Page 1

Shaping the modern city Alok Kothari – Housing &Urbanism – 2012/13 Architectural Association School of Architecture, London

Private new town development – A new urban impasse Introduction: Today the growing population of India is putting a lot of pressure on its cities as cities are the places where the maximum concentration of population is experienced. This may be due to the growth potential offered by the cities in terms of job and occupational opportunities, etc. as compared to the rural areas. As a result, there is a huge burden on the various public services namely sewage, water supply, etc. which are already running over their designed capacity to meet the growing needs. Due to all these factors, many experts have suggested the development of self – sustained new towns/ cities which will facilitate the decongestion of the existing cities and also provide growth opportunities to the less developed parts of India. Based on this, many new towns are being developed in India. Some are built around a rural settlement using the existing infrastructure and urban pattern and a few are developed from scratch. The aim of this paper is to analyse the development of new towns which is initiated by the private sector using Lavasa – a private new town development in Maharashtra, India as an example. In the past and even today, there have been examples where the state involves the private investors (as without them it’s hard to pump in the money required) in a new development but always retains the planning control. But now that the government has disengaged itself from the planning process in case of Lavasa, what would be its implications? Also, using the case studies of new town developments of Almere, Netherlands and Navi Mumbai, India (both state initiated development) to study the positive and negative impacts and then comparing it with Lavasa to understand the benefits and problems of the presence and absence of a government control. Throughout history, human settlements have developed based on the land and water resources, geographical location, trade opportunities, etc. giving them a strong historical base.1 Based on this logic, providing an identity to a new town which will help it in becoming a self-sustained town is a very critical problem faced by the planners today as without it the people won’t have a sense of belonging to that place. So the question is - will the private investors consider this fact for the benefit of the city and create an ideal new town development model or will they be concerned only about their personal interests and then leave the city to survive on its own? About Lavasa: Lavasa – the first planned hill city of free India2 is a 25,000 acres development located across seven hills of the Sahyadri mountain ranges in Maharashtra. About 65kms. from the city of Pune and 200kms. from

1

(New Town Development - A New Approach in Planning for New Towns A case study of urban growth of Almere, The Netherlands – (2010) Thesis by Hilda Bjorg Thorgeirsdottir – Pg.1) 2

http://www.lavasa.com/high/home.aspx - official website of Lavasa city

1


Shaping the modern city Alok Kothari – Housing &Urbanism – 2012/13 Architectural Association School of Architecture, London

Mumbai, this hill city is being developed entirely by Lavasa Corporation Limited - a privately owned body headed by the Hindustan Construction Company (HCC). The master plan done by HOK, USA is based on the principles of New – Urbanism which works on the concept of walk-able cities.3 The official website of Lavasa says that its vision is to make a city where residents can “live, work, learn and play in harmony with nature” (http://www.lavasa.com/high/vision.aspx) and aims at having “approximately 0.3 million permanent residents with facilities for about 2 million tourists every year and an employment base of approximately 97,000” (http://www.lavasa.com/high/discover_lavasa.aspx). The main purpose, as the developers say,” is to provide quality, conveniently located and affordable community living which will simplify and enhance the lives of its citizens”. (http://www.lavasa.com/high/vision.aspx)

1. Artist sketch – Hill city of Lavasa

2. Location – From Pune & Mumbai

But if we dig deep into the claims made by the developers, about all these numbers related to employment generation and residents, they seem very ambitious. We may think of asking a few questions about the basic development model adapted by the city. What policies have been framed to generate employment for it to be a place where people can live and work at the same time? On a broader scale, will this be a self-sustained city or will it just turn out to be a dormitory for the people of Mumbai or Pune? And lastly, who will govern the city and will Lavasa Corporation Limited be accountable to its residents in the public and civic matters? To find answers to these questions, let us put into perspective the different aspects of this development: Who governs Lavasa & its policies? Barring a few company towns around factories, Lavasa is a unique example of new town development in India which is promoted and developed entirely by a private corporation.4 The government of the state of Maharashtra (whose own ministers are hand in gloves with the developer)5 has given Lavasa Corporation a Special Planning Authority (SPA) status which grants it the liberty to sanction its own 3

http://www.lavasa.com/high/master_plan.aspx http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/07/india-invents-a-city/308549/ 5 http://www.downtoearth.org.in/content/lavasa-s-journey-downhill - This article explains the political patronage enjoyed by the Lavasa Corporation Limited 4

2


Shaping the modern city Alok Kothari – Housing &Urbanism – 2012/13 Architectural Association School of Architecture, London

plans.6 This is in conflict of public interest as its plan does not comply with the rules of the Maharashtra Regional & Town planning Act 1966, which makes it mandatory to invite public objections and obtain the state government’s approval.7 Already, it has flouted many environment and planning rules by constructing on steep slopes thereby increasing the cutting & filling, building check dams upstream of Warasgaon dam (an integral part of Lavasa landscape) which may decrease the water flow in the main reservoir (a key source of water supply to Pune city), etc.8 After studying all these negative developments, the question about, who will govern Lavasa – the state or Lavasa Corporation Limited after its completion becomes very crucial. If Lavasa Corporation Limited is the body in charge, will it be accountable to the people or only to the stake holders? And if the state plans to takeover, why has it allowed a private player to develop it in the first place? Impetus for this development: If we consider the basis on which this new city has been developed, it’s hard to find a strong and a valid reason, except for the scenic waterfront. Generally any city that generates over time has culture, industry, education, a strong political will etc. as the epicentre of its development. These things create in the minds of the residents a sense of belonging.9 If we consider the new towns built in Europe during the 1950s and 1960s, the destruction caused by the Second world war and a very urgent need to decongest the existing cities were the forces instrumental in shaping these towns. Even for the purpose driven development of the city of Chandigarh, the stimulus was politics10 or in case of Navi Mumbai, to reduce the pressure on the main city of Mumbai. So what is the foundation on which Lavasa is being structured? May be we can assume that it is an attempt to reduce the congestion in the cities like Mumbai and Pune by using knowledge industry11 as its major employment generator. But it is intriguing to see how it will achieve this without any transport link in and out of Lavasa connecting any other major city in its vicinity. Without any major expressways, airports or railway junctions, how would they attract the new talent to work there in its early days?

