A lack of institutional arrangements for systematic planning and management has resulted in poor urban infrastructure, laments Dr S L Dhingra, economist at IIT Mumbai
T he key issue to be sorted out is that urban infrastructure in India lacks institutional arrangement for systematic planning and management. If we have to improve the quality of urban life we necessarily need to think of a total transformation of urban infrastructure viz. clean and green transportation system without the attendant basic problems of congestion, delays, safety, pollution and parking - where movement is a pleasure rather than a pain. Then we also need to think of a host of other must haves: slum free affordable housing near jobs, safe water, assured power, engineered waste processing and disposal, clean air and of course security. I am of the view that provision of efficient affordable, safe/secure and eco-friendly transportation must be treated as the social responsibility of the local bodies. The budget for this type of transportation infrastructure may cost 75 to 85 per cent of the total infrastructure cost. One mode of transportation may not meet the need of all the movements in the city particularly in the mega and metropolitan cities. For the tropical climate the transportation system has to be eco-friendly, air-conditioned, integrated mullti-modal mass transit with very convenient and comfortable accessibility and transferability at the change.
Developing countries like India have experienced the greatest growth rates in motor vehicles since the past few years which raises concerns related to congestion, safety, pollution and parking in urban areas thus affecting the cost and capacity of the public transit system in urban areas. One of the popular solutions for these problems is planning and implementation of mass rapid transit system (MRTS) integrated with the remaining mass transits and intermediate public transits. The main alternative MRT systems are bus lane, bus rapid transit (BRT), mono rail and metro railway system. Whatever the options preferred there is a very important qualification.
The main transportation system must have equal or may be better feeder system which is fully integrated in every sense (same ticket also) with the mother transportation system. The feeder system in turn must have proper connectivity by means of non-motorised sub-feeder system or safe and eco-friendly walk. Parking facilities at each of the transfer stations/points must be easily/affordably available.
It is very good that ten years back we took a decision to start developing infrastructure at three different levels - urban, regional and rural. Obviously the emphasis is there on the development of the transportation sector. An example of that is in Mumbai. The Maharashtra government has coined a word "Mumbai Total Transformation Projects" for its development scheme. Out of that 85 per cent of the cost is on transportation. That is the importance being given. In the case of the rural development of transportation we are doing a wonderful job through the Pradhan Mantri Grameen Sadak Yojana(PMGSY). At the regional level our planning has centred on expressways, rail connections, the freight corridors, port connectivity - there we have seen some forward movement. Next we have the urban centres. The main thing there is any user will ask for an integrated multi-modal, eco friendly mass transit system. I have to say that such a thing doesn't exist now - it is a dream.
We are mainly dependent on the Public Private Partnership mode which at the moment is in a bit of confusion. The point is we are going for very large infrastructure projects where the viability gap funding is very huge. So that leads to some uncertainty and more of risk which doesn't seem to enthuse the private sector. The government must see that conditions exist by which the project becomes feasible for the private sector by providing viability gap funding - otherwise the private sector will not come. The other is we need to be rid of bureaucratic inefficiency, making procedures and clearances simpler and faster.
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