Kamal Nath on Thursday took over as Urban Development Minister with an ambitious plan of giving a boost to urban transportation for which he intends to expand Delhi Metro network to make it bigger than its London counterpart by 2017.
"Urban transport is a big challenge today. It needs priority," said Nath, who moved to the Urban Development Ministry from Roads and Highways where he had made an endeavour the fast-track construction of highways.
In this context, he talked about Delhi Metro and said his aim would be to ensure that its network goes up to 415 kms by 2017 to make it bigger than London Metro.
Delhi Metro has so far covered 190 kms, including the airport route. London Metro has a network of 402 kms and is planned to be expanded to 414 kms.
When pointed out that the Delhi Metro was facing a financial crunch, Nath said he would discuss the issue with Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit shortly.
Talking about the challenges being faced on account of urbanisation, he said he would focus on transportation aspect considering the fact that the auto sector has grown up to 34 per cent.
In the housing sector, he noted a "huge gap" in demand and supply and said steps would be taken to involve private sector in the construction of affordable houses.
On the Real Estate Regulator Bill, he said it was one of the issues requiring priority handling.
"The land prices are going up in cities. There is a need for the expansion of NCR zone, expansion of cities with all facilities so that people feel proud for living in those cities," he said.
He said a "new outlook and new vision" was needed to tackle other challenges related to urbanisation like sewage system and water supplies, in view of the progress being made by the country.
Nath pointed out that urban development is one of the key areas contributing to GDP growth upto 60 per cent and expected to go up to 70 per cent.
Asked about the Commonwealth Games controversy, he said "That happened in the past and law is taking its own course. I am looking to the future."
He said he would seek to involve all sections, including civil society and NGOs, residential welfare associations in his efforts to improve the urban infrastructure.Asked to comment on the work of his previous ministry, he said "I created a momentum in the highway sector. When I took over it was 3000 kms. Now work is going on for 20,000 kms. I added 12 kms road length a day." Nath had aspired to construct 20 kms per day, but the Planning Commission always maintained that it was not possible.