It gives me great pleasure to be here in Hubbali with all of you today and to inaugurate the Hubbali-Dharwad Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project.
The twin cities-- the commercial hub of Hubbali and the educational centre of Dharwad, are separated by a distance of 22.5 Kms. In view of the growing traffic volume between the two cities, a financially and operationally viable mass transport solution was needed to meet the demand.
Thus, Bus Rapid Transit network appears to be the most viable transport solution for this region.
I am told that the Hubballi-Dharwad BRTS project has been taken up under the Sustainable Urban Transport Project (SUTP) program, with part assistance of the World Bank- Global Environment Facility (GEF).
Let me take this opportunity to congratulate the agency, its partners and the residents of Hubbali-Dharwad on winning the “Best Mass Transit Award” for 2019.
I am told that the BRT system is called the ‘Chigari BRT’, ‘Chigari’ – meaning a blackbuck. A beautiful name, in my opinion, symbolizing speed, strength, and grace at the same time.
I am told that about 85,000-95,000 people would be traveling daily by the Chigari BRT, within a few months of its inception. It is also heartening to hear that Chigari BRT would carry more passengers than some of the Metro lines. What is important, however, is the reduction in travel time by 40 percent-- from 60 minutes to 35 minutes, which is a very significant reduction.
The AC buses, BRT stations that provide level boarding, flap gates, ticketing through mobile and web – all these give me the impression that this BRT is truly a ‘metro on road’.
The project is also a shining example of how small and medium cities can create smart public transport.
I am told that the Chigari BRT is an integral part of the Smart City Mission project of Hubbali. The fact that these development projects consider ‘accessibility’ as one of the basic principles, gives me great confidence that, as India moves forward ‘no’ person will be left behind.
I urge the residents of Hubbali-Dharwad to make maximum use of Chigari BRT as it not only helps to reduce congestion but also pollution and improves the air quality. In other words, it would help to improve the quality of life in these beautiful twin cities.
I look forward to hearing more success stories like Chigari BRT from the rest of Karnataka too, soon.
My dear sisters and brothers,
Urbanization is a reality that we can no longer ignore. Along with the world population, India’s population is also migrating towards cities.
In 2017, when I was serving as the Minister for Urban Development, I had often said that India is seeing an urban renaissance and is on the move towards unprecedented development. However, rapid urbanization has its own set of challenges which have to be addressed in a holistic manner by the urban planners.
While 55% of the world population is already living in urban areas, according to the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, it is expected that this percentage will reach 68% by 2050.
India is expected to contribute a staggering 416 million urban dwellers to this number, the highest in the world.
A recent estimate put out by ‘The Economist’ magazine says that three of the world’s 10 fastest-growing cities by population, are in India.
As you can expect, the development to keep up with this enormous growth needs to start now.
This development needs to be sustainable to ensure that it does not affect the environment and human health, especially the health of our children, adversely.
Development must not happen at the cost of quality of life.
The current issues faced by almost all urban centers in India include poor quality of air, insufficient potable water supplies, poor sanitation, insufficient solid waste management facilities, and limited public transport infrastructure.
I strongly believe that we need a proactive model of urbanization rather than a reactive one.
Reactive urbanization results in congestion, urban sprawl, low-density sub-urbanization, and slum-formation that substantially increases the cost of delivering infrastructure and causes a fall in the quality of life of city dwellers.
In recent times, the government has undertaken several creative programs to usher in sustainable and inclusive urban development, from the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) to the Smart Cities Mission (SCM) and Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM). These were complemented by schemes to improve urban mobility.
It is also heartening to note that the Government of India has envisioned the National Urban Policy Framework 2018 (NUPF) that outlined ‘an integrated and coherent approach towards the future of urban planning in India’.
Since urban development is a state subject, the states are encouraged to develop their own, robust urban policies, including implementation plans, based on a national framework. Collaboration between the State Governments and the Union Government is essential for sustainable urban development and so is a strong public-private partnership.
We can no longer afford to work in silos. Urban development requires coordinated and consistent efforts from all the stakeholders.
I have also often felt that Urban Local Bodies tend to focus more on the creation of new assets rather than the maintenance of existing assets and the replacement of damaged ones. We must utilize the available resources more judiciously and diligently so that both tasks of asset building and asset maintenance/replacement go hand-in-hand.
My dear sisters and brothers,
Our cities are our growth engines and the drivers of our prosperity.
The balanced growth of cities depends a great deal upon access to economic opportunities to all. The accessibility to opportunities depends upon how efficient, comfortable, convenient, safe, fast and affordable urban mass transportation systems are.
Congestion is one of the most formidable challenges being faced by our cities now. Most of us would have experienced severe traffic jams while commuting in our cities.
With the number of vehicles plying on our roads increasing exponentially with every passing year, our cities have also fallen prey to steadily worsening Air Quality indices.
We must control the emission of Green House Gases and vehicular pollutants before the damage to the environment becomes irreversible.
Time and again, cities and towns across the world are witnessing extreme weather events like urban flooding, cyclones, wildfires, and hurricanes, which are throwing normal life out of gear. Apart from putting in place effective disaster-management plans, we need to make our cities more resilient.
The recent bush-fires in Australia caused damages worth 2 billion Australian dollars and nearly 1 billion animals are said to have perished in the fire. Over 18 million hectares have burned in the Australian bushfire season 2019–2020 as of mid-January.
Temperatures are rising and a drought-like situation is gripping cities in the summer with water scarcity being a regular challenge. Our cities are battling the consequences of climate change on a daily basis.
India, I must proudly say, is now one of the global leaders in addressing this challenge head-on.
India has defined an ambitious target of deploying 175GW of renewable power by 2022. This target is now further raised to 227 GW of renewable energy capacity, considering that we are well on our way to exceeding the previously set target.
Economic growth and environmental conservation are not mutually exclusive goals.
Climate vulnerability and likely impacts should be factored in every one of our development strategies.
As stated earlier, our cities must be more resilient to disasters.
Cities account for two-thirds of global energy demand and 70% of carbon emissions.
The new urban infrastructure should be low-carbon, green and climate-resilient.
In addition to building Mass Transportation infrastructure, we must also encourage non-polluting Electric Vehicles.
The government must strive to provide the right policy environment, give incentives and create charging infrastructure to put more and more e-vehicles on the road. With wide footpaths and properly planned pedestrian crossings, our roads must also be safe for those who cycle or walk.
The Smart City Mission focuses on liveable, sustainable cities that are built for people and NOT vehicles.
Simply building infrastructure is also not enough. There must be a behavioral change among urban dwellers to take to mass transportation rather than using private vehicles.
Road safety must also be one of our priority areas. It is unfortunate to note that over 1.5 lakh precious lives were lost in India to traffic accidents in 2018, mostly due to driving on the wrong side, the use of mobile phones and drunk driving.
In addition to constructing roads scientifically, we must also spread awareness about road safety, especially among youngsters in schools and colleges. We must develop a culture of disciplined driving and lane-following in our country to minimize congestion and to avoid accidents.
To ensure a brighter future for all our citizens, especially those living in urban centers, we must also focus on reducing the rural-urban divide.
All this can be achieved when all of you become proactive partners in this process of transformation.
I am confident that this BRT will be a major step towards fostering sustainable development in the region. Let me congratulate all of you once again.