India's 'Millenium City' on verge of becoming urban swamp | Connect Asia

India's 'Millenium City' on verge of becoming urban swamp

India's 'Millenium City' on verge of becoming urban swamp

Updated 25 June 2012, 14:14 AEST

Gurgaon, a city which borders the capital, boasts of world class glitzy structures in the form of huge shopping malls, trendy office buildings, and high-rise residential apartments.

But the Millennium City, as it is often described, could turn into a huge urban swamp as it's gradually becoming synonymous with depleted water resources and crumbling infrastructure.

Many say the city is an urban nightmare waiting to happen.

Correspondent: Murali Krishnan

Speakers: Gitanjali Mathrani, executive; Shishir Sharma, corporate lawyer; Prasad Subramaniam, advertisement professional

KRISHNAN: In just under a decade, Gurgaon which started from a barren village has turned into a modern urban sprawl dotted with gleaming glass and steel skyscrapers, neon-lit malls and luxury apartment complexes.

Its high-value commercial centres has drawn scores of multinational and corporate firms as it was pitched as the model city and one that all other cities in India would aspire to emulate.

But today Gurgaon, located about 15 miles south of the national capital, seems to be caving under its own growth, falling victim to the perils of rapid and unplanned growth. In fact it is on the edge and residents are losing calm over the crumbling facilities.

Gitanjali Mathrani, who works as a human resources consultant has been living in Gurgaon for several years.

MATHRANI: Infrastructure is completely crumbling over here because Gurgaon is a city that is not planned at all. We are literally living in sewage. If this proliferation of construction is not checked, it will get from bad to worse in the coming years. There is no way the city can survive at the pace it is expanding, it is absolutely impossible.

KRISHNAN: A recent report of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has predicted even more bad news. The report says India's aspiring lower Manhattan, may soon end up with no water, but overflowing sewage.

Additionally, by 2021, the township will be generating 533 million litres per day or MLD) of sewage. But it will have a capacity to treat a mere 255 MLD, presenting the frightening prospect of sewage overflows, the report says.

But apart from this, even electricity supply in Gurgaon has been hit badly, and long hours of power cuts are the norm. Gurgaon demands 1000 MW power every day, but is getting just 700 MW, leaving the city powerless for 8 to 12 hours every day.

No power means no water which leaves the Millennium City, teeming with over 3.7 million people, not only in the dark but grappling with one of its worst ever water crisis.

Prasad Subramaniam, the chairman of an advertising firm, says the alarm bells are ringing.

PRASAD: It is not as if the infrastructure has deteriorated. It's not kept pace with the growth of the city. Therefore relative to the demand, it is continuously lagging behind. So unless we all as a community or government do something about it, we will be under severe pressure. We have seen cities decay over many, many years. Things may happen to Gurgaon in a much smaller time frame.

KRISHNAN: When Gurgaon was booming, private developers took on the responsibility of creating internal infrastructure within sectors. But external infrastructure such as connecting roads, water supply from reservoirs, sewage disposal systems and drainage were left to the state government, which has failed to address these pressing issues.

But Shishir Sharma, who runs a corporate law firm holds out hope.

SHARMA: I think there is no option but for the civil and central administration to make sure Gurgaon thrives and therefore these challenges need to be met. And if these challenges are met, I have no hesitation in saying that Gurgaon is the city of the future for India. It is probably going to be the centre for all commercial and corporate activity for a very long time to come.

Murali Krishnan in Gurgaon for Connect Asia

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