Guwahati’s landscape to change with satellite towns, BRT systems

Guwahati, June 16 (IANS) Fast-growing Guwahati has seen haphazard development and faces a mismanaged network of too many buses. But now three new satellite townships and two Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) corridors are set to give its landscape a makeover.

‘Guwahati’s disadvantage is its narrow roads, with the mighty river Brahmaputra on one side and the hills of Meghalaya on the other. For a city with a million-plus population, there are just two major roads and this hampers the traffic movement seriously,’ Ashish Bhutani, secretary of the Guwahati urban development department, told IANS.

‘Also, around 2,000 buses ply on the roads of the city, which is a whopping number. Most of them belong to the private sector and are in a bad state.

‘To escape the bad service, people prefer travelling in their own vehicles, resulting in traffic congestion on the roads and high pollution levels,’ he added.

Looking to the national capital for inspiration in managing traffic better, the Guwahati urban development department decided to introduce the BRT corridor model on the city’s roads.

‘We realised that a Metro train will not be sustainable. But the BRT corridor will help streamline the traffic. Therefore, we forwarded a proposal to construct two BRT corridors under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNURM) to the union urban development ministry, but were turned down because of paucity of funds,’ Bhutani said.

‘We were however directed to the World Bank for the required funds. It’s been a month since that meeting and we are now re-working a proposal to present to the World Bank,’ he said.

According to a 2007 study by the London-based International Institute for Environment and Development, Guwahati in Assam is one of the world’s 100 fastest growing cities.

Further, according to reports, more than 400,000 vehicles ply on Guwahati’s roads every day, of which two-wheelers form a significant proportion. More than 100 vehicles are registered in the city every day, 70 of which are two-wheelers.

‘Guwahati city is growing fast. It has India’s seventh busiest airport – busier than places like Pune – with 58-59 flights taking off every day. We have 300,000-400,000 people coming here daily from the nearby states and elsewhere on business and other purposes,’ Bhutani said.

‘A lot of new companies have entered the market here for the first time and there are a slew of houses and offices coming up. But everything is unplanned. To sort that out, we are planning three satellite townships, which will house 450,000-500,000 people each,’ he said.

The satellite townships, which will come up in north Guwahati, Palashbari and Suwalkuchi areas, will be near the main town but will be partially independent of it – economically and socially.

‘The land acquisition process for the townships is complete. We are working on the master plan of how the cities will look like and be sustainable. It should take one more year for the process to be completed,’ Bhutani said.

He said they have also urged the urban development ministry to include Guwahati in the recently-launched Sustainable Urban Transport Project (SUTP).

At present, five cities – Pimpri-Chinchwad and Pune in Maharashtra, Naya Raipur in Chhattisgarh, Indore in Madhya Pradesh and Mysore in Karnataka – are included in the project.

The main aim of the SUTP is to better the urban transport infrastructure, introduce better quality of public transport, have BRT corridors so that people switch from personal vehicles to public modes of travel and cut down on greenhouse gas emissions.

(Azera Rahman can be contacted at azera.p@ians.in)

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