to various developmental problems faced by city. A number of such solutions were selected for implementation by various municipal bodies.

Mumbai-Pune Hyperloop
Probably one of the most ambitious projects to ever be considered, the hyperloop route between Mumbai and Pune is expected to reduce travel time from 4 hours to just 20 minutes! Sounds like science fiction? Probably, but the next-gen magnetic levitation technology backs it. The futuristic transport system which envisages transporting people in passenger pods travelling through near-vacuum tubes at speeds faster than that of aeroplanes is still in its infancy. Virgin Hyperloop One demonstrated a prototype in the Nevada desert in December last year which travelled at 240 miles per hour. Despite many experts and critics suggesting that the technology will only be fit for commercial use by 2030, Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis signed an MoU with Virgin Hyperloop One to carry out feasibility tests to build the Mumbai-Pune hyperloop.

In the real estate sector most projects, particularly residential ones are planned around proposed and upcoming infrastructure projects. Personally I have been involved in discussions where developers have been faced with questions from homebuyers regarding such infrastructure. One of the most discussed has been the Ring Road around which numerous projects have been planned or are coming up. Pune has the potential to be one of the top cities of India, especially as the smart projects start yielding sustainable benefits and the metro project and airport expansion reaches completion, however, better implementation and focus on adhering to timelines is required. Meanwhile, Pune continues to grow beyond most pundits’ ability to predict.

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