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Scaling the urban ladder

Scaling the urban ladder

The thought of equipping the Indian cities with both basic and modern amenities has gradually become a prime agenda. However, a collaborative endeavour is yet to be seen.

Rapid urbanisation has brought in a sling of progressive measures from the policy-makers. A transition has to set in to accommodate such exponential growth in the urban population. Seamless connectivity in the form of improved bus services, introduction of ´bullet trains´, or proliferation in the mass rapid transit system has emerged as a pre-requisite in this regard.

The operational metro rail systems and the proposed ones are slated to assume a pivotal role in the Indian urban transportation system, though the metro rail corridors are yet in an incipient stage of development. Though the government is taking steps to facilitate the sector´s momentum, funding dichotomy continues to prevail. The PPP model is being furthered on account of improvement in quality, cost, and efficiency of a given infrastructure service to the citizens; involving the public-private sharing of the financial burden. However, the private sector borrowing cost being higher than the government borrowing is a major impinging factor.

The risk allocation between the public party and the private party needs to be more rational. The success of the PPP projects necessitate the government to ensure that all lands and right of way are acquired and given to the private player in a time-bound manner. It is a pre-requisite for the Indian Government to create a level playing field for the public sector and the private sector- extending all the benefits to the private players, such as cheaper loans, tax exemptions, etc.

Funding apart, land acquisition, acquiring right of way, and the efficiency of the implementing agency, are some of the other roadblocks in the smooth execution of the metro rail projects. The government has to play a proactive role in exterminating these issues by ushering in better management and an effective monitoring system for enhanced checks and controls. It has to be in the vanguard of policy formulation and implementation as well as reformation, where necessary.

Another significant aspect of modern cities is effective water and wastewater management. Water being a depleting resource, awareness regarding deteriorating quantity and quality of water is major bottleneck. According to Ravi Budhiraja, Chairman, Maharashtra Water Resources and Regulatory Authority (MWRRA), ´Currently, India is using 4500 billion cubic metre per year of water per year. By 2030, it will go up by more than 50 per cent to 6900 billion cubic metre per year.´

Although, wastewater management was given a high priority in the National Water Policy 2012, there is still a mammoth gap between wastewater generation and its treatment capacity. According to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), an estimated 38,354 million litres per day (MLD) sewage is generated in major cities of India, but the sewage treatment capacity is only of 11,786 MLD. Therefore, 70 per cent of untreated sewage ends up in the water bodies.

Government initiatives like Swacch Bharat Abhiyan and Clean Ganga Mission might not have taken off as expected, but they have definitely succeeded in creating a buzz. The launch of the ´Smart Cities Mission´ entails impeccable connectivity, sanitation, and efficacious management of water and other resources. Better organisation and implementation can enable the refurbishment of India´s urban infrastructure.

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