Monday, November 29, 2010

Building a whole city!!!

Over the last few weeks, there has been a lot of press coverage of the under-construction ‘city’ Lavasa on the Pune – Mumbai route, and keeping the controversies aside, I realized that the idea is truly mind-boggling!
Reading ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’, and playing Caesar IV was the closest we can get to imagining actually building and inhabiting a city, but there are people who have the gumption to go out and do exactly that in real life! Whether Lavasa will be the phenomenon of the decade or the squib of the century – only the listing on NSE will indicate, but whatever the result is, the sheer romanticism of building a whole city – ground up – on a virgin piece of land – is absolutely awesome!
There was a great ad which came out on the front flap of last week’s India Today, and the stats are quite amazing – really! Once complete, the city is supposed to be home to over 3 lakh inhabitants, and is designed to handle a tourist inflow of over 20 lakhs per year! The idea is so well conceptualized that several biggie companies have joined the bandwagon to set up a presence in the to-be-city. Apollo already has a huge hospital in the place, and several of India’s top hotel chains have picked up tracts of land. There are supposed to be 240 kms of paved roads which will connect the city and several bridges linking both sides of the lake (Lavasa is built on a huge lake and the sloping hills bordering it).
Lavasa-HillsThe picture in this post will remind anyone who’s played city-building games of their endeavour in front of their PCs, and getting a city like that up and running really stretches the limit of human imagination. (Click on it for a larger view)
Thousands of cities have been founded the world over by conquering civilizations and by great leaders, but normally they are not planned to be so huge. Our mega cities like Delhi started off as a small (relatively) enclaves and then grew on to become megapolises. But getting a city designed to accommodate so many thousands of families is a vision in itself! The concept of the city is such that people work, live, are entertained,  eat, travel, and socialize in an area that can be walked around; or can be reached in just a few minutes by vehicle. But think of the complexities of designing so many things at once, and then making sure that they all integrate seamlessly.
There is bound to be a challenge in finding companies to create jobs in the new city, and then to find the people required to man those jobs. Unless that balance is struck, nothing else will come together. Once that is done and people start moving in, all the other things need to tie in. In ‘One Hundred years of Solitude’, Macondo is founded by accident, and it grows by itself (and also self-destructs). Lavasa, in contrast, has been planned to perfection (theoretically atleast), and if everything goes its way, could be the perfect solution to our teeming cities! Auroville (near Pondicherry) also follows a similar kind of a concept, but is rooted in the idea of a community living together irrespective of boundaries. Even after almost forty years of conceptualization, the town is yet to reach its full potential. But then, that is a whole different idea when compared to Lavasa – which is commercial in nature.
In a few years time, the new-city will take some sort of a shape, and it is bound to attract tourists – just to see the magnitude of the idea. Unless something drastic (a.k.a. Jairam Ramesh) freezes the idea!


Anonymous said...

Congrats.... So thoughtfully written. I want to add that one can remember the clashes of public because of migration. India is experiencing rapid urbanization involving thousands of people daily resulting in population drifting to existing cities making them congested. Controversies on migration to cities and increasing infrastructure problems in metros like Mumbai and Delhi, is forcing itself on the public. If congestion is to be controlled, the solution to these problems is the cities that are planned and developed by private enterprises.

The concept of planned city needs to be allowed to germinate. Today, both water and energy supplies are under pressure. Sewage and water pipes cannot afford to be hundreds of miles long. Lavasa city will be a compact city which will surely lay down new standards of governance as it will have strong administrator who will work like CEO. The stop work notice is a surprise and injustice as no environmental norms have been flouted. I find more greenery now as compared to start of the project. More trees in the area than it was earlier. Stop notice issued on environmental grounds is not correct and not understood as no environmental norms are flouted, ignored whereas more work towards environment have been done. Infact, I remember that the project workers were issued with fuel wood and not allowed to cut existing trees.

Since inception of project, the local villagers benefitted immensely as earlier they didn’t have transport, employment facilities. The living standards of local villagers have improved a lot. The children of local villagers have developed a sense of belonging. I am at loss to understand the reason for such drastic instruction on part of ministry. Till now certain activists have tried to stop work on flimsy grounds which were bad in law and could not stand. The locus standi of these activists is itself a question as these activists are always ante of development. The team of MOEF visited Lavasa, seen that no environmental loss has been done. The TV Channels broadcasted the views that no damage has been done and still different version given in court.... The MOEF needs to understand that :-

• Lavasa Hill station development is initiative of Government of Maharashtra to develop new hill station to reduce the burden on existing hill stations in Maharashtra.

• Unique concept of the Project

• It is boosting the economy of the remote and backward hilly area of the western Maharashtra

• It is generating huge employment potential in the region

• Project is associated with the various associates of international repute

• Conscious efforts to enhance environment through various measures such as mass tree plantation, hydro seeding

• Lavasa team is working with ethics providing maximum services to local villagers like Potable water through water tankers, medical facility, job employment and security.

• It is also adding a lot of revenue to the exchequer of the State and Union Government through various direct and indirect taxes

GO AHEAD LAVASA... All should strive for making Lavasa Happen and flourish.

Hareish Makhija said...

I had booked an apartment in the new town being developed called Mugaon. After the MOEF order for stop work I went ahead and changed my requirement to a bigger apartment. This demonstrates that this Project is the right thing to happen for many of us and I am sure ultimately everyone will see the merits of developing a hill station like this and give the go ahead for speedier completion of the rest of the Phases of Lavasa. Good Luck to Team Lavasa . I am looking forward to spending my retirement days over there.

Anonymous said...

Really good article. All along Media was writing negative about Lavasa. Some time you really question role media when they do not write or say truth.. I think it happended in case of Lavasa.

I understand Medha Patkar and her group concern's and love for environment. but fundmental question comes to mind where was Medha Patkar and her group when Lonavala and Mhableshwar have been now slums. Pune Rivers Mula and Mutha have become Drainage rivers. What Medha Patkar and her group has done for it. I am not saying they should not comment for Lavasa but when you have not done anything for environment issue around pune for last 30 plus years. peopel can question integerity by saying is it for just publicity? Also what suprised me is Medha patkar and her group never gave public any details on their website or in press what portion and part of Lavasa is damaging environment. Educated people need evidance and not genral allegation. All along we hear it is going to damage envrionment. When you create such media hype, media was also fault at large with out giving proper details.

Lavasa story has made us look like joke in International forums. Project starts and then Govt. MOEF keeps quiet for 4-5 years and then questions project? Then Moral police of envrionment wait for 2-3 year and then challenge project.
How do you expect international investor to invest in such volatile environment.

Both Media, Medha patkar her group and MOEF have to give true picture abour Lavasa. Why they have not recorded 3 hour movie on site and give running commentary so people know the truth. Also in such projects since policy issue between state and center not clear. Due to this i feel Court can ask for all objections including environmentalist after that court can approve or reject projects. No body should question project after court has approved it. otherwise you never know some other environmentalist will challenge project after current case is over. Already we have become laufghing stock all over world with Lavasa story.

I am not against addressing issue of environment or adivasi land issues but the way current Lavasa case is handled. And it took almost for 5 years for MOEF and Medha patkar and her group to launch case in court?

What is fault of old people who have put their life savings?
When can people trust indian govenment policies and planning permissions?

Can you trust Media in India? No wonder one justice said I stopped watching TV because after watching it there was possiblity of my jusdtment getting influnced by what they show or make public openion.

I hope one day thing will change in India.

Anonymous said...

We were there during our Diwali and it was a great experience. Cannot imagine something like this in India. The quality of work, the roads the trees, etc., it was just perfect. I wish our government who has not done anything good even after 60+ years of freedom for this country will at the least not stop this project and in fact encourage many such projects. I think if this project was in Gujrat it would have received all teh support from Mr. Modi as he is the man with vision and all the courage.

AB said...

i think we all know the reasons behind the stop work notice. The present central government is corrupt to the core and will go any length to extort money from industrialists and common people. Medha patkar and company are hand in gloves with the corrupt govt. If they were really bothered about the environment then they would be spending their energies forcing the government to clean up rivers, eradicate slums, building toilets and educating the backward people in using them. Medha patkar and her likes are the real hurdles in this country. I just hope that the judiciary sees the truth and gives justice!