City Buzz: Delhi gets common mobility card, Kolkata Metro eyes driverless trains, plans for Charminar…and more news

There's a lot happening around our cities. In case you've not had a chance to follow the news, here's a quick wrap of some important urban developments over the last week.

Delhi gets common mobility card

Delhiites can now use their metro smart cards to pay for rides in the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) buses and cluster buses. An agreement was reached between the Delhi government and the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) that allows for the use of the metro smart card. Delhi joins a list of cities like Tokyo, Hong Kong, Amsterdam and London in providing a common mobility card across various modes of transportation.

The scheme underwent several delays due to disagreements between the transport department and the office of the minister for transport but the card came into effect with a soft launch on August 24. Electronic Ticketing Machines (ETM) have been supplied in 3965 DTC buses and 1650 cluster buses. 

High-rise fire highlights Mumbai’s woes

Four people were killed and 16 injured in a fire in Crystal Towers, a high rise building in Parel. The incident highlighted the hazardous conditions of many high rise buildings in Mumbai that exist without the necessary permits and safety features. The fire at Crystal Towers is the 13th such incident this year, with a total death toll of 26.

Most of the buildings where fires erupted did not have a valid occupation certificate, functioning fire alarms and fire extinguishers, usable fire exits or an assembling point or refuge area in case of fire. Though the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation has denied occupation certificates for buildings that have been found in violation of safety norms, many residents continue to live in such buildings as they did not have viable alternatives.

Many buildings have also been found to skip the mandatory fire audits that should be conducted twice a year. Narrow roads and an ill-equipped fire brigade also add to the challenge of fighting a blaze in high-rises in Mumbai.

Kolkata Metro to go driverless

The upcoming metro lines on the east-west corridor in Kolkata are set to go driverless. Trains will be equipped with communication-based train control (CBTC) technology that will allow for seamless transition. The metro rails will also have drivers in the initial phase in order to reassure the passengers. The drivers will be phased out, with the adoption of a completely driverless system in the coming years with sophisticated safeguards and accident prevention systems. Monitoring will be done from a centralised control center. Delhi metro adopted a similar driverless system last year.

ASI plans to make Charminar encroachment-free

For the conservation and protection of the iconic Charminar, the Archaeological Survey of India has proposed to remove all encroachments in and around the site. The 425- year old monument has suffered due to rampant encroachment and public works that have been carried on in a haphazard manner in the vicinity.

The ASI had previously raised concerns with the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation after the Charminar Pedestrianisation project was considered one of the possible causes for huge cracks appearing on the historical monument. There has also been dispute over the responsibility of the works carried on around Charminar and the permission granted for the same, with the ASI and GHMC blaming each other for withholding information.

Mumbai to see more residential development after zoning changes

A recent notification by the Maharashtra urban development department has opened up previously unused industrial land for residential and commercial development. The changes that effect the ‘industrial to residential’ policy will see land under civic bodies of Thane, Kalyan-Dombivli, Mira-Bhayander, Ulhasnagar Bhiwandi-Nizampur and Navi Mumbai being made available for construction of residences, offices and malls. As per notification, developers may convert industrial land by paying a premium of 20% of the rate of the plot.

The move has however come under criticism as affordable housing is not part of the notification. The developers are free to convert industrial land into housing complexes and sell them in the open market. Another concern is that the conversion of large amounts of industrial land will create a situation where real estate is more lucrative, affecting industrialization and job creation as a result.

Compiled by Aruna Natarajan

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