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Residents demand scrapping of tender for HCMTR project

Activists have said the initial objective to improve access to public transport has ended up facilitating private vehicles.

Activists have said the initial objective to improve access to public transport has ended up facilitating private vehicles.   | Photo Credit: File photo

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Citizens’ group says Pune’s topography has changed since 1987 DP, alleges discrepancy in estimated costs

A number of city-based NGOs under the umbrella of Nagrik Kriti Samiti (NKS) have demanded that the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) scrap the tender floated earlier this year for the controversial 36-km High Capacity Mass Transit Route (HCMTR) project.

The NKS has alleged that the bids for the project were grossly inflated and that the lowest bid received by the PMC on this project was 44% higher than the estimated project cost.

“There is a significant discrepancy in the estimated project cost and the bid quotation, which raises questions on the financial feasibility of the project and merits a re-evaluation of the costing by third party. The lowest bid for the HCMTR tender was ₹7,535 crore, 44 % higher than the estimated project cost of ₹5,192 crore,” the NKS said a recent statement.

Members of the NKS have further contended that the tender, floated in February, could not be considered valid as 40% of the project alignment was through private land and that the land acquisition process had yet not started.

The project, as proposed in the city’s 1987 Development Plan (DP), was a rail and bus public transport solution to bypass the city as it was more than 30 years ago. However, the city has dramatically changed since.

A number of noted activists have pointed out that the initial objective of the project, meant to improve access-controlled public transport, has ended up facilitating private vehicles.

“Large sections of areas in the HCMTR plan, which was based on the 1987 DP, will now have to be elevated as the city’s topography has changed. It is anybody’s guess from where will the PMC get such fantastic sums for this project at a time when they cannot fund basic hygiene and sanitation projects. The authorities have not taken the new alignment into consideration at all,” Major Gen. (retd.) S.N. Jatar of the Nagrik Chetana Manch told The Hindu.

Major Gen. Jatar said the PMC must not be permitted to acquire land on a piecemeal basis until a detailed project report (DPR) is prepared to study the project’s viability.

Vivek Velankar of the Sajag Nagrik Manch said, “When the DPR is yet to be completed, how did the HCMTR project come up for tendering? The new DPR would certainly bring out the manifold flaws in this project. Further, on what grounds has the PMC arrived at the ₹5,000 crore project estimation cost without any fresh preliminary study in more than 35 years? The face of the city has changed completely since 1987.”

Road activist Sujit Patwardhan, founder of the NGO Parisar, said the basic objective of the HCMTR project — as proposed in the draft DP of 1982 and sanctioned in the final DP in 1987 — was to substantially enhance the level of public transport in the city and give public transport a dedicated route to connect with the congested parts of the city and its newly developing localities.

While saying the concept was sound, Mr. Patwardhan has demanded a “complete re-look” by the municipal and State administrations on how they proposed to execute big projects like these.

“In contrast to the project in the original development plan, the HCMTR as being currently envisioned has only two lanes for Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) with the remaining six being left for private vehicles. This will only encourage more cars instead of improving Pune’s public transport system, which is in a shambles,” Mr. Patwardhan said.

In July, Pune residents started an online campaign clamouring for the project to be scrapped. The petition contended that the project was a misguided attempt by the PMC at development that would destroy the city’s green spots.

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Printable version | Dec 15, 2019 8:14:02 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/residents-demand-scrapping-of-tender-for-hcmtr-project/article30119867.ece

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