Patna and Sustainable Development


'Sustainable Development' is the buzz-word of the governments these days. Every development activity is somehow described as being sustainable, not aware how much actually it is. The XIIth Five-Year-Plan also puts a lot of emphasis on these key terms. So, is Patna, its administrators, and its people are really targeting any such thing, or its mere a concept which looks better only on documents, papers and in speeches ?

Patna is growing at a very fast rate. As it is expanding outwards, so does its getting compact from inside. Old houses are being pulled down to make way for the new apartments. The older house which used to be occupied by one or two families have paved for the apartments where more than a dozen families now live. The deep boring has became quite widespread in the apartment culture. The demand of electricity has multiplied many times. It looks a very nominal change if considered from the perspective of only one or two apartments. But, in realty, the hundreds of apartments that have came up or are coming up throws a very disturbing picture. The new people with new money has definitely enough to possess one of two four-wheeler, the bigger-the better in the show-off society. However, one thing that has remained constant is the adjoining road, somewhat encroached from both side. More apartment, more vehicles and the same road - all results in horrific traffic jams in certain areas of the City. The 1000 tonnes of garbage on a per day basis, without any plan for its disposal add woes to the city's concept of sustainable development.

The Brundtland Commission (1987) of the World Bank  has defined Sustainable Development as the "Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." This definition encompasses lot of things like - Clean air and water, Biodiversity, carrying capacity, participation, equity, cultural preservation, household needs and so on. The concept has became more important in the contemporary time when the threat of global warming is looming large.

So, where does Patna stands on these parameters ? If evaluated on a scientific scale, the result would be drastic. Lets take a laymanish approach to analyze the situation.

  • Talking first of the air quality that affects all alike, irrespective of class definitions. The 'Fast Growing City' tag has attributed to the aggravation of this problem. The quality in the city is going from bad to worse. The plying of out-dated autos and private vehicles on the city road with impunity is a common sight. The black and obnoxious fumes from exhaust pipes of these vehicles can brings tears to anyone behind it, except the administration. The City buses are another contributor to this problem. There is in fact no check on these vehicles. The number of vehicles are increasing day-by-day but so does the laxity of the Traffic department. This unabated problem surely contradicts the definition of sustainable development.
  • Water is a very scarce resources in the country. Patna is quite fortunate to have the river Ganga flowing beside it, which recharges its water table on annual basis. The fertile plain all helps in replenishing the depleted water table. But, till how long? The water table of the city has been going down at a fast rate. No steps has been taken in this regard. The City Water Supply has become a thing of past in many areas. Rather, the people have resorted to deep boring in their respective home. The apartment culture has contributed a lot to this issue. But, sadly, any strategy to conserve the rain water has been negligent. It is very difficult to find any big pond in most areas of the City. Rapid development has encroached the other smaller ponds. Water tankers has became regular feature in the summer. Old generation could not believe this sight in the once rich-water-table feature of the City. So, how water is going to be replenished. The virtual absence of any strategy will definitely make the future generation thirsty.
  • The city has another distracting feature - absence of parks. Barring a few which are famous, there is virtual absence of parks at the colony or community level. This indicates towards major city planning failure. How can a city can be developed without adequate parks? The parks not only acts as Oxygen-belts but also as refreshing places for all age of people. The city has been emerging as a concrete jungle, marked with complete absence of parks. The more worrisome is the negligence on part of administration. Whatever left earlier is now being converted into parking spaces. The striking example is the conversion of parks in Boring Canal Road, which existed from Boring Road Chauraha to Rajapul, into parking space and other activities in due course of time. It shows how we are choosing the future of next generation. Development is needed, but the tendency at the cost of nature must be halted.
  • The condition of roads are as dilapidated as ever, particularly that of the colony roads. While the hundreds of vehicles are being added every month, the same effort to expand the road is virtually absent. Result - jams at every junction during the day time, especially office-school hours. The absence of effective local transportation has forced to people to rely on private vehicles, leading to abrupt increase in the count of vehicles. A sort of effective transportation like metro or mono rail, coupled with strict check on the private vehicles can help in congestion. Any short-term patch-up work is liable to be failed in a very short time.
  • Where does the city's garbage goes and how it is handled - no one is worried or bothered to know about it. After all, city's outskirt are there for dump. But for how long? The failure to put a ban on polythene is another example of mismanagement. When the city does not have the capability to recycle the polythene wastes, and knowing the disastrous effect of it on land and sewage, a strict ban on the polythene is sought. But its a thriving business. Who wants to comprise present for the sake of future generation.

The list is too long to cover all the aspect. There are many aspects where city is far lagging when the term of Sustainable Development comes into picture. While it is much sought after term, yet its implementation is far from satisfactory. The non-participation of people and the reluctance of the civil societies add woes to the already aggravated problems. It will not be exaggeration to say that the World Bank definition, way back in 1987,  has still not reached in Patna. The sooner it reach, the better for the city and its present and future generation.

[April 2013]