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Sunday Special » Perspective

Posted at: Jun 10, 2018, 12:12 AM; last updated: Jun 10, 2018, 2:08 AM (IST)

How ‘clean’ City Beautiful can be

Chandigarh is the 3rd ‘cleanest city’ of the country on parameters decided by govt agencies. Given the city’s growth and the lack of infrastructure, many say the city may not be able to live up to its reputation for long

Sandeep Rana in Chandigarh

For a first-timer or a frequenter to the City Beautiful, almost everything would look nearly spic and span; the city’s image being magnified at its doorstep by the hugeness of Tribune Chowk, the hundreds of vehicles idling almost bumper-to-bumper, waiting for the traffic signal to turn green. At the welcome gate, the city’s insignia — an open hand pointing to the sky —  has symbolized so much: it’s the dream city of Jawaharlal Nehru, planned by the French architect Le Corbusier in the 1950s. The city, in a way, has also come to represent modern India’s urban ambition and expansion. 

Chandigarh today is placed No. 3, behind Indore and Bhopal, in terms of cleanliness. How good or bad is this placement or how would a city originally built for 5 lakh people cope with thrice that population in the next decade or so? And how would it figure on the same cleanliness parameters in the face of a weak civic infrastructure? 

Traffic mess

Begin it with the Tribune roundabout. The traffic census conducted by the UT administration in 2014 said about 2.52 lakh vehicles cross the roundabout between 8 am and 8 pm. These include around 2,360 buses and 2,430 trucks. Besides, around two lakh vehicles pass through the city everyday from the periphery. Chandigarh has most vehicles per head in the country. 

The mess has reached such a stage that the city planners have given the go-ahead to the first-ever flyover at the roundabout. There are skeptics. “I am not in favour of building a flyover; it will not improve the traffic flow,” says former Congress MP Pawan Bansal. Municipal Corporation Mayor Davesh Moudgil says in the coming years, the city’s traffic would get worse. “The Municipal Corporation, UT administration and people will have to work together. Public participation has to increase, and the people will have to change their mindset,” said Moudgil. 

The UT administration has come out with a mobility plan, but it has remained on paper. Plans to have Metro project has already been shelved amid shrill demands for better connectivity with neighbouring towns. UT chief architect Kapil Setia says roundabouts should stay as an intrinsic part of the city’s topography and landscape. “The traffic has to be tackled through a comprehensive plan, including policies to reduce private vehicles, involving last-mile mobility and bus rapid transport system,” says Setia. 

What’s ‘cleanliness’

Four categories on which cities were judged include solid waste management, citizens’ feedback, education and communication and best practices. Though the Chandigarh civic body was declared the third cleanest city in the country, it has failed to resolve several issues. The corporation could not implement wet and dry waste segregation scheme. It spent 

Rs 2.2 crore on buying bins.

It has also failed to resolve the waste processing issue with the JP processing plant. A major chunk of municipal waste is being thrown into an open dumping ground in Dadu Majra. 

Public toilets are in a bad shape. Due to fund crunch, contractors have stopped several works affecting cleanliness. However, the city has fared well in open defection-free category and documentation.

In the previous survey, Chandigarh had slipped to 11the position as citizen feedback was lacking. The civic body then persuaded over 35,000 people to download the Swachh Bharat App by organizing various events. 

Water & power

At present, the water availability of Chandigarh is 83 million gallons daily (MGD). The demand in peak summers rises to 110-115 MGD.

The MC claims the city would get 24x7 supply once it gets additional water through a new pipeline from Kajauli water works near Morinda. But the project has missed several deadlines. The cost so far over Rs 100 crore.

The UT administration gets 270 MW from various sources because it does not have a power generation unit. The department buys additional power when the demand goes beyond 270 MW. One of the highest peak power demands had touched 400 MW. The department officials had attributed the rise in demand to extensive use of air-conditioners. But the officials have made no effort to find out how average much power-load a household has. No wonder, outages are frequent.

Baljinder Singh Bittu, chairman of Federation of Sectors Welfare Associations of Chandigarh, says there is no future arrangement to deal with water and power issues. Many people in Chandigarh have already started moving out of the city.

Encroachments

At present, the city’s market places are vendors’ paradise and corridors outside shops are badly encroached upon. Two years ago, the civic body conducted a survey about the number of vendors. Yet it has been unable to decide on a site exclusively meant for vendors. Given protests by traders as well as vendors, the civic body may not get the desired results in the near future.

Chandigarh MP Kirron Kher says there are strict bylaws in city. “But heritage tag sometimes creates hurdle in implementing development projects. There is a pressure from neighbouring towns. If coordinated efforts are not made, living conditions in Chandigarh would only deteriorate,” she said.

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