Epidemic of Road Widening Raises its Ugly Head.....Again

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In a public notice dated 29 December 2000 the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) announced its intention to widen 335 roads of 6 meters to 9 meters. There was no mention in the notice or anywhere else about the reason behind this move. In fact other than badly labeled maps of the affected locations and shoddily pasted notices on trees and electric poles there was no mention of the reasons behind the proposal.

As we have been saying in context of Traffic Planning – the all in all cure for most traffic ills is considered to be wider roads- as far as the local body is considered. “Widen the roads and traffic problems will vanish in thin air” seems to be the firm view of PMC.

In this case the PMC quietly spread the word that such road widening will benefit individual property owners by qualifying their plots for higher FSI. PMC has however been silent on exactly how this will happen - particularly in case on structures with very small footprints or with inadequate front margins.

Luckily the local media was quick to pick up the news and report on it through a series of articles with details of the plan. They also published views of the residents, majority of who expressed their reservations to the road widening proposal. Some of the objections voiced by the plot owners were:

1. The Development Plan (DP) for Pune was sanctioned recently in 2017 after a lengthy process of discussion, objections, suggestions and hearings. Decision of road widening on this scale should have been taken as part of the DP and not as a casual idea without necessary studies and data.
2. The road widening will incentivize personal vehicle use and for reasons of safety, discourage walking and cycling. This will mean more noise, pollution, dust and possibility of accidents as these are primarily residential areas.
3.This is a car-centric idea hence contrary to the National Urban Transport Policy (NUTP) and the Comprehensive Mobility Plan (CMP) for Pune city – both of which are to be followed by the PMC.
4. The need for this road widening is not specified clearly hence bad in law.
5. It will encourage on-street parking of vehicles.
6. There are no surveys carried out by the PMC and made available to the citizens to show how the proposed widening will benefit the citizens or even the traffic in these areas in the medium and the long term.
7. Will result in cutting a large number of trees. This aspect has not been studied by the PMC and shared with the citizens, thus violating the Tree Act.
8. If the hierarchy of roads is considered most of these 6 meter wide roads are in residential and semi residential areas where traffic needs to move slowly. Widening will encourage higher speeds and make the roads unsafe for all.
9. We have not asked for road widening in our society/locality.
10. We have not asked for higher FSI.

These are only some samplings. There were objections filed by many about the legality of the proposal, the section of the Municipal Act under which the move was initiated and the undemocratic manner in which the proposal was initiated.

Several elected representatives including those from the ruling party have also submitted their objections and this may tilt the decision in favour of scrapping this proposal, but nothing is predictable in politics and for now the ill conceived proposal hangs in balance.

Sujit Patwardhan
Trustee, Parisar