This is the first article in the series of articles in which we will give an emphasis on what Belgaum needs for its development under the banner of BelgaumNext.
Belgaum Next is a people’s endeavor to bridge the gap between good and bad governance on the strength of an open citizen’s platform and is steered by passionate people from across Industry, government, academia and other organizations. The platform stands for one voice that is focused on one agenda: the all round development of our city. Where every voice has weight and no idea is considered too small.
Livable, Lovable Belgaum
by Dr.Nitin Khot
Belgaum was a small town nestling high in the Western Ghats, famous for its equable climate, pure water, rich milk and butter– that the British developed into a hill station.
Serving as a first destination for both British civilian and military personnel coming to a hot, tropical country that had many incurable diseases, Belgaum was systematically laid out with a vast Cantonment (of 1776 acres) and a town municipality.
So successful was the development of Belgaum as an educational, industrial, medical centre that it began to attract people from nearby areas and its population swelled from about a lakh in 1941 to 6,29,600 in 2001. Belgaum became one of the most livable cities in this part of the country.
However, rapid urbanization creates its own problems – putting pressure on inadequate infrastructural facilities and a fragile ecological base. As various groups struggle for competitive advantage and preferential access to a limited bundle of goods and services, the quality of life begins to deteriorate.
Caught as it has historically been at the intersection of ambitions of conflicting kingdoms or states, Belgaum has had an additional set of woes added to the basic problem of insufficiency. For decades after independence it has suffered from ‘benign neglect’.
It is to address these issues frontally and to chart out a sustainable development path for the city with a vision of atleast 15 years that a Symposium is being held on July 2010.
The areas of key concern that will be addressed initially are;
1. Water augmentation of supplies and efficient distribution.
2. Power quality of, and severance from its carbon base.
3. Solid waste Management Present issues, solutions and public awareness
4. Transportation and Traffic Flow Development of Hub and Spoke model for roads, and improvement of public and mass transit system.
5. Infrastructure to attract investments planning and creation of basic infrastructure to attract investments for employment generating industries in areas where Belgaum has inherent advantages.
6. Urban Renewal Remodeling and Beautification of the City.
7. Planning sustainable neighborhoods new and evolving systems in town planning on a sustainable model.
8. Public Participation in development and decision making process
Our group has decided to restrict its initial efforts to just these five areas.
- Water: The story of Belgaum’s efforts to deliver water to its rapidly increasing population has been widely appreciated around the country – with the Ministry of Urban Development, New Delhi, conferring upon Belgaum two prestigious awards in 2008 and 2009.
Alone amongst all the cities in India, Belgaum has tapped its aquifers to lift, purify and supply water daily to as many as 1,60,000 people (or over one third of its central population). This effort received the Urban Water Award at Hyderbad in May 2008.
In 2009, the Ministry lauded the 24/7 water supply scheme of Belgaum that has achieved a success rate of 95% – which no other urban 24/7 water supply scheme could reach.
The only problem of success is that it raises expectations – and all now expect more innovative water management practices from Belgaum.
We have thus decided to propose two thrust areas in this field – a rapid extension of the area where water harvesting in practiced – starting with all government buildings. The total roof area of government buildings will be calculated and the percentage of roof area where rain water is harvested will be worked out and increased each year.
We also wish to support with our efforts a rapid expansion of the two Demo Zones (covering 10 wards) of the 24/7 schemes – till it reaches 100%. We, expect that the Defence Ministry will join this scheme throughout the vast Cantonment of Belgaum.
2. Power: Karnataka faces a chronic shortage (of about 2000 MW in 2009 which it bought from other States for Rs. 2000 crores). The power deficit has worsened in 2010 with the State already having purchased 1000 MW till March 2010 and about 750 MW each month since.
Belgaum’s power consumption is growing rapidly. Vast areas of our industrial areas and our people will be ‘powerless’ for extended periods of time. There will be loss of productivity and an increase in cost, which will cost Belgaum the competitive edge in many of its manufactured products.
To tackle this basic problem we propose ‘energy parks’ to be set up close to industrial areas so that alternative sources of renewable energy can be harnessed.
It is the resolve of our Group to help Belgaum reduce its carbon footprint from year to year and to help the aggregation and sale of carbon credits.
With an assured 286 days of solar insolation reaching Belgaum annually. Solar Energy has to be assigned cardinal priority we, hopefully, might be able to establish a Collective Solar Power Station functioning here in the near feature.
3.Transport and Traffic Flows: Belgaum’s roads bear all the marks of a city that has evolved, rather than been established and hence are narrow and circuitous. Bottlenecks have developed all over the city. There is a colossal waste of both petrol and time – both very precious resources.
Many arterial roads need to be widened and encroachments removed – without fear or favour. Some roads need to be designated as ‘arterial roads’ and special regulations need to be enacted to keep them free of obstruction. The ‘circumferential road’ needs to be developed to its full width as fast as possible. Besides this we endorse the ‘hub and spoke’ model of road layout for the City and its outlying areas with a ‘Mudrika’ bus service plying on the Ring Road. Eventually a light railway track will have to be laid along side the Ring Road.
4. Employment Generating Industry Matrix: one of the sadder aspect of living in Belgaum is the fact that its most talented youth have to seek employment in the first tier cities – leaving behind their ageing parents.
Belgaum, possibly alone in Karnataka has developed exceptional industrial expertise in certain fields like casting, crankcase and crank-shaft, and gear manufacturing, and has several medium industries who are original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to reputable automobile and motorcycle manufacturers in Pune.
We also have high quality vehicle body building units.
From here it is one small step to attracting a complete vehicle manufacturing establishment to Belgaum. We already have one of the country’s largest aerospace SEZ’s in Belgaum and we feel that a car manufacturing facility will develop some synergies with this SEZ.
We expect such units to expand the employment potential of Belgaum considerably.
5. Beautification: The quality of life afforded by a city to its citizens depends to a large measure on its aesthetic appeal. Broad, tree-lined avenues, fountains, parks and monuments, lakes and small water bodies need to be developed across the city and we intend to request local architects to develop plans to beautify individual localities.
About the author:
Dr. Nitin G. Khot, an economist (from the London School of Economics) and Delhi School of Economics, an environmentalist and a social activist.