Friday, December 21, 2007

Changing Hyderabad

On my recent trip to India I noticed something very important.  It had been silently happening for quite a few years and despite my frequent visits to Hyderabad I had failed to notice it earlier.  Rest of what follows is a discussion of this change.

First, the city's shifting CG

Much of old hyderabad is being pulled down to widen roads for an ever growing city's traffic needs.  Hyderabad is a 400 year old city that grew organically and therefore always lacked a well planned city's architectural blueprint. The CG of this large city lay somewhere near the nallakunta/himayathnaga/chikkadapalli (NHC) area.  These areas are very densely populated but lacked the necessary roads to move a huge population daily.  I bet, many of us remember the bus routes 1, 6, 136 etc. that plies these areas and how nightmarish it was to get to our destinations on time along these routes.  However these areas offered great schools, good commercial establishments, cinema houses and almost formed the heart of the city.  Many would eagerly disagree with me saying that Kothi or Abids woudl be the heart, but I would respond saying those areas were not residential.  The uniqueness of the NHC area was its offering of residences, schools, shopping and culture(read cinema!).

The newer hyderabad - much of the newer municipalities that were subsumed by the metropolis were somewhat better laid out. Although the city experienced a huge population boom on its periphery, the thickly populated central areas experienced a boom in apartments and therefore the CG still remained in the NHC area.

Then came the hi-tech city and the subsequent boom around Madhapur, Kondapur .. whatever (I bet you can smell the spite in my tone).  The CG is no longer in the NHC area, but probably somewhere around the Ameerpet area.  Huge colonies have sprung up all over the place and apartment values have gotten close to a crore.  However, the roads have not kept pace with apartments and as a result, the city is beginning to face the strain of structural imbalance.  The rich are buying Camrys and Accords and are competing for the same road space with the Activas and Pulsars.  The nouveau riche are trading their bikes for Indigos and Vernas.  They are all shopping at Hyderabad Central, watching movies at Prasad's and buying apartments in Madhapur.  The administration's solution to an increasingly demanding populace's traffic needs is road widening. At first glance, it might seem like a good solution.  Let's not jump the gun.  Let's remember one thing - London was not built on great roads. that nicely leads to my second point.

Hyderabad's lack of Mass Transit

The more roads are widened, the more people will upgrade to cars and other private modes of transport.  Thus, greater will be the strain on the existing road network. It was the government's short-sightedness that they did not initiate a much needed massive overhaul of the public transportation system.  Great cities of the developed world are not built on private transport that ply the roads but on public infrastructure - particularly an effective mass transit system such as a metro rail network.  Although the government has now planned something on these lines, I feel it is 5 years too late and the city has grown too fats in the last five years.  From now on, I feel we can only play catch up.  The government is planning to build a couple of main lines as part of the mass transit system and these are going to run through the heart of the city's residential neighborhoods.  A public nightmare, I am sure.
Finally, I am not sure if this will end up like the Bolarum-Falaknuma local trains!  I just hope that whoever is planning this is smarter and has good plans of increasing adoption by the public.

And finally, the water problem

Let's face it, Hyderabad has a severe water problem.  I have always maintained that the city's growth will be limited because of its water problems.  For how long can we all continue to buy apartments and somehow hope that water will be available? Can we sustain as a city by buying water? From where? Have the apartment complexes invested in renewable systems? What about rain water recycling? No builder is even thinking along these lines. If we continue on our path, we will limit our city's growth.

Hyderabad is undergoing a great change. I am not sure if this change will make it a great metropolis that will rival the world's greatest cities or if it will fall flat with its high priced apartments and lack of public infrastructure.


Radha Krishna. S. said...

A good post, as always!

But surprised to see that you haven't actually noticed how good the MMTS has turned out to be.

The already laid out routes are fabulous. One actually passes thru Nallakunta.

Just to give you an example - Jay commutes to office these days only on MMTS these days. Parks his bike at the nearest station, hops on a MMTS, opens up a novel, about 40 or so minutes later, he is in his office vicinity. Says he's loving it. He's gotten back to a disciplined work timing, coupled with the pleasure of gobbling up a novel every two days!

Another - my dad prefers taking a MMTS to his head office in Lakdikapul - takes a sweet little walk to Vidyanagar/ Nallakunta station, hops on a MMTS, gets down at Lakdikapul with a cost of just about 4 bucks (read rupees ;-)).

All in all, I've begun to love MMTS and the amount of accessibility it gives in the seem-to-be-ever-expanding hyd.

And public transport in general - that's one helluva thing that hyd scores over b'lore. And score it does, very big!

Girish Mallapragada said...


Good point! Smoothie and I did talk abt it , but somehow after looking at the routes i was left with a feeling that MMTS basically only serves a couple of main lines but does not serve large colonies that lie in between. But your point is well taken.

As always, I agree with you that HYD rocks compared to namma bengalooru.

Jayarama Krishnan said...

It's pretty rare for me to figure in a serious discussion, and that too in a positive light, so on this momentous occasion, will jump in and blabber away!!!

The positives:
* MMTS is great if it works for you.
* Reasonably punctual
* Well maintained and clean coaches
* Attempt to develop an integrated transport network - single pass for MMTS+APSRTC buses
* Increase in usage noticeable almost by the day
* Equally adopted by people from all strata of society. Execs have no hang ups about taking a common man's mode of transport.
* Keeps me in touch with the 'real India'

The negatives however:
* MMTS is great. IF it works for you. No new tracks laid. So tracks shared with long distance trains leading to occasional delays
* Reasonably punctual but still not dependable. I take it to work. But I'd hesitate to take it, if I had a train or a plane to catch ('coz of the aforementioned delays)
* No attempt at extending scope. Rather focus now is on elevated rail. Not sure if the two will be integrated.
* No attempt at popularizing it. Park and ride can be a great concept here.

In short, it's great, but it's almost a flash in the pan. Should be much more wide spread to make the difference it can.