Anti-metro activists seek say in Pune Metro Project

PUNE: Citizen’s groupsand planners in the city have demanded that the state hear out their suggestions and objections before giving the final approval of the elevated Vanaz-Ramwadi metro plan.

Groups including National Society for Clean Cities, Parisar, PMP Pravasi Manch and Pedestrians First have written to chief minister Prithviraj Chavan and state urban development department on Tuesday raising their objections against the metro project.

In their letter, activists have stated that while they are interested in a successful and useful mass transport system for Pune, any decision on the metro should be taken only after all its aspects are reviewed carefully.

“Metro is an irreversible long term commitment for the city and any decision proved wrong later would be absolutely disastrous for the city. If the state government is really serious about successful implementation of metro project in Pune, it should first appoint a committee and have a meaningful dialogue with all those who have given their submissions with objections and suggestions regarding the elevated Vanaz-Ramwadi Metro Plan,” the letter states, adding that the government should give serious consideration to the objections and suggestions submitted and suitably modify the metro plan accordingly before taking it up for final approval.

Activists and planners added that while the state is largely focused on the financial aspect of the Pune metro proposal, it has overlooked serious problems such as constructional feasibility, long-term utility and economic viability.

“The state government should explain merits and demerits and impact of elevated and underground metro to citizens. There are many technical issues involved such as the metro alignment that can pose serious problems at locations such as Paud phata junction, Deccan area, Sancheti chowk, river crossing. The curves along the route will also limit the speed, slowing down metro movement. Problems in crossing the entire span of Pune Railway station with very heavy rail traffic will hold up the work,” said town planning expert Pratap Rawal speaking to RailNews on Wednesday. Rawal is one of the signatories of the letter.

Activists point out that the work on the metro project will hit a roadblock if the concerns they are raising are not addressed. Ketan Gokhale, former managing director of Konkan Railway Corporation said that work on Vanaz-Ramwadi elevated metro as per the DMRC plan will get stalled midway due to various problems and may get indefinitely delayed. Thus timely completion and successful commissioning of Vanaz-Ramwadi elevated metro seems uncertain, he added.

They also said the state should look at examples of metros elsewhere before they launch the project in Pune. Sujit Patwardhan of Parisar said, “It is to be noted in this context that the Mumbai metro corridor 1 has been inordinately delayed mainly because of problems related to elevated metro on road. Hence, a decision has reportedly been taken that other approved Mumbai metro corridors shall be fully underground. Despite much wider roads and top priority accorded to the project since Mumbai is the state capital, the elevated project has encountered severe problems. The fate of elevated Metro in Pune with narrow roads and lower priority would definitely be worse.”

However the PMC and the state government have a different take on the matter. “The PMC had in the presence of DMRC officials conducted a day-long hearing in June 2010. The DMRC officials and the PMC have made every effort to clarify the objections raised by the NGOs. Now the project has to move forward,” said a civic official requesting anonymity.

Objections galore

  • Construction of pillars and setting up metro stations in congested areas with inadequate space will have severe practical problems
  • Metro alignment could pose serious problems at locations such as Paud phata junction, Deccan area, Sancheti chowk, river crossing. The curves along the route will also limit speeds slowing down Metro movement
  • Problems in crossing the entire span of Pune Railway station with very heavy rail traffic will hold up work
  • No clarity on the starting point near Vanaz as another project ‘Shivshrushti’ related to Chhatrapati Shivaji has already been sanctioned earlier at the same location
  • Metro passes within 100 metres of the 8th century protected monument Pataleshwar cave temple where construction is not allowed as per ‘Ancient Monuments, Archaeological Sites and Remains Act’
  • Traffic movement during construction on road will get seriously hampered due to blocked roads and absence of suitable alternative roads of required capacity for traffic diversion
  • Reduction in road width due to metro pillars and stations on road will pose problems for traffic movement even after metro completion and cause traffic congestion

STATE’S TAKE

Deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar recently said at a programme in the city: “The state government has considered the option of underground metro. While the underground metro is much better then elevated when we consider environmental impact, we also have to consider financial factors. Underground metro is unaffordable and we cannot defer public transport project anymore. Mass public transport is the need of the hour. We are taking steps to speed up metro project as per the DMRC project”

DMRC’s TAKE

  • Cost: An underground metro is unaffordable for any city, Pune included, as it would cost two-and-a-half times more than an elevated one. Metros are capital-intensive and building even a small stretch costs hundreds of crores of rupees
  • Technical feasibility: Wherever possible, planners prefer elevated metro to underground as engineering complexities, associated risks of cost, time overruns and operational cost are lesser. Lesser land acquisition required for elevated stretch
  • Security: Metros are usually high on the hit list of terrorists and any attack in the underground portion leading to derailment or collision is likely to cause five times more damage than on an elevated section.

According to E Sreedharan, an underground metro would also result in limited expansion as well as heavy subsidy on construction, both of which were not workable.

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