There are good reasons why Pune has emerged as one of the most aspired-for residential destinations in India today. The fact that it is so well connected to Mumbai is only the tip of the iceberg. Pune is an economic powerhouse in its own right, being home to a wealth of multinational companies and industries. These organizations have ensured that Pune has emerged as one of the most important employment centres in the country. Needless to say, employment drives demand for real estate.
Pune’s pace of urban growth has been unparalleled, with the number of people migrating into the city from all over the country increasing every year. This influx has required major infrastructure upgradation on all fronts, including road connectivity, parking facilities, public transport and electricity and water supply.
Accordingly, the Government has laid out a very ambitious roadmap for Pune’s infrastructure in the Pune Development Plan 2041. One of the most important aspects of this plan is a multi-faceted transport which envisages a considerably enhanced road network, a metro system as well as a number of new bridges, flyovers, subways and skywalks.
This is necessary, as it is very evident that Pune’s growth is not a temporary phenomenon – the city will expand exponentially in the years to come, both geographically and in scope. If Pune’s development authorities do not take a realistic look at what the next two to three decades hold in store, the city will eventually fail to maintain this growth and begin to decay.
One of the most important aspects that need to be considered is the maintenance and enhancement of accessibility. This includes internal accessibility between Pune’s various residential and commercial nodes, as well as approachability from other key cities.
Boosting accessibility includes the construction of new roads, widening of existing roads which tend to bottleneck, providing flyovers and subways to ease traffic congestion and more efficient and reliable public transport. As far as the proposed Pune Metro is concerned, there are serious questions about how effective it would be to ease the city’s rapidly increasing accessibility issues.
On the other hand, the approval of the 90-meter wide Ring Road which will connect the PMC and PCMC is definitely a reason to cheer. Likewise, the approval of Pune’s new international airport is definitely a step in the right direction. The city’s economy is very much dependent on foreign business, and opening the city up to global business travel will assuredly bode well for its various industries.
But is accessibility the only aspect that the city’s development plan should focus on? Is more efficient transport really all it takes to keep a city like this viable over the long haul? Thanks to the fact that Pune has a lot of potential for horizontal urban growth, the city is constantly adding new areas to its borders. But at the same time, the standard of living within the inner city is on a visible decline. Holistic urban growth is not just about expansion, but also about the constant improvement of existing central areas.
Also, it is important for Pune to maintain a healthy balance of housing types across various affordability bands. As we face the prospect of ever-increasing urban density in the city, both the planning authorities and Pune’s real estate developers must remember that it takes more than just ‘premium’ and ‘luxury’ housing to maintain and grow a city. Whenever an imbalance of housing for all income groups occurs, the economic viability of a city begins to degrade.
A city like Pune is sustained a huge cross-section of service streams, ranging from blue-collar workers on factory shop floors and in retail warehouses to white-collar business executives and CEOs. The economic relationship between these classes is inalienable and symbiotic – neither can exist without the other. Each individual from all income streams has a family that needs to be housed in safety and relative comfort. This means that the city will, at all times, have to produce housing that is affordable from the lowest to the highest income streams.
The latest regulations require a minimum of 20% housing in large townships to be reserved for the economically weaker sections. However, despite the fact that townships are proliferating in Pune, such a reservation will not suffice to meet the needs of the city’s less prosperous denizens in the future. Meanwhile, we are looking at a scenario wherein Pune’s developers are increasingly focusing on high-priced mid-income and premium housing projects.
Affordable housing requires special incentives to developers, and these must necessarily come from the Government. However, it also requires a consensus of collective consciousness among a city’s developers themselves. There has to be a point at which one is willing to look less at the bottom line and more at what the city really needs in order to continue to grow and prosper.