The Cabinet Committee on Investment (CCI), according to latest reports, has unlocked 144 stalled infrastructure projects worth Rs 5.27 lakh crore. But experts don't see this reviving the fortunes of the Indian economy owing to the long gestation period of these projects. Moreover, 253 more, with an investment of Rs 12.82 lakh crore, are still stuck for various clearances. The government had set a five-year target of investing $1 trillion in infrastructure by 2017, with half coming from the private sector, in a bid to lift economic growth to 8.4 per cent. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) attributes India's slowdown in large part to infrastructure delays.
However, there is hope against hope. With the second phase of JNNURM around the corner, urban infrastructure will take centrestage this year. Mumbai has led the way in delivering a number of infrastructure projects this year. And as other states follow suit to showcase their upcoming urban infrastructure projects, Garima Pant seeks expert opinion on how metropolitan and regional planning and implementation is the need of the hour while aligning the objectives of the national Urban Transport Policy (NUTP) with the second phase of JNNURM.
With $1 trillion envisaged over the next 10 years in urban development, transport will form a major component. Transport networks form the arteries of the burgeoning cities determining their growth and health. It is projected that India's urban population would grow to about 473 million in 2021 and 820 million by 2051, as against only 285 million in 2001. Hence, cities must not only meet the mobility needs of the current residents but also provide for the needs of those yet to join the urban population, or stare at a scenario where urban transport will find itself in a tight jam soon.
Cities, struggling with expansion amid the huge influx of people, are working overtime to improve their transport systems. Many are betting big on modern monorail and metro rail networks. While urban transport has been one of the focal points of JNNURM's budgets, much more needs to be accomplished in the sector.
According to the Economic Survey of India 2011, The Eleventh Five Year Plan had estimated the total fund requirement for implementation of the target for urban water supply, sewerage and sanitation, drainage, and solid waste management to be Rs 1,29,237 crore and that for urban transport to be Rs 1,32,590 crore. According to estimates based on the City Development Plans (CDPs) prepared by the States under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) launched in 2005-06, the requirements for both urban infrastructure services and urban transport were estimated to be as high as Rs 8,00,000 crore.
But while numbers indicate the magnitude of the existing scenario, what is essentially needed is an integrated approach to infrastructure development that is gradually being achieved. But still, it's presenting an extremely haphazard picture of development. "At present, planning is in silos. For example, we have a framework of Master Plans, a sanitation policy, an urban transport policy, etc., but we need to bring these together and see how to make it all work within our federal framework. The reason this is extremely important is that cities have to play a very important role as engines of growth as our economy goes through significant structural transformation. There is going to be more migration from rural to urban India; urban GDP accounts for about 2/3rd of the total GDP at present, and by 2031 it is expected to constitute 3/4th of the total," says Dr Isher J Ahluwalia, noted author and Chairperson, Board of Governors, the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER), who recently came out with her new book 'Transforming our Cities'.
Ahluwalia, who had also headed the high-powered Expert Committee (HPEC) on Urban Infrastructure in 2011 opines that connectivity across cities and between rural and urban areas is crucial. She adds, "One of the major problems is that even when an area is ready to be treated as urban (as when the census says that this area fulfills all the requirements for it to be called urban), we actually don't put a statutory urban local government there which would be accountable. Such areas are now crying for urban infrastructure. Another very important challenge is that of metropolitan and regional planning and implementation".
Innovative, sustainable and creative strategy of the urbanisation process is required in India where it has just begun, while it's tapering off across the world, suggests Amitabh Kant, CEO and Managing Director, Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor Development Corporation (DMICDC). "India will be doing more urbanisation in the next four to five decades as it has done in the last 5,000 years. Technology and public transportation is the key to sustainable urbanisation," said Kant, further adding that successful public transportation and land monetisation are other important aspects of sustainable urbanisation.
While the conception and implementation of projects under JNNURM has led to significant capacity augmentation and efficiency gains particularly in respect to urban transport, the JNNURM project has high¡lighted several issues and challenges. These range from capacity building at the ULB level to the need for ULBs to become financially self sustaining.
While the first phase of the ambitious urban renewal mission, touted as the single-largest mission-led, reform-linked urban development initiative in India, did manage to achieve a project completion to project approval ratio of 0 in many states, yet it was ultimately reduced to a source of funding for standalone urban infrastructure projects by delinking funding from reforms. "The successor Mission must have the focus on service delivery and not stop at infrastructure. It must also be designed such that reforms are actually enforced and the conditionality is real. Finally, it must be so structured that it should actually encourage leveraging of government funds to attract private finance," says Ahluwalia.
According to the planning commission, the National Urban Transport Policy 2006 calls for increasing the share of public transport in our cities from 22 per cent to 60 per cent. Under the 11th plan, the metro rail network was significantly expanded.
Delhi Metro phase-II and part of Bangalore metro projects were completed and currently, Delhi metro phase-III, extension of Delhi metro in NCR region, Bangalore, Chennai, Kolkata, Mumbai and Hyderabad are under implementation. As reported recently in Project Info, the Planning Commission has outlined an investment of Rs 29,600 crore for BRTS projects across various cities, enabling cost effective mode of transportation. As of now, the government has planned 14 BRTS projects across India, of which, six (Ahmedabad, Delhi, Jaipur, Pune, Rajkot and Vijayawada) are expansion projects, and eight (Bhopal, Hubli-Dharwad, Indore, Kolkata, Naya Raipur, Pimpri-Chinchwad, Surat, Visakhapatnam, Chennai and Ludhiana) come under the new system.
Once completed, these projects will cover 1,141.90 km consisting of 922 stations. BRTS projects are also being planned for Madurai, Tiruchirapalli, Tirupur, Salem and Coimbatoreùall in Tamil Nadu. Under the 12th Plan, provision has been kept for expansion of public transport projects. This includes metro rail projects, Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS), and investment in urban roads, traffic infrastructure etc, which are admissible under JNNURM.
"City size, urban structure and level of development are important determinants of mobility level and pattern in urban areas. At present, public transport provision is not adequate in most large urban areas. In small and medium sized cities public transportation is available in very few of them. Hence comprehensive augmentation of PT is the need of the hour," says Prof HM Shivanand Swamy, Executive Director, Centre of Excellence in Urban Transport (COE-UT), CEPT University, Ahmedabad, the man behind the BRTS planning and design teams of Ahmedabad and Surat.
While projects like Mumbai's T2, Gurgaon metro, monorail in Mumbai and others see the light of day, there are a number of others that are waiting in the wings. And as Suresh Subudhi, Partner & Director, The Boston Consulting Group suggests, "Infrastructure is the sector that will drive future growth. It has to be infrastructure and there are no two ways about it". And the direction that infrastructure will turn to? All wait with baited breath for the new government to take over.
National Urban Transport Policy
To recognise that people occupy centerstage in our cities and all plans would be for their common benefit and well being.
To make our cities the most livable in the world and enable them to become the "engines of economic growth" that power India's development in the 21st century.
To allow our cities to evolve into an urban form that is best suited for the unique geography of their locations and is best placed to support the main social and economic activities that take place in the city.
The objective of the NUTP is to ensure safe, affordable, quick, comfortable, reliable and sustainable access by way of:
Incorporating urban transportation as an important parameter at the urban planning stage.
Encouraging integrated land use and transport planning.
Bringing about a more equitable allocation of road space with people, rather than vehicles, as its main focus.
Encouraging greater use of public transport and non-motorized modes.
Enabling the establishment of quality focused multi-modal public transport systems that are well integrated.