Gujarat aims to make Ahmedabad slum-free

March 1st, 2009 - 4:58 pm ICT by IANS  

Ahmedabad, March 1 (IANS) Gujarat has launched a massive urban development programme aimed at upgrading infrastructure and building houses for the poor in cities for which funds from a centrally-sponsored scheme will be utilised, officials said.

In the first phase, the government will spend Rs.17.5 billion (Rs.1,750 crore) from the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) to construct Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) in Ahmedabad and houses for slum dwellers.

“We are constructing BRTS for an investment Rs.500 crore (Rs.5 billion) stretching 58 km. This is only the first phase,” R.P. Mahida, city engineer (BRTS) of Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, told reporters.

JNNURM is a city modernisation scheme launched by the central government in 2005.

The first phase will be completed by September 2009 and tenders for the second phase, 12.9 km, will be floated soon, he added.

Mahida said BRTS would make commuting smoother in the city. The bus route is constructed in the middle of the road with 82 bus stations altogether. Later this model of BRTS will be replicated in other parts of the state.

Apart from the modern BRTS, the city corporation is busy constructing subsidised housing for the urban poor.

Around Rs.12.5 billion (Rs.1,250 crore) will be invested to make Ahmedabad a slum-free city by 2012. “A total of 18,000 housing of casting concrete will be provided to the poor families,” Anand B. Patel, additional city engineer (housing) of the municipal corporation said.

Asked how land would be acquired for this mass housing project, Patel said 20 percent of the abandoned cotton mills’ land will be developed by the corporation; a large number of cotton mills in Ahmedabad have closed down, leaving vast tracts of land barren.

Each housing unit will cost beneficiaries Rs.65,000, though the actual cost to construct each dwelling will be over Rs.240,000.

Incidentally, though Gujarat is focusing infrastructure development, the healthcare system in rural areas is still in poor condition: there are only six government medical colleges and seven private medical colleges in the state.

R.B. Patel, district reproductive and child healthcare officer of Vadodara, rued the fact that “maternal death rate and child death rates are extremely high in the rural areas, where people are extremely poor”.

He said people are mostly jobless and illiterate in rural Gujarat. “They travel to other places in search of jobs and in the long run, develop sexually transmitted diseases due to lack of awareness.”

According to him, it was very difficult to even make them aware as they cannot read or write.

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