Vadodara takes challenges head-on

It is inspiring to observe through a bird eye view on how Vadodara city’s infrastructure and service delivery system is able to tackle the demographic challenges

The rapid urbanisation poses an unprecedented managerial and policy challenges to Vadodara—the garden city and one of the frontrunner cities in India when it comes to infrastructure and service delivery. But it is yet to see that the city designed by the administration of Maharaja Sayaji Rao Gaekawad is competent enough to cope up with massive influx of population by increasing the capacity of the existing infrastructure.

The Garden City

Vadodara is located in the most developed region of Gujarat, popularly known as “Golden  Corridor”. The region has undergone dramatic changes in the land use pattern due to speedy industrialisation. Massive multi-core national projects like Koyali refinery, Indian Petro Chemicals Ltd. and Gujarat State Fertilizer Plant have been set up.

During 1980’s the city saw the development of specific industrial estates like Makarpura, Sardar Estate & Nandesri developed by the Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation with in the immediate urban area and industrial area of Savli, Vaghodia and Por on the outskirts of the present urban limits of Vadodara.

Expanding private sector provided additional white and blue collared jobs to thousands of  people. It helped in building a wide and highly diversified modern industrial base. The post librealisation period have seen spurt in the growth and establishment of global giants around the Vadodara urban area like General Motors (Halol), Larson & Tubro (Nandesri), GE Plastic (Bajwa) etc.

The physical growth of city is induced by development of residential and industrial activity around the city from time to time. Industrial and commercial activities have
developed along the major arterial roads running North-South and East- West of Vadodara city. Initially, the development took place along the four axis of Mandvi, later spread outwards West and North Western direction. Consequently, there was increase in the administrative limits.

Water supply

The city depends on two major water sources—the Ajwa reservoir and the French wells in Mahi at Fajalpur—for its 900 lakh gallons water requirement everyday. Another major source that is coming up is the water works at Khanpur where there is a plan for drawing water from a Narmada project canal and purifying it for supply to the city’s western parts. But the project is yet to take off. According to the Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) officials, the consumption for water increases in summers but the city does not fail to fulfil the citizens’ requirement of water.

Additionally, the Vadodara Mahanagar Seva Sadan (VMSS) supplies non-potable industrial grade water to Nandesari Industries Association. The city has received national award under JnNURM ‘Best City for Improvement in Water Supply and Waste Water Sector’ in 2009-10 for its various initiatives.

Waste management

The city is one of the few cities of India that has advantage of having an underground drainage system that was constructed over a century ago in 1894. The sewage in the city is collected through this underground drainage network and then processed at a treatment plant before being eventually disposed into the nearby rivers. The Gujarat Pollution Control Board has established certain standards for waste disposal to reduce any potential for hazards.

The VMC has assigned three drainage zones for the sewerage system based on the physical features of the city. Each of these has its own treatment plant. The effluents of the first two zones are discarded into the Ruparel Kaans, while that from the third is discharged into the River Vishwamitri. The three zones are thus delineated as Tarwali, Gajrawadi and Atladra. A further sewerage plant has been established at Rajiv Nagar this year at the cost of Rs 72.26 crore. It aims to take care of the drainage concerns of the Ajwa Road and Karelibagh areas.

There are initiatives to utilise the bi-products from the treatment of the sewage water. Solid bio-organic wastes are collected in drying beds and then sold as fertilizers.

In 2014, the Vadodara Municipal Corporation initiated an ‘e-waste collection drive’ in the city. Under this system, the vendor company would provide rewards to citizens for recycling their old electronic equipments such as TV, mobile phones, gaming consoles, etc. The vendor company would proceed to contribute 14 percent of this total to the government authorities and the waste would be disposed as per the state’s standards.

Housing and real estate

VMC has initiated projects for constructing houses for people belonging to Economically Weaker Section (EWS) and Low Income Groups (LIG) houses. A total of 3,500 LIG houses would be constructed in Manjalpur, Sami, Karelibagh, Tandalja road and other areas. While 372 and 360 EWS apartment will come up in Vasna and Sayajipur respectively. Both projects will cost approximately Rs 23 crore each. The developer could use 10 percent of the floor space at both locations for commercial purpose.

In April 2013, reports showed that the price of real estate, particularly affordable housing had decreased by 15 to 20 percent. One of the main reasons cited for this is the interruption in land transactions due to stricter rules on sale of agricultural land, thus restricting the land availability. The change in prices was thought to benefit especially the middle class and encourage greater investments from the citizens.

Experts speculate that flyover projects such as that at Fatehgunj will help further support the real estate market to a considerable extent. These projects would help to resolve traffic issues and thus boost the popularity of the area.

Vadodara’s real estate market, further, offers a large variety including residential buildings, bungalows, farm houses as well as complexes for commercial and retail use. Some significant developments that the city boasts of include hotels, integrated townships-particularly those involved in the finance sector, gated communities and IT corridors.

Transportation

Vadodora is connected to the rest of the country via National Highway-8 (NH-8). The city also has an airport that provides access to Delhi and Mumbai.

In terms of transport for locals, auto-rickshaws and taxis are the most popular modes of transport apart from the state-run buses. The VMC along with Centre for Green Mobility (CGM), a non-profit organisation, has initiated ‘cycle sharing’—another alternative to public transport. It has been designed to reduce pollution as well as ease and improve connectivity from various public transport stations, along the lines of other cities, such as Paris, New York and even Bengaluru. Under this system, users will be registered with a smart card which will enable them to rent cycles from their nearest stations and they can return these at the next station on completion of their journey.

The recently inaugurated bus terminal of Vadodara, known as the ‘Sardar Vallabhai Patel Central Bus Station’ has been endorsed as the best in the country, and is considered to be on par with its international counterparts. The unique design of the building was inspired from the structure of a banyan tree and is being constructed through a public-private partnership, costing around Rs 110 crore. The terminal offers airport-like facilities and includes shopping malls, supermarkets and commercial office complexes.

Challenges Ahead

According to the estimates of the VMC, the water supply of the city is likely to fluctuate in the years to come due to an expanding population density and lack of service and operations. Changes in the frequency and timing of the water supply may also occur.

Further as the treatment plants are prone to silt formation, this may lead to untreated sewage entering the rivers. With regard to lack of an appropriate storm drainage system, flooding in the entire upstream network becomes a concern. As part of the drainage area is being utilised by slum dwellers and for the disposal of garbage, section of the Bhukhi drain downstream has been reduced. Water logging also has subsequently led to epidemics such as malaria, cholera, etc.

Further problems have risen consequently from increase in the population of the city, as this has in turn led to rise in demand for more housing and transportation. Vadodara was once known the ‘City of Gardens’ as it had 62 gardens.

However, the cityscape is fast changing with the green space disappearing and officials are concerned that this may disrupt the quality of life index for the city.

Obstacles also remain in the execution of the town planning schemes by the VMC, as only six out of the twenty have been so far realised. Such schemes are of vital importance to the city as these not only concern the infrastructure but also housing facilities for the poor.

The authorities are thus working towards adapting to the ever increasing urbanisation rates and simultaneously preserving an ecological balance, as Vadodara continues to grow into a city of national importance.

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