PUNE: While most of the metro cities are dealing with the problems of increasing urbanisation and the load on the land and infrastructure has led to several issues, there are cities like Pune, which seem to be learning from the mistakes of these metro cities and the late-movers’ advantage seems to be helping the city grow holistically, in terms of its real estate developments and infrastructure issues. What makes the case of Pune even more unique and the reason why it is rated as better than the four established metros, is the fact that the social infrastructure has gradually been shaping up well in the city, to complement the physical infrastructure.
So, why is Pune being rated as the best bet to be considered as a metro city? What is it in Pune that gives it a cutting edge vis-à-vis the existing metro cities? Will Pune overtake other metro cities in terms of investment, opportunity cost and overall liveability index? These are some of the questions that are often being asked when Pune is referred to as the city that should get the tag of India’s fifth metro city.
According to a report by ASSOCHAM on ‘The 7th emerging metro city in India’, Pune will soon acquire the status of being a metropolitan city in India. It owes its upgradation to the fast development pace in the area of infrastructural facilities, a friendly business environment, education avenues and employment opportunities. Contributing factors include the high real estate prices and a large population base, as compared to other upcoming cities. The existing infrastructure in Pune, is considered to be better than most other Indian cities, in some sectors and micro markets.
However, what makes the quality of life better in the city, is the fact that along with the physical infrastructure, the social infrastructure of Pune has been developing at a fast-pace too. There have been various new establishments of health facilities, educational facilities and public amenities. Social infrastructure in Pune is better than any known city of this size in the country. Does it mean then that Pune has already overshadowed Mumbai? Not really, as the developers and analysts have some concerns that need to be addressed in the city, as far as its overall growth trajectory and direction is concerned.
Manju Yagnik, vice-chairperson, Nahar Group, feels that there are often comparisons made between the infrastructure of Mumbai and Pune. The popular consensus seems to be that both cities are equally challenged as far as supportive infrastructure is concerned. This is inappropriate, as Mumbai’s growth pattern has been very different from the organised growth of Pune. “The city has evolved into the country’s financial capital and the pressures on it are enormous and overwhelming, considering the fact that a significant part of it is an island that cannot grow horizontally to accommodate the growing real estate demands. Pune, on the other hand, has an advantage by virtue of the fact that it has been able to add to its borders by means of surrounding villages. This has served to decrease pressure on the central city and encourage an outward growth pattern,” says Yagnik.
Kishor Pate, CMD, Amit Enterprises Housing, maintains that the ratio of social infrastructure to physical infrastructure in Pune, differs significantly according to the areas. In most of the central areas, rudimentary social infrastructure outweighs the physical infrastructure, though its quality tends to be of a lower degree. Malls, cinemas, jogger’s parks and modern hospitals, are made available in the newer areas, where land availability and better proactive urban planning made them possible.
“It is true that a lot of the traditional areas of Pune have not had the benefit of holistic urban growth. However, areas that developed later on, have followed a better pattern and offer a lifestyle experience that none of the MRR regions do – with the possible exception of hyper-expensive south Mumbai. The reason is that housing demand in Pune is still driven by the preferences of end-users, while most of Mumbai, has been developed purely on speculative demand. Pune is constantly adding new areas for development while Mumbai is severely constricted in this respect,” explains Pate.
Arvind Jain, managing director, Pride Group, however, differs, vis-a-vis Pune’s infrastructure excellence, as he explains that urban planning is not a term we would normally associate with a city like Pune. According to him, real estate development in this city has been taking place in an unplanned manner. Developers acquire plots according to their financial capacities and fill them to the maximum possible (or permissible) extent, with saleable spaces.
“Building designs and construction quality vary widely, again depending on each developer’s financial ability or willingness to invest in these factors of construction. This is urbanisation at its worst. While constructing buildings is definitely an integral part of making an area inhabitable, such a haphazard approach leads to multiple long-term challenges. In the first place, most of the open spaces that are so necessary for harmonious and healthy city life, are consumed,” says Jain.
Anil Pharade, chairman, Pharande Spaces, also feels that in cities like Pune, property buyers have no choice but to turn a blind eye to the absence of sufficient infrastructure. He agrees that the developers are aware of the fact that they will face numerous inconveniences but they are helpless.
“Many opt to buy projects that boast of compensatory measures to overcome the infrastructure deficit. However, no matter in how many ways Pune’s developers compensate for the lack of civic infrastructure, they cannot add more than a token patch of landscaped lawn, by ways of natural ambience,” says Pharande.
Developers may be having their own issues and concerns with the direction in which the city of Pune is growing. However, most of the analysts and urban planners agree that despite these challenges, Pune has definitely showcased a better model of urban planning than most of the other cities. It has not only learnt from the mistakes of Mumbai but at the same time, has been benefitted as the late mover, in terms of fast-paced urban growth.
There are obvious reasons why urban planners from many other cities are looking curiously at Pune today.