City Buzz: Faizabad renamed Ayodhya | Diwali impact on air quality | Delhi Signature Bridge opening…and more!

URBAN WEEKLY NEWS ROUND-UP

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Representational image: Low visibility in Delhi due to air pollution. Pic: Sumita Roy Dutta/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Decline in air quality across cities around Diwali

There has been a marked decline in air quality across most cities during and after Diwali celebrations. The bursting of fire crackers had been cited as one of the reasons for the decline, despite efforts by the Supreme Court to curb the usage of fireworks by setting a restriction on the time period. The order was violated en masse, leading to a rise in pollution levels.

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Pune saw its air quality drop to “very poor” category despite having received rains during the week. The air quality recorded was worse than the same time the previous year. Gurugram too saw a ten-fold rise in PM2.5 levels after Diwali, with air quality also in the “very poor” category with a reading of 389 on the AQI (Air Quality Index).

Parts of Mumbai too saw AQI readings over 300. Andheri, Bandra-Kurla complex and Mazagaon fell under the “very poor” category after Diwali celebrations.

On Diwali day, Delhi’s air quality plunged to the “severe plus” category with many parts showing maximum reading on the AQI. There has been an improvement in the following days with the air quality expected to be in the “severe” category until November 10.

Kolkata registered a high of 326 on the AQI in the run up to Diwali. The levels climbed steadily from a low of 58. Kali Puja and Chhoti Diwali celebrations saw the rise in air pollution in a span of 18 hours as crackers were burst in celebration. The thick cloud cover also prevented the pollution from coming down in the days that followed.

Source: The Indian Express | The Times of India | Hindustan Times

Faizabad district renamed Ayodhya; triggers calls for more name changes

After the renaming of Allahabad to Prayagraj, the Uttar Pradesh government has now moved to rename Faizabad district to Ayodhya. The move was announced on the eve of Diwali. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said that Ayodhya was a symbol of ‘honour, prestige and pride’. He also announced the setting up of a medical college and airport in the area.

The move has led to calls for renaming of various other cities in UP and elsewhere. BJP leaders rallied for Ahmedabad to be renamed Karnavati and Agra to be called Agrawal. Shiv Sena has called for Aurangabad and Osmanabad to be renamed Sambhaji Nagar and Darashiv respectively.

The UP Government’s move and subsequent demands from BJP and allies in other states has drawn flak from CPI, Congress and Samajwadi Party who accused the government of attempting to cover up its administrative failures by creating communal divides, fostering anti-Muslim sentiment and attempting to erase history.

Source: Business Today | Indian Express

Mumbai second most congested city in the country

A first-of-its-kind large scale urban mobility study that covers 154 Indian studies and analyses data from Google Maps has found Mumbai to be the second most congested city in the country. Bangalore took the top spot. The other cities in the list were Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Pune, Jaipur, Coimbatore and Ahmedabad rounding off the top ten.

The study conducted by US-based National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) arrived at the results after an analysis of 22 million potential trips through the country at various times. The study also ranked cities in terms of traffic speed where Mumbai came forth with Kolkata securing the top spot. The ranking for fastest cities in terms of traffic speed were split evenly, featuring five cities from the south and five from the north.

The study has come under scrutiny for the use of Google maps as the basis as there is a lag in the data that can be found in the service. An earlier study by a global consultancy had found that traffic congestion cost Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Kolkata Rs 1.47 lakh crores per year.

Source: Times Now | Hindustan Times| Times of India

GHMC completes five mega civic projects for the year

The Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) completed five crucial civic projects for the year well ahead of deadlines set for the same. With the opening of the Mindspace Flyover, the total tally for the year was up to five. The civic body has worked on finishing works in two flyovers and three underpasses with the main aim of reducing traffic congestion in the city.

The Mindspace Flyover was inaugurated on November 8th. The project was part of the Telangana state government’s Strategic Road Development Plan (SRDP). It has been constructed at a cost of nearly Rs 50 crore, with supplementary works such as bidirectional underpass, service roads and utility drains built in the same location. The construction was completed by the GHMC six months ahead of time.

The other projects completed and inaugurated in the past year by the GHMC include the Ayappa society underpass, Mindspace underpass, Chintalkuna underpass and the Kamineni flyover. The SRDP envisions these projects to aid in the free flow of traffic. A total of Rs 550 crore has been earmarked for its execution.

Source: Telangana News | The Hindu

Delhi’s impounding drive hits space snag

The Delhi government’s drive to impound deregister diesel vehicles older than 15 years has hit a roadblock due to lack of space to store the impounded vehicles, as the three designated lots are already full.

The operation has seen the authorities impound a mere 173 vehicles thus far. In just over a month since the start of the drive on October 5, the aforementioned vehicles have been impounded against a total of 2,23,319 deregistered vehicles.  The orders also extend to petrol vehicles older than 15 years, taking the total up to nearly 38 lakh vehicles in the capital. The court had ordered execution in a phased manner, with the more polluting diesel vehicles to be impounded first. Less than 1% of deregistered vehicles have, however, been impounded as part of the ambitious plan since 2014.

The impact of the drive is also questionable as the owners are legally eligible to claim the vehicle back on the payment of a fine.

Source: Hindustan Times | Economic Times

Cabinet nod for privatisation of six airports

The Union Cabinet has approved a proposal to adopt a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model for the operation of six airports across the country. The airports to be managed under the PPP model include Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Lucknow, Mangaluru, Thiruvananthapuram and Guwahati. The meeting was chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The move is expected to modernise the infrastructure that is available in the airports and lead to an increase in revenue for the Airports Authority of India (AAI). The largely successful operations of  the privatised airports in Delhi and Mumbai have been a catalyst for more such initiatives.

The specifics of the deal could include privatisation for a period of 30 years with further renewal. The AAI is expected to be a minority stakeholder with the chosen private player to get 75% stake. Airports of Hyderabad, Bengaluru and Kochi have also been functioning under the PPP model. The move has already attracted opposition, with Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan requesting the Centre to reconsider the decision, stating that the same objectives could be achieved by the public sector as well.

Source: Business Today | The Hindu

Delhi’s Signature Bridge inaugurated amidst scuffle

India’s first asymmetrical cable-stayed bridge, the Signature Bridge was inaugurated on November 4th. The 575- metre bridge has a 154-metre high glass viewing box offering a panoramic view. There are four elevators and dedicated selfie-spots. The bridge is built across the Yamuna river and is expected to reduce travel time and traffic congestion for commuters in the northern and north-eastern part of the capital. The bridge was first proposed to be built in 2004 and has opened after a 14-year delay. The bridge has been constructed at a cost of around Rs 1500 crore.

The inauguration also saw scuffles break out between members of the AAP and the BJP. The Delhi BJP Chief Manoj Tiwari allegedly came to the spot along with supporters to protest, not having been invited for the event. An FIR has been registered by the Delhi police against Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, AAP MLA Amanatullah Khan and BJP Chief Manoj Tiwari in relation to the incident. Police officers were also found to have been attacked during the ruckus.

Source: Times of India | Financial Express

[Compiled by Aruna Natarajan]