by Akash Pharande, Managing Director – Pharande Spaces
Urban planning is indispensable for sustainable development. The main idea behind urban planning is always a change for the better, to achieve this change with better use of municipal budgets, and to invest in future-ready infrastructure and citizen services.
It is not just about the growth of a city – it is also about protecting the environment amid growth, enabling economic progress, and providing current and future generations of citizens a more vibrant, healthy, and convenient living experience.
One significant aspect of good urban planning is the reasonable division of economic development in the city. Economic activity should not happen only in some parts of the city but across the territory, in accordance with the skill sets and requirements of hyper-local populations.
In a city like Pune, we see different kinds of industries and businesses distributed across the city. One of the major objectives of good urban planning is to ensure that local populations have ready access to the resources they need to carry on their livelihoods.
Therefore, urban planning is about better collaboration while also providing a more robust basis for cooperation between municipal authorities, private-sector companies, and citizens.
In the Pune Municipal Region and Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation, the authority in charge of urban planning is the PMRDA (Planning and Development Authority for the Pune Metro Region). PMRDA has been at the forefront of driving the urban transformation of these two regions. It does so via a multi-faceted approach.
· Driving organized growth
Going from past experiences with unorganized developments, it is certain that Pune must henceforth be developed in an orderly and scientific way. The city must be ready to predict and meet the needs of its citizens. This means improving its livability, helping citizens to earn their livelihoods, and ensuring it is well-connected to other key cities so that economic exchange is seamless and uniformly beneficial.
· Preparing for the future
We are all aware of the problems Pune has been facing over the past few decades. There is a shortage of parking spaces, water distribution is not adequate to meet the needs of all areas, air pollution and traffic jams are enormous problems, and the core areas are congested and almost unliveable.
PMRDA is creating the necessary infrastructure and reducing the impact of past mistakes in urban planning – or rather, the lack of it. Another aspect of future-preparedness is digitizing all processes and records, ensuring a smoother flow of information and decision-making.
· Appointing the right leadership
Above everything else, the leaders of urban planning authorities must work to improve existing processes. Even the most conscientious and hard-working committee members cannot make the necessary improvements if they lack proper training and background. Many urban planning functions these days are driven by technology and must be discharged by people with consummate knowledge and skills. One of PMRDA’s primary focus areas is to identify and empower leaders with such skill-sets and training.
· Creating a timeline and roadmap for change
There are many deep-rooted problems with the way urbanization was carried out in Pune in the past. The damage caused by wrong decisions, bureaucratic red tape and corruption cannot be rectified overnight. PMRDA uses the correct approach of modern urbanization – first, identify the main problem areas, then formulate solutions, and finally implement these solutions in a workable time frame. Two good examples of such planning and execution in action are the Pune Metro and the Pune Ring Road, both massive undertakings requiring adequate planning.
· Expanding Pune’s territory
Naturally, an integral part of urban growth is territorial growth. Only by expanding its borders can a city accommodate increased economic activity that enables prosperity for all stakeholders. Pune has already absorbed several previously rural areas into its urban framework. However, as we have seen, many of these areas still lack the necessary social and civic infrastructure to improve liveability and encourage economic growth. One of PMRDA’s most essential tasks is to ensure that Pune’s expanding borders do not result in infrastructure deficit in the newly-merged areas.
· Make every citizen an active stakeholder in urban planning
Communication is an essential aspect of good urban growth. Citizens must be aware of what is happening in their city and why and how it is happening. In the past, the only way Pune citizens came to know about changes to their city was via limited information obtained from newspapers.
In this day and age, where most people own smartphones, the flow of communication can be hugely improved. PMRDA has made adequate communication via app-based technology a priority on its urban planning agenda. Citizens must be sufficiently informed of what changes are taking place in their city and how they will ultimately benefit.
All change invariably sees opposition from those who benefit from things not changing. Unfortunately, this attitude has been a significant hurdle on Pune’s path of progress. The announcement that the PMRDA has been appointed as the authority to formulate Pune’s development plan (DP) has been highly politicized. However, Pune cannot afford to remain permanently in the past.
Progress requires change – and a forward-looking vision of how the city must evolve in the future. Let us empower and support the agents of change which will help our city to prosper and grow.
Akash Pharande is Managing Director – Pharande Spaces, a leading real estate construction and development firm famous for its township properties in West Pune. Pharande Promoters & Builders, the flagship company of Pharande Spaces and an ISO 9001-2000 certified company, is a pioneer of townships in West Pune.