Pune Metro project has been the most contentious issue in the history of Pune’s urban development. Rightly so, as a close analysis of how the Metro is being planned and proposed by PMC shows that petty political aspirations rather than larger social and environmental desirability drive the enthusiasm for Metro proposal. There is a big tussle over which political party deserves the credit for the Metro. Even at the state and national level political opportunism over Metro is apparent.The debate on Metro has persisted for over a decade. Delays in furthering the DMRC proposal have been attributed to little political will at the State level in approving the Metro proposal. There has also been much political bickering and tussle over the credits for the Metro.
In the meanwhile a deliberate media and political campaign in the city is at play to manufacture public consent for the project. It has been portraying the tangible benefits from Metro with the symbolism of modernization whereby Metro is prestigious for the city, it will offer safe, economical, fast and comfortable travel experience. Metro reflects the “new-age” aspirational living. The voices that challenge or oppose the Metro are often portrayed as being “anti-development” or “anti-progress”.
The proposed Metro has been thoroughly scrutinized by many experts and a severe opposition from NGOs and other civil society organizations including citizen groups had once led to a demand for an open public debate. A discussion held by PMC offered no sufficient justification for the Metro nor addressed any public concerns and objections. A review of decision-making process for the Metro showed that the principle decisions were ad-hoc, not based on any scientific investigation or explanation, politically motivated and based on false claims (Parisar Report 6, 2010).
The debate on the Metro was steered mostly by urban planners, architects, transport experts and engineers. There were also a few citizen groups in their individual capacity who had expressed their oppositions. The voices that were largely missing from the debate were those of the heritage conservation experts and the environmentalists.This has been a bit discomforting to me as the common sense states that such a large-scale urban infrastructure project which is proposed to traverse through a historic landscape of Pune including the river bed should have attracted the attention from the experts in the related field!
The proposed Metro directly impacts the cultural endowments and natural resources of the city. World Bank studies on development projects and heritage show that cultural endowments of a city enhances the quality of life and livability of the city. Loss of urban heritage is not just a sentimental issue but has an economic bearing too. Many scholars have explored the role of cultural heritage in dealing with poverty issues whether it is in relation to providing affordable housing for poor or supporting indigenous occupations and tourism related businesses or ensuring community participation in countering challenges of urbanization.
Urban heritage is referred to as cultural capital viewed as inseparable from the place where it was created and imagined (Soini & Birkeland, 2014). Therefore the urban heritage gives a sense of identity and character to the city that is unique from that of the other cities. This gives impetus to culture tourism industry which is the largest employing sector for skilled and unskilled labour in India. Religious tourism, wellness tourism, heritage tourism are some of the types of industries that bank on the existence of cultural heritage in the city.
I set out to analyse atleast 15 reports on the Metro proposal to see what was said about its impact on natural and cultural heritage of Pune city. To my disappointment there was hardly any mention of this. I therefore undertook an academic investigation of the proposed Metro from the heritage perspective.
Pune Metro Study from the heritage perspective is a research work under the INTACH Scholarship 2015. The findings from the report are shared in the posts written here. I may have edited some pieces from the original report to appeal to general readers.