Pratibha Patil: India needs better urban planning

Kolkata, Sep 26, 2010 (Calcutta Tube) India needs to do better urban planning and management if it is to meet the challenges of congestion, pollution and fuel consumption, President Pratibha Patil said here Wednesday.

Referring to India’s growing urban population that has touched 286 million, the president said that absence of mass transport and transit system results in city dwellers depending on private transportation. It is ‘leading to congestion, pollution and more fuel consumption’, Patil said.

Laying the foundation stone of a new Metro Railway line which is part of the Kolkata Metro extension project, Patil said: ‘In a city, a Metro system is an effective system of travel, giving the people a convenient, comfortable and an affordable mode of travel.’

The new line links the city’s southern outskirt of Joikata with the central business district B.B.D. Bag in the heart of the city.

The president said the urban population across the world is increasing and according to assessments, the cities will be the dominant human habitats in the 21st century.

‘Between 1991 and 2001 there was an addition of 68 million to our urban population, marking a growth rate of about 31 percent and taking the number of city dwellers to 286 million,’ she said.

‘Growing urbanisation calls for planning ahead for the future, by focusing on issues of urban management and urban governance. Moreover, as the population of cities grow, it is essential to have mass transport and transit systems that facilitate movement within the city,’ she said.

It new Metro line will cover a distance of 16.72 km and have 13 stations. The project will come up at a cost of Rs.2,619.02 crore (around $574 million). A total of Rs.150 crores (around $32 million) have been allotted for work in the 2010-11 fiscal.

The president said the Joikata-BBD Bag stretch would link ‘hitherto inadequately connected’ areas on the outskirts to the heart of Kolkata.

With the project being a mix of underground and elevated tracks, Patil said it has been planned with due consideration for the existing business activities and traffic.

‘Metro construction is of a very complex nature requiring application of several new technologies in the fields of civil, electrical, signalling and telecommunication engineering.

The project has been conceived, planned and designed by RITES and is being executed by the Indian railways’ arm Rail Vikas Nigam Limited.

‘It is important to take proper care at every stage from planning to execution and maintenance. Planning requires preparing work schedules and executing them in a matter that it does not disrupt normal life,’ she said.

The president also expressed optimism that the project ‘which is sensitive to the concerns of the local people will be completed in time’.

Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said the Joikata-BBD Bag stretch was one among the Kolkata Metro’s four extension projects spread over 81.25 km and entailing a cost of Rs.12,000 crore. The other three are Noapara to Baranagar, Barasat to Barrackpur and Dum Dum Airport to New Garia.

‘The project was cleared by the cabinet committee of infrastructure in February,’ Mukherjee said.

Railways Minister Mamata Banerjee said survey and final land allotment have already been done. ‘So, we don’t have to acquire land,’ she said.

The Kolkata Metro Rail, the country’s first such network that started its maiden journey between Esplanade and Bhowanipore in 1984, now runs over a 22.34 km from Dum Dum in the city’s northern suburb to Kabi Nazrul in the southern outskirts.

It is the only such network run by the Indian Railways in the country.

Once the new line is completed, the metro commuters will have facilities to interchange at particular points with EMU services of Sealdah-Budge Budge section of the Eastern Railway, with the existing north-south Metro corridor, with the intra-state long distance bus terminus at Esplanade and with the proposed east-west Metro corridor.

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