Better Infrastructure can lead us to sustainability of Growth

Posted: June 21, 2011 in Interview, The NamoLeague Times
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How do you define the term ‘Infrastructure Development’?
Infrastructure is actually the key element of development. It has a large connotation that includes urban planning as one of its element. Roads, water supply, solid waste management are some of the major issues of infrastructure development. However, ports, airports, highways, industries etc. are other mega issues related to the term. We can say that infrastructure is directly proportional to development, better the infrastructure, more the development in any said state. India is growing at a fast rate due to its manpower, but to sustain this growth, we will need better infrastructure.

What are the main elements that support the overall infrastructure development?
For any city, roads, water supply, electricity and solid waste management are the most important elements. However, landscaping is the decorative element of infrastructure development. The other essentials like the trees, footpaths and cleanliness are the areas where we highly lag behind. Probably this is the only difference between the developing and the developed countries. We need to learn the management skills of the public land and other properties and change the mindsets of the people on a larger scale.

How does CEPT play its part?
CEPT is basically an educational institute. So, due to the need of the hour, we offer various educational programs in the fields related to infrastructure. This includes transportation, industrial development, urban planning etc. In addition to this, CEPT has been declared the ‘Anchor Institute’ in the field of infrastructure. It’s a three tier process, funded by the Government of Gujarat. We identify nodal institutes and the availability of manpower. The teachers of various colleges are trained. Also, uneducated people who wish to work in the field of construction are trained for their livelihood. Because, after all, without them infrastructure cannot be possible. It is believed that in future 70% of the manpower will be absorbed in the field of infrastructure. There are tie-ups with NGOs and also foreign universities for the sharing of knowhow.

What are your views on the heritage of Ahmedabad and Gujarat as a whole?
Ahmedabad itself is a huge heritage. Talking about Gujarat, its heritage and climate are very much similar to that of Rajasthan. But the economy of Gujarat is related to trade and commerce. While that of Rajasthan and places like Kerala are tourism oriented. I strongly believe that heritage and tourism go hand-in-hand. If we have a grand legacy and heritage, but there is no one to appreciate and admire, it does not make sense. Gujarat emphasizes on trade more and so tourism is sidelined. People too, are not much bothered; they travel to almost entire India and even abroad but do not care to see their own Gujarat.

Do you think that restoration damages the originality of the heritage?
Restoration has a set guideline and standard procedures. Unless and until, those are not followed, one cannot even touch the monuments. Also, it is a matter of pride that India is an expert on the world level in this field. Countries like China and Bhutan depend on the Indian experts for the restoration of their heritage. However, the problem here too, is the limited availability of resources and the available resources are being pulled in every possible direction. The economy is growing and gradually importance is being given to culture and heritage.

What are the trends coming up in the field of infrastructure?
Public-Private partnership is the recent trend. Initially, the Governmental budget was not enough to cater to all the necessary developments. The need was much more than the supply. Also, people believed that since they have gained independence, they need to pay taxes and tolls for the public services that they use. On the other hand, private parties have huge funds. So the Government shifted from ‘Control’ to ‘Encouragement’ and joined hands with the private players.

How do you foresee Gujarat in 2020?
Gujarat will be termed as an Urban State by 2020. It has already achieved the status of 35-40% of its people living in the urban areas. This is the ‘Urban Age’ wherein most of the parts of the world have more than 50% of its population living in the urban areas.
Gujarat is a progressive state. It will have enough of land and power, but water supply can be an issue to be tackled in 2020. Also, instead of focusing on the industrial development, Gujarat will move to the next phase that will involve IT and other trade related services.

(Prof. Utpal Sharma, Dean, Faculty of Planning & Public Policy, CEPT University)

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