What has been Ahmedabad's progress in the past decade? In 2001, the city made headlines in a poor way by being ranked number four among the most polluted cities in India. Large number of vehicles puking clouds of smoke, vehicles racing ahead on potholed and narrow roads, polluted air that left the eyes burning, rickety public transport -- and Jodhpur being considered to be on the outskirts of city -- that is what surfaces when denizens recall the Ahmedabad of 2001!
What comes to the fore while looking back at the last decade for Ahmedabad city is its journey from being one of most polluted cities in India to becoming one of the most vibrant cities as far as urban development is concerned! This includes its growth from a city spread over 190.84 square kilometre with road network of around 1271 kms for the population of 35.2 lakh in 2001, to emergence of a mega city spread in 460 sq km with road network of 2436 kms for a population of 52.7 lakh in 2010. After Kesav Varma quit as municipal commissioner of Ahmedabad in 1997, BK Sinha took charge of the coveted post till 1999 and then K Kailshnathan (1999-2001), P Panirvel (2001-2003) and RK Tripathi (2003- 2005) followed, until IP Gautam was given charge of the AMC in mid 2005. Under his leadership, the city has developed rapidly.
Challenge to reduce city’s pollution level:
As per the CEPT survey, in 2005 in Ahmedabad there were more than 50,000 auto-rickshaws in the city. Of this total, around 15,000 autorickshaws were more than 20 years old and a majority of them used adulterated fuels (diesel and kerosene). Under the measures taken by the AMC and CEPT experts to reduce the pollution level, all auto-rickshaws registered before 1991 were scrapped. One of the difficult tasks was to convince the owners to switch over to modern and eco-friendly rickshaws that run on CNG.
State authorities, district officials and local administration helped auto-rickshaw drivers to procure loans to buy CNG vehicles. The state government also issued notification to prohibit three-wheeler rickshaws using diesel as fuel in AMC limits and heavy vehicles were also prohibited in the city by the commissioner of police, Ahmedabad after issuing a notification on July, 1- 2004.
Besides the CNG revolution, the AMC also decided to convert public transport buses into the CNG buses. Under the initiative, around 650 buses are privately operated EURO- III CNG buses replacing the diesel buses of the AMTS. Gradually, all the AMTS buses have been converted into CNG buses and the city now has around 1200 CNG buses plying on the roads. Moreover, Ahmedabad has seen rapid growth in two- wheelers in the last two decades which had also resulted in rising pollution levels. From 8,99,346 in 2001 the total number of vehicles has reached around 18,25,412 in 2009. Because of these reasons, the city has been included under the air quality monitoring programme. Due to measures taken by the AMC and CEPT, Ahmedabad slipped to 64th position in India among the list of most polluted cities. Things have improved since then due to various efforts by the local govt.
How JNNURM changed face of Ahmedabad:
At the start of the decade, Ahmedabad was known for CG Road, Ratanpol, Dhalgarwad, Fun Republic was the city's first mall and historic landmarks included Sidi Saiyad ni Jhali etc. At the end of the decade, Ahmedabad has made it mark across the globe for becoming a city known for its urban development projects.
The change in the city's urban growth began in 2005, for two reasons. First and foremost was the central government's announcement of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) in 2005 and Ahmedabad, under the leadership of IP Gautam, bagged the maximum projects under this scheme, some 23 worth Rs1,815.51 crore. You name the project - fly overs, bridges, projects under the water and sewer station, landfill site, Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS), new buses for AMTS, the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) has reaped the benefits of the JNNURM projects.
Gautam, however, does not feel that the JNNURM has been the only reason for the transformation of the city's face. "I don't think the city's development is only because of the JNNURM. It is up to the civic administration to take advantage of the scheme and got projects to improve the city' amenities," he said. Under the JNNURM projects, 35% of the total project cost comes from the central government, 15% from the state government and the rest of the 50% comes from the civic body.
Gautam said, Ahmedabad charted its way high in the urban development from the year 2005 when Gujarat celebrated urban development year. "That was the year when majority of the projects were conceptualised to boost urban development scenario in the city."
Health and hygiene:
There was no sign of solid waste management at the beginning of the decade. Urban health centres were unheard of, Ahmedabad was sitting on an unhealthy volcano due to lack of hygiene management of solid waste. It needed staff in the AMC's health department in 2009 when IP Gautam joined as AMC’s commissioner. The first challenge he faced was to control chikun gunya in Ahmedabad.
"That was a challenging task as I had just taken the charge. The difficult part was to convince people that the AMC officials would come and inspect their houses properly. I had broken windows of closed houses to fumigate the houses and make sure required measures were taken," recalls Gautam. We are glad that the measures taken by the AMC to control the disease with door—to—door mosquitoes breeding survey was also accepted by the state government and implemented elsewhere too. Another challenge was the outbreak of swine flu in 2009-2010.
"There also we had to treat neighbours of the swine flu victims with proper diagnosis.The sanitation awareness in the Nirmal Gujarat year was a landmark in making the city clean. In 2006 only 65% of Ahmedabad was covered under the drainage network and despite the merger of new areas, in 2010 around 90% of Ahmedabad is covered under the drainage network," he said. Now all city wards have urban health centres and civic centres, a result of the e-governance programme started when Panirvel was
Heritage and heritage conservation has become the buzzword for Ahmedabad as efforts were started to restore the glory of the century old traditional houses with French partners and HUDCO at the start of the decade. With special efforts by the AMC's heritage cell, its advisor Debashish Nayak and lately inclusion of builders and architects in a specially formed body, Ahmedabad Heritage Foundation, the work of looking after heritage restoration and conservation began. Even under the JNNURM projects, the AMC has spent around Rs74.39 crore for heritage development.
If you look at the budget or the spending of the AMC to provide amenities in the city, the financial allocation was around Rs2,439.19 lakh in the year 2003-04 which fell to Rs1,902.15 and Rs1,819.55 lakh in 2004-05 and 2005-06 to improve facilities like drainage, slum networking project, street lights, storm water drain and other works to provide basic civic amenities.
With the city's expansion, its problems rose. With the start of urban development projects like storm water drainage lines, BRTS, the civic body's financial allocation to has gone up to Rs3,312 crore in 2009-10.
The project was conceived in 2003, when work on the project started. But even in 2011 the Sabarmati Riverfront is far away from completing even its first phase. With an initial investment of Rs 300 cr, the project has almost tripled its investment which now stands at Rs1,300 cr. With a promise to allot public space on the Sabarmati River, one hopes the project gets ready in the next decade, at least!