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Vadodara, located on the right bank of the River Vishwamistri is popularly known as the cultural capital of Gujarat. It is the third largest city in the state after Ahmedabad and Surat withA? a total area of 148.95 sq km. Much of the cultural and economical heritage of the city has often been attributed to Sayajirao, the ruler of the city during the early 20th century. The city earlier went by the name of Baroda, which is derived from the Sanskrit word Vatodar, translated as in the heart of the banyan tree. It was only in 1974 that the name was officially changed to its current form.

Several medium and large scale industries have been established over the years in the city, including those in the petrochemicals, plastics and engineering sectors. Industrial complexes that are established here include those that are part of the Gujarat Refinery, Indian Petrochemicals and Gujarat State Fertilizers among others.

Housing and real estate

The Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC), in February 2014, completed the tendering process of projects for the Low Income Group (LIG). A total of 3,500 houses in the areas of Manjalpur, Sami, Karelibagh, Tandalja Road amongst others, are to be constructed under this initiative.

Further, under the housing scheme serving the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS), 372 apartments at Vasna and 360 at Sayajipura are to be constructed. Both projects will amount to approximately 23 crore each, with arrangements for the developer to use 10% of the floor space at both locations for commercial purpose.

In April 2013, reports showed that the price of real estate, particularly affordable housing had decreased by 15 to 20%. One of the main reasons cited for this had been the interruption in land transactions due to stricter rules on sale of agricultural land, thus restricting the land availability. The change in prices was thought to benefit especially the middle class and encourage greater investments from the citizens.

Experts speculate that flyover projects such as that at Fatehgunj will help further support the real estate market to a considerable extent. These projects would help to resolve traffic issues and thus boost the popularity of the area.

Vadodaras real estate market, further, offers a large variety including residential buildings, bungalows, farm houses as well as complexes for commercial and retail use. Some significant developments that the city boasts of include hotels, integrated townships-particularly those involved in the finance sector, gated communities and IT corridors.

Transport

Vadodora is connected to the rest of the country, via National Highway No. 8 and also has an airport that provides access to Delhi and Mumbai.

In terms of transport for the locals, auto-rickshaws and taxis are the other most popular modes of transport apart from the state-run bus system. The VMC along with Centre for Green Mobility (CGM), a non-profit organisation, has initiated cycle sharing as another alternative to public transport. This has been designed to reduce pollution as well as ease and improve connectivity from various public transport stations, along the lines of other cities, such as Paris, New York and even Bengaluru. Under this system, users will be registered with a smart card, which will enable them to rent cycles from their nearest stations and on the completion of their journey, they can return these to the next station.

The recently inaugurated bus terminal of Vadodara, known as the Sardar Vallabhai Patel Central Bus Station has been endorsed as the best in the country, and is considered to be on par with its international counterparts. The unique design of the building was inspired from the structure of a banyan tree and is being constructed through a public-private partnership, costing around 110 crores. The terminal is set to offer airport-like facilities and includes shopping malls, supermarkets and commercial office complexes.

Solid waste management

The city is one of the few in India with the advantage of having an underground drainage system that had been constructed over a century ago in 1894. The sewage is collected through this underground drainage network, processed at a treatment plant before being eventually disposed into the nearby rivers. The Gujarat Pollution Control Board has established certain standards with regards to this waste disposal, to reduce any potential for hazards.

The VMC has assigned three drainage zones for the sewerage system based on the physical features of the city. Each of these has its own treatment plant. The effluents of the first two zones are discarded into the Ruparel Kaans, while that from the third is discharged into the River Vishwamitri. The three zones are thus delineated as Tarwali, Gajrawadi and Atladra.

A further sewerage plant has been established at Rajiv Nagar, this year at the cost of 72.26 crores, and would aim to take care of the drainage concerns of the Ajwa Road and Karelibagh areas.

There are initiatives to also utilise the bi-products from the treatment of the sewage water. The solid bio-organic wastes are collected in drying beds and then sold as fertilizers. Additionally, the civic authority, Vadodara Mahanagar Seva Sadan (VMSS) supplies non-potable industrial grade water to Nandesari Industries Association. The city has received national awards under JNNURM for its various initiatives, such as Best City for Improvement in Water Supply and Waste Water Sector in 2009-10.

In 2014, the Vadodara Municipal Corporation initiated an e-waste collection drive in the city. Under this system, the vendor company would provide rewards to citizens for recycling their old electronical equipment, such as televisions, mobile phones, gaming consoles, etc. The vendor company would proceed to contribute 14% of this total to the government authorities and the waste would be disposed as per the states standards.

Education

The city is an important educational centre for the state , with much of the academic framework having been established during Sayajiraos rule. At present, the city boasts of 20 public schools and 100 private schools. Additionally, there are over 2,000 primary schools. The Maharaja Sayajirao (MS) University is the largest university in the entire state of Gujarat, with a student body greater than 30,000. Dental College, Vadodara, Pipalia-Waghodia, Ayurvedic College and SNDT College are some of the esteemed universities within the city.

Culture and tourism

The city is also referred to as Sanskari Nagari which means the Cultured City, and is one of the most popular sites for the Garba festival ,that is held annually every October. Apart from the locals, the sizeable student population from theA? MS University campus also partake in the festivities.

Vadodara is also known as Kala Nagari as it is considered to be a hub for art, literature and architecture, that has been established since the reign of the Royal Gaekwad dynasty.

Some of the famous places of interest include Laxmi Vilas Palace, Maharaja Fateh Singh Museum and Nyay Mandir amongst others.

Challenges

According to the estimates of the VMC, the water supply of the city is likely to fluctuate in the years to come due to an expanding population density and lack of service and operations. Changes in the frequency and timing of the water supply may also occur.

Further as the treatment plants are prone to silt formation, this may lead to untreated sewage entering the rivers. With regard to lack of an appropriate storm drainage system, flooding in the entire upstream network becomes a concern. As part of the drainage area is being utilised by slum dwellers and for the disposal of garbage, section of the Bhukhi drain downstream has been reduced. Water logging also has subsequently led to epidemics such as malaria, cholera, etc.

Further problems have risen consequently from increase in the population size of the city, as this has in turn led to rise in demand for more housing and transportation. Vadodara was once known as the City of Gardens-as it had 62 gardens. However, the cityscape is fast changing with much of the green space disappearing and officials are concerned that this may disrupt the quality of life index for the city.

Obstacles also remain in the execution of the town planning schemes by the VMC, as only six out of the twenty have been so far realised. Such schemes are of vital importance to the city as these not only concern the infrastructure but also housing facilities for the poor.

The authorities are thus working towards adapting to the ever increasing urbanisation rates and simultaneously preserving an ecological balance, as Vadodara continues to grow into a city of national importance.