Strengths of Pune
Pune has been able to create one of the strongest human capital and economic growth engines among Indian cities. With 811 colleges, it is often called the “Oxford of the East”. This has resulted in more than 30% graduate workforce, which has triggered the IT revolution in the city. Almost all of the top IT companies in the country have their presence here, making it the 2nd biggest software hub in the country. The city also has a strong manufacturing base across auto and engineering. Thus, Pune is among the top five foreign direct investment (FDI) destinations in India. It is also one of the successful start-up destinations in India with more than 400 local start-ups.
Pune’s educated citizens have also been instrumental in driving participative governance, which is again one of the best across Indian cities. Pune City Connect is a forum to bring corporates and eminent citizens together to work on corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities on city-level issues.
Pune has sufficient water at aggregate level (1,250 mld). Citizens get average water of 220 lpd, which is much higher than the 150 lpd benchmark (as compared to other cities like Delhi, Chennai and Hyderabad). Pune also has a comfortable climate with temperatures ranging from 12 to 38 degrees Celsius. The city is also called the cultural capital of Maharashtra, with a thriving arts and culture centre. It was the seat of power of Deccan India during the Peshwas in the 17th and 18th centuries and has promoted arts and literature ever since.
Encouraged by this, Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) has also been at the forefront to deliver core urban services well. The city today has 94 percent households with tap water (71 percent for urban India), 57 percent MSW segregation (highest in India), 97 percent population covered by sewage systems (63 percent for urban India), 220 lpd water (highest in India among top 10 cities), and 98 percent electricity coverage with no load-shedding. PMC spent INR 9,461 per citizen in 2013–14 (3rd highest in India after Delhi and Mumbai). It has been the leading city under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.
PMC has also been able to manage its finances well and has recently received an AA rating from Fitch—an independent testimony to its strong balance sheet and fiscal prudence.
Areas of improvement
While Pune has been able to deliver on most core urban services, top most area which needs significant improvement is mobility.
A significant rise in the number of private vehicles and the lack of public transportation options have led to massive congestions across the city, with an average speed of 18 kmph. Pune is the only city among the top eight in the country without a mass rapid transit system (MRTS). The average number of buses per lakh population is only 37, compared to the benchmark of 55. This has resulted in 18 percent share of public transportation vs the 50 percent benchmark. The city has also grown radially, with most new job opportunities in IT and manufacturing being created on its outskirts. This has increased the average trip length to 10 km (Ref. 2), with 30 percent of bypass traffic going through the heart of the city. A lack of ring roads makes matters worse. While 50 percent of the commute is less than 5 km, limited non-motorised transport (NMT) options for pedestrians and cyclists has discouraged usage.
Also, while there is abundant water at an aggregate level, inequality of water distribution among citizens is a challenge. Around 85 percent of citizens get more than 150 litres per capita, per day (lpcd) benchmark whereas 14 percent of citizens get less than the stipulated amount on daily basis. This is driven by the lack of infrastructure (e.g., reservoirs, pipelines) in certain regions, about 30 to 35 percent non-revenue water (NRW) due to internal leakages and lack of water metering leading to excess consumption.
The housing challenge also needs to be addressed. Twenty-eight percent of the city’s households live in slums (compared to 17 percent for national average).
Finally, while Pune was earlier known for its dense tree cover and good environment, urbanization has taken a toll on the liveability and sustainability parameters. Air quality (PM10 levels) in Pune stands at 91 compared to the ideal state of 60. Upto 355 mld untreated sewage is discharged into the Mula-Mutha river, which has biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) levels of 50 to 80. Sound pollution, driven by congestion, is one of the highest among top Indian cities. With its unplanned growth, Pune lacks the benchmark levels of open spaces (7 percent vs 15 percent).
Opportunities going forward and further threats that must be addressed
Pune must capitalize on its human capital and economic prowess to leapfrog & be one of the top investment destinations in Asia. With India continuing to grow at 7 to 8 percent for the next decade, Pune should attract investments coming to India for high-end jobs. It has the necessary human capital to be the destination for high-end jobs, such as technology start-ups, high-end IT, R&D and innovation labs for manufacturing companies. This will also trigger job creation in the city, which has not happened in the last decade, and will address the issue of lack of mixed-use development, reducing lead distances to work and promoting walk-to-work.
One of the critical enablers of job creation will be the ease of doing business. Pune must capitalize on and further improve its good governance to become one of the top 10 cities on the parameter of ease of doing business.
It could also make the most of its rich natural and cultural heritage to build a vibrant city besides being economically strong. With three rivers, Pune has the potential to develop its riverside tourism in the manner of other global cities like Seoul, London and Amsterdam.
Finally, as Pune grows into an economical and cultural powerhouse, urbanization rates will intensify significantly, putting severe pressure on the already stretched infrastructure. As per proprietary econometric models, the population is likely to increase from 3.5 mn today to about 5 mn by 2030 (Ref. 3) . If suitable measures are not taken, the urban infrastructure will collapse. Peak hour traffic speed will come down from 18kmph to 10-12 kmph by 2030 (Ref. 4).
To meet future infrastructure needs, Pune will need to invest INR 50,000-55,000 cr in the next 15 years (Ref. 5). It must also leverage its existing assets (e.g., land monetization) and create mechanisms to borrow from the market to meet its infrastructure funding needs.