Heavy rains that led to at least four incidents of wall collapse across Mumbai and Pune have shifted the focus towards the need for planned development in peripheral areas. “When it comes to urban planning, we are always firefighting,” says Dr Rutul Joshi, associate professor, who teaches urban planning at CEPT University Ahmedabad, formerly the Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology.
Town planning schemes need to be implemented for an orderly growth in peripheral areas of the city, Joshi said, adding that a plan should be chalked out on how public transport can be made efficient. “If these two issues are dealt with, then 70 per cent of the city’s problems will be taken care of,” Joshi said.
The observations come in the backdrop of a recent World Bank report, ‘Lifelines: The Resilient Infrastructure Opportunity’, which lays out a framework for understanding infrastructure resilience, which is the ability of infrastructure systems to function and meet users’ needs during and after a natural hazard. Disruptions caused by natural hazards, as well as poor maintenance and mismanagement of infrastructure, cost households and firms at least $390 billion a year in low and middle-income countries, according to the report of the World Bank and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR).
The report examined four essential infrastructure systems — power, water and sanitation, transport, and telecommunications — and has found that the net average benefit on investing in more resilient infrastructure in low and middle-income countries would be $4.2 trillion, with $4 in benefit for each $1 invested. “Resilient infrastructure is not about roads or bridges or powerplants alone. It is about the people, the households and the communities for whom the quality infrastructure is a lifeline to better health, education and livelihoods,” said World Bank Group President, David Malpass.
“In India, stormwater drainage in most cities is inadequate,” says Joshi, adding that the reason for the same to some extent could be that “we have not been able to upgrade our infrastructure and partly because rain pattern is changing rapidly”. “While I cannot generalise this for a city, but real problem is the way in which suburban development is taking place,” he told The Indian Express. “There is no proper planning and an efficient mechanism for peripheral land development is required. For instance, in Pune, there are people who want better houses, but road network is not sufficient and development is underway in an ad hoc manner. Like Gujarat’s town planning scheme, Maharashtra also has its own provision and can use it for efficient peripheral development. The peripheral sprawl taking place is not very well integrated with municipal infrastructure and there is complete neglect of public transport,” Joshi said.
The WB report also points out that making infrastructure more resilient is critical not only to avoid costly repairs but also to minimise wide-ranging consequences of natural disasters on well-being of people. Outages or disruptions in power, water, communication and transport affect the productivity of firms, incomes and jobs they provide. “It is not about spending more, but spending better… It is cheaper and easier to build resilience if we look beyond individual assets, like bridges or electric poles, and understand the vulnerabilities of systems and users,” said Stephane Hallegatte, lead author of the report.