This Republic Day is indeed special because after a long time India has a single-party government in power that seems keen on higher economic performance with a degree of decisiveness. India has changed in many ways over the last six decades and it is now poised to realise its full potential as a world class power.
Pursuit of rapid development and progress is causing a major shift in population from villages to cities, with millions hoping to join the race for higher aspirations and progress. Indian cities have, however, grown without much planning for rapid growth and Pune is no exception.
As per UN estimates, 75 per cent of world population of about 9 billion in 2050 will be in cities and over 75 per cent of the global GDP may be generated in the cities of the world. This could overwhelm future cities unless they are transformed into smarter cities that can effectively deliver more from less. Delhi’s new focus on smart cities presents a unique opportunity for progressive cities to leapfrog into higher performance with improved quality of life.
Pune, known for its wonderful climate and ideal eco-system for pensioners, academics and entrepreneurs alike, is changing fast under the pressure of increasing population and growing demand for energy, housing, transport and public facilities.
While the present PMC population of about 35 lakh may grow to 50 lakh by 2030, the larger PMR (Pune Metropolitan Region) may have 80 lakh population by then. Forty per cent of these may live in urban slums. Clearly, Pune must get much smarter and efficient to handle this situation and yet continue to progress and excel. As is well said, ‘smart people do not do different things, they just do things differently’ — a smarter Pune must therefore do things differently to retain its claim to be one of the best cities in India.
Besides many known steps to getting smarter, Pune can seriously enforce energy conservation in every manner to reduce the gap between limited supply and ever growing demand for electricity. To do this without a steep rise in carbon emission, the city will need a major shift to renewable sources like the solar, wind or bio-gas. The clean energy economics today is so attractive that win-win solutions can be evolved very easily to transform Pune into a predominantly clean city that can become carbon neutral by 2050. What is needed is a visionary leadership and a serious business plan.
Amitav Mallik is an analyst at Cleantech Consultant & Strategic Affairs and a former member of National Security Advisory Board