Pune: The Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) is facing challenges while implementing social distancing and also identifying COVID-19 suspected patients in community areas due to the high population density.
Community areas in Pune consist of a population of over 1.2 million scattered in 564 pockets occupying an area of 525 hectares. This calculates to a density of 2,398.5 persons per hectare.
According to statistics provided in the PMC’s Environment Statistics Report (ESR), thousands of poor or low-income groups are forced to live in such areas. Of the 564 pockets, only 353 are notified by the government. Around 32.5 per cent of the population of the city is living in community areas. The population density (person/sq km) of the in such regions is over six times that of the overall density prevailing in the rest of the city, as per a report by NGO Mashal.
The PMC has found 61 COVID-19 positive patients in community areas and 40 in other areas. The civic body has started sealing the areas, where a maximum number of positive patients have been found. They are also visiting homes and conducting medical check-ups.
One of the residents of Bhavani Peth community areas, Raju Kamble, said, “Here, five family members are living in a 200-sq ft room. I have two children. I am working in a private company. Due to the lockdown, there is no work. How can I live in one room with my family members the whole day? The distance between the two homes is hardly five to six feet distance. The bylanes are also very narrow. How can we keep a social distance?’’ he questioned.
Appeal for help
While speaking to Sakal Times, Shekhar Gaikwad, the Municipal Commissioner, said, “It is a challenge to implement social distancing in community areas. Due to congestion, we are facing challenges while implementing social distancing. Therefore, we are visiting each of the residents and conducting medical check-ups so that we can isolate suspects. We have made arrangements for isolation. We are appealing to people to come forward and isolate themselves if they find any health problems.”
Fear of blaming
Dr Abhijit Vaidya, the founder of Arogya Sena, an NGO which works in community areas, said, “In a community area, if four to five people live in a 5x5 sq ft of room, how can they keep a social distance? It is a problem because of common public toilets. In a community area, social distancing becomes a problem due to the high population density.”
He added, “The only solution now is to counsel the residents, telling them the importance of social distancing, using preventive steps and providing necessary items so that they can stay inside their houses.”
Republican Party of India (RPI) leader and former deputy mayor Dr Siddharth Dhende, who is representing similar pockets in Jail Road area, said, “It is a crucial time. In our area, we have closed all small lanes to restrict movements completely. We are providing essential services to people in the area and continuously making announcements.”
- Total community areas in Pune - 564
- Population density - 2,398.5 persons per hectare
- Area population - More than 32.5 %
- Maximum population - Ghole Rd ward office (49 %)
- Minimum population - Dhankawadi area (2 per cent)
- High Tenement density - 444 tenements per hectare in Dhankawadi area
- High community area population density - Dhankawadi area