with love to indore

Thursday, October 18, 2012

A tale of two cities

Piece by Sunita Narain on her recent visit to Indore

Relevant parts for Indore,

ndore, because of its location, had a rich tradition of lakes. Rain water was harvested and stored in structures, which recharged groundwater. Then, in 1977, the city brought Narmada water from some 110 km to the city. Indore should have had enough to drink and to swim. But 35 years later, the water has still not reached all distribution pipelines. Over 50 per cent of the 172 million litres per day of water it sources is lost in distribution, which means there is far more costs but far less water to supply. The city water utility has no money to repair and extend its water system. It spends all it has and more in just electricity costs of bringing the water. Politicians are vying with each other to bring the water from the Maheshwar dam. The recent jal samadhi by the Maheshwar dam-displaced has met with enormous anger from Indore’s power elite. They say they need the dam’s water at all costs. They do not care if the people, whose land has been submerged by the dam, have not received compensation or been resettled.

The same power elite never demand systems to deal with the sewage they flush out of their homes. In Indore, the sewage system was constructed in 1936 at the time of the Holkars. Independent Indore has added to it insignificantly. The bulk of the sewage pours into its rivers, Khan and Saraswati, and Piliyakhal Nullah, untreated. It forgets that the Khan pollutes the Kshipra; the main water source of the neighbour, Ujjain.

For instance, they should not repeat the mistake of allowing fleets of cars to take over their roads. Indore was an enlightened city to plan for a bus-based future. Some years ago it invested in new buses, rationalised routes, created systems for efficient operation and put GPS in place to track and inform customers. Now cost of bus fuel is up, fares have not been revised and buses are losers. Still the majority of the city population rides or walks, even though the city’s footpaths are long gone. Indore is now building a bus rapid transit (BRT) corridor. It has a many foreign and Indian consultants to design the system but the people of Indore have no idea what is being proposed and why BRT is important. So they already hate it.

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