PUNE: Seventeen years after 23 villages were merged with the civic limit, the only growth in these parts has been vertical. Overlooking bad roads are massive real estate projects that have come up despite the lack of basic amenities such as water supply.
It's the same scenario staring at the 34 villages that are proposed to be merged with the civic limits. And with the illegal constructions in these villages all set to get the legal stamp, the Pune Municipal Corporation's challenge to manage them has just got tougher.
Civic officials admit they are struggling to provide amenities in the villages that were merged with PMC in 1997. If Kharadi and Wadgaonsheri are still battling water scarcity, Dhankawadi and Katraj have turned into concrete jungles sans roads and footpaths. The future of these parts appears grim in the absence of a proper development plan.
From a compact five sq km in 1818 to 243.84 sq km today, Pune's transition to becoming the eighth largest metropolitan city in India is the saga of unplanned and haphazard urbanization. The city's limits expanded in 1958 when small pockets of land in parts of then villages of Katraj, Dhankawadi, Lohegaon and Dapodi were added. In 1961, the municipal area was a little over 138 sq km. In 1997, the state government proposed the merger of 38 villages with the PMC, but after protests over land reservations in the draft Development Plan (DP), it delinked 15 villages completely and five partially in October 2001.
"We are confused if we still live in a village or are part of the municipal corporation. Nothing has changed for us, except the property tax has gone higher," says Ram Kate a senior citizen in Dhankawadi.
"The civic body has failed to manage urbanisation in merged villages. These areas are part of Pune corporation limits, but there is no sign of planned development and infrastructure. Many parts have bad roads, insufficient water, and lack of health and education facilities. Hundreds of constructions had come up in these 23 villages when they were slated to merge with the civic limits. The PMC had no idea about how it was going to manage these constructions and still the merger took place," admits deputy mayor Aba Bagul.
Add to the existing civic load hundreds of illegal buildings on Pune's fringes that the PMC will be required to meet the amenity requirements of. But does the civic body have a roadmap ready to manage these illegal constructions?
"Legalising illegal constructions and merger of villages are pure political decisions. Fact is that the PMC is not able to manage even basic services in its existing limits and it would be completely impossible to make provision of basic water, roads, sewage and electricity to buildings which will have a legal tag despite being illegal," said a senior PMC official who is part of the Development Planning process for merged areas.
Officials say the civic body continues to depend heavily on LBT, property tax and development charges for revenue.
"The city has still not achieved 100 % sewage treatment, water supply is falling short, and there are no funds to maintain existing roads and other infrastructure. Amenities are crumbling under population pressure and it is impossible to accommodate more villages," said a civic official in the finance department.
But in fringe villages, builders and developers are selling the "development" dream at per sq ft charges saying that the state government is going to legalise all buildings and the PMC will provide all basic amenities. Thousands of people living in illegal buildings are hoping for the 'legal' tag from the state and then basic amenities from the PMC.
Urban planner Aneeta Benninger Gokhale said that the city was heading towards a major chaos. She added that the PMC, which has failed to implement 1987 development plan for the old city area and has not executed plan for 23 merged villages, will not be able to manage merger and provide amenities to the 34 villages.