6

http://www.tribuneindia.com/2012/20120418/main5.htm http://www.downtoearth.org.in/content/lavasa-exposed 8 http://www.downtoearth.org.in/content/lavasa-exposed 9 (New Town Development - A New Approach in Planning for New Towns A case study of urban growth of Almere, The Netherlands – (2010) Thesis by Hilda Bjorg Thorgeirsdottir – Pg.1) 7

10

http://blogs.reuters.com/india/2010/11/19/lavasa-city-of-shared-sensibilities/ http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/07/india-invents-a-city/308549/ - This article by Jeremy Kahn names the various knowledge based industries Lavasa plans to bring in. 11

3


Shaping the modern city Alok Kothari – Housing &Urbanism – 2012/13 Architectural Association School of Architecture, London

3. Proposed Master plan - Lavasa

4. Actual development on site

Connectivity to other cities: As discussed above, at present there is a complete absence of a transport link – may it be trains, trams or airport to connect to any other city from/ to Lavasa. Let’s assume a hypothetical case that it plans to build a train network to the city of Mumbai. It’s hard to comprehend how it will be done without the support of the state considering the huge costs required to build a railway network. Also, then the state would be in a dilemma whether to spend the taxpayers money on something which will indirectly benefit the private investor. Moreover, to construct a railway line through the hilly terrain of the Western Ghats would be a mammoth task and would cost a fortune for it to see the light of day. This means that Lavasa is solely dependent on road transport for its connectivity which is not a good news for the urban development of India. This will lead to a huge traffic problem as the number of cars would be increased automatically and eventually increase the problem of pollution which is already getting worse by the day. Affordable housing: For the success of any new city/ town, the most important factor is the provision for low rental housing which brings in the much needed workforce to run a city and helps in keeping a balance in the society by reducing inequality. For example when Navi Mumbai was planned, along with the employment generation, equal importance was given to provide cheaper, better quality houses from the start.12 Lavasa on the other hand has a master plan proposing housing from studio apartments to villas, worldclass medical campus, luxury hotels, sports academics, a golf course, etc.13 and all the shiny amenities to attract the consumers from the very beginning but public/ low cost housing was incorporated at a very later stage. 14

12

(The Urban Social Pattern of Navi Mumbai, India – (1998) Thesis by Malathi Ananthakrishnan – Pg. 8) http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/07/india-invents-a-city/308549/ 14 http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/07/india-invents-a-city/308549/ -The author of this article, Jeremy Kahn refers to the question of affordable housing to which the investor replies by saying that “the company has modified its plans to begin including affordable rental apartments for young professionals”. 13

4


Shaping the modern city Alok Kothari – Housing &Urbanism – 2012/13 Architectural Association School of Architecture, London

It has everything to get in the high income population but does very little (and very late) to serve the low income group of India. “How can it claim to be a pioneering urban development model for India, a place where many people live on less than $2 a day, if you cater primarily to the rich?” says Jeremy Kahn in his article ‘India Invents a city’ (http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/07/india-invents-acity/308549/). It is only targeting those people who want to be served but not those who will in turn serve them. Comparison with Almere, Netherlands: Introduction: The development of the new town of Almere started in the 1970s as a part of the Zuiderzee land reclamation project. This project was an initiative taken by the national government of Netherlands to cater to the issue of population growth in the western and northern part of the Randstad. The main stimulus was to control the outward growth of the cities in the green belt around Randstad.15

5. Relation between Almere & Amsterdam

6. Location of Almere on the Randstad

The initial master plan based on a polycentric development just 20kms. away from the main city of Amsterdam was proposed to inhabit 180,000 residents who could live and work in the same place. IJsselmeerpolders Development Authority or IJDA was appointed by the government to look after the planning of the city of Almere.16 Planning aspects and policies: The information on Almere (http://english.almere.nl/) and also a study trip to it, helped in understanding its planning process. A strong initiative by the state led to a feasible growth process with a good transport connectivity in the form of railways incorporated into the planning from day one. The private sector was also employed by the government to develop some areas. Social housing was used as the main feature to invite people to buy a home and stay there. All other essential institutions such as schools, hospital, shopping markets, etc. were also developed to generate a healthy neighbourhood 15

(New Town Development - A New Approach in Planning for New Towns A case study of urban growth of Almere, The Netherlands – (2010) Thesis by Hilda Bjorg Thorgeirsdottir – Pg.25) 16 (New Town Development - A New Approach in Planning for New Towns A case study of urban growth of Almere, The Netherlands – (2010) Thesis by Hilda Bjorg Thorgeirsdottir – Pg. 28)

5


Shaping the modern city Alok Kothari – Housing &Urbanism – 2012/13 Architectural Association School of Architecture, London

environment. All these factors were deeply instrumental in generating a curiosity of Almere in the minds of the people and it did receive a formidable response. Today, Almere has its own municipal corporation with an aim to double its population from 180,000 to 360,000 and is even planning to compete with other cities to become a major economic player on the Randstad.17 All this was possible because of good transport connectivity, major development of social housing, engagement of