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Surat

Surat, situated on River Tapi with a 6 km coastline stretchingA? along the Arabian Sea, has emerged as a vital city in the state of Gujarat. It is popular as a destination spot for immigrants not only from within the state but also from other regions of India. According to Census 2011 figures, Surat tops the growth chart among the cities with a 42.24% increase in urban population. Experts also claim that the city can be referred to as an ideal case study for other cities aiming to achieve urbanisation in an orderly fashion.

Surat has had a distinguished past, as it not only was a renowned business centre set up by the Dutch and Portuguese but also wasA? a prestigious port where ships from more than 84 countries were anchored. This progressive trend in its economic state continues till date, as the city has virtually a zero percent unemployment rate and a high availability of jobs due to the presence of various industries, especially the diamond polishing industry, both within the city as well as in its neighbouring areas. According to business reports, Surat has also attained the 10th position as the city with the highest market potential and increasing mall supply.

In response to the destructive plague of 1994, Surat had the need for economical and environmentally sustainable infrastructure. Not only has the sanitation system been upgraded but health care has also been made available to all members of the society.

The Surat Municipal Corporation (SMC) has also designed an android mobile application in efforts to promote e-governance services to the 45 lakh population, making it the first municipal corporation in the country to engage in these services. The app can be used to access information regarding water supply, property tax, professional tax, birth registration certificate, etc. through mobile phones.

Housing and real estate

The SMC aims to build around 11,000 affordable homes, keeping in mind theA? goal ofA? achievingA?A? a zero slum city. Some 38 different sites have been selected for this purpose and the design of houses range from ground plus 3 storey buildings to G+15 buildings. The key objective is to sell these constructions to the Economically Weaker Section (EWS) and Low Income Group (LIG) at reduced prices.

To achieve these goals, the state government will provide a funding of 1.5 lakh for the EWS unit, while the Central government would offer a 75,000 subsidy. Construction for these has been planned in phases and has begun in the first quarter of 2014.

Further, the Gujarat Housing Board (GHB), has recently been reinstituted by the state government. It is currently involved in the construction of 2,132 flats in Surat. GHB is building apartments for both low and medium income groups in areas such as Ganeshpura. As this body follows the concept of no profit, no loss, all flats would be sold at the actual cost.

As per the Urban Development & Urban Housing Department, the Government of GujaratA? has plans of implementing innovative technology for housing, under the Integrated Housing & Slum Development Programme (IHSDP). The material used for this would be fly ash brick and an estimated 40% of slum dwellers would be shifted into these.

It is worth noting that Surat has received several accolades for the work done in this department. These include the Best City Award in Implementation of Basic Services to Urban Poor in 2010 and Most Exclusive Approach for Urban Poor in 2009. Meanwhile, despite the state governments efforts in developing social housing for the urban poor, the citys real estate developers have found it difficult to sell sufficient housing property in the higher income groups (HIG) and higher middle income groups (HMIG).According to the Surat Builders Association(SBA), the reason behind this is the continuous expansion of the middle-income groupA? as compared to the higher income groups. Related to this, is also the issue of lack of housing finance as reflected in the difficulty of getting loans to purchase and invest in housing. However, building of public infrastructure such as the Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) in areas such as Vesu, Magob and Parvat is expected toA? make realty prices more profitable and encourage higher sales in this arena.

Transport

Compared to the high growth rates that the city experienced, experts claimed that the investment in public transport was somewhat inadequate. Moreover, private transport became cheaper, especially for short distances due to the abundant supply of auto rickshaws or shared rickshaws compared to the existing system of buses.

To cope up with the growing need of more public transports, the Bus Rapid Transport System (BRTS) was established, and its first phase was completed in March 2014. The Surat Municipal Corporation, in addition, declared a 25% discount on the fares, making it cheaper than even the shared rickshaws.

Several new routes are to be added to the current network, as the second part of phase I of BRTS would include the distance between Kharwanagar to Sarthana Jakatnaka. Further, plans to extend the service on Kharwarnagar to Dumas resort via university would commence within a month. The 20 km stretch has been named as Canal Corridor. Plans are in place to have buses shuttling regularly on the 30 km route within the city.

Solid waste management

Despite the massive setback of the 1994 plague epidemic, Surat has become an inspiration for cities all over India, as it successfully transformed itself into one of the cleanest cities. This was the combined outcome of efforts of the municipal authorities as well as community participation. To generate community awareness, there was much focus on complaint redressal system, grievance redressal system and the litter prevention system.

Currently, the SMC has an annual expenditure ofA? 45 crore to maintain the cleanliness of the city. More than 300 vehicles visit each house and around 750 tonnes of waste gets accumulated daily. This is then disposed at the landfill at Khajod. Other initiatives include creation of compost and green fuel on PPP basis. Private contractors too were greatly involved in the process and were responsible for the transport, collection and disposal of the solid waste.

Industries and economic development

Surat is home to several industries that contribute vastly to the nations economy. It is a well-known hub for diamond and textile businesses in the world. 92% of the worlds diamonds of the global market are cut and polished in the city. As it also has the most number of embroidery machines compared to any other city, it is known as the Embroidery capital of India.

Surat also is fourth on the list of fastest growing cities in the world, and the bright business aspects have helped the city earn the title of the Commercial Capital of Gujarat.

Culture and tourism

Tourists from not only India but around the world flock to visit the various historical monuments, museum and gardens in the city. The Old Monument, built by Tughlak in the 14th century, Sardar Patel Museum and the Dutch Garden are such notable examples. The villages of Bardoli and Dandi known best for being the location where Gandhi started the Satyagraha movement and Dandi march are famous tourist
sites also.

Surat also provides attractions for those interested in nature and wildlife including the Vansada National Park. Among the more recent developments; a famous attraction offered by the city is the Jagdishchandra Bose Municipal Aquarium. This is the only marine aquarium in India to house sharks and its modern facilities make it popular with both adults and youngsters.

Challenges

Being a coastal city, Surat is vulnerable to rise in sea level and the consequent flooding. As per UN reports , the northern parts of the city are particularly susceptible to the Ukai Dam floods, and the more frequently occurring Khadi creek floods. Such floods have the potential to damage infrastructure and assets, thus leading to much economic loss. A further threat is that of malaria and other vector borne diseases are prevalent due to the frequent rainy periods and high humidity related diseases.

There is also the added responsibility, as such, to provide affordable housing in less risk prone areas, which are comparatively more flood resilient.

On the other hand, delayed monsoons or extended summer season creates drought-like conditions, which in turn, result in a spike in the demand for water and energy consumption.

Several organisations including Sarvajanik College of Engineering and Technology, Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority and Urban and Social Health Advocacy Advocacy and Alliance Alliance (NIWCD, Surat),have joined hands to address these issues.

Activities such as organising committees, holding meetings, pilot studies, using GIS analysis, planning support systems have been held to ensure more effective management and creation of awareness amongst the various stakeholders, including the citizens to resolve these issues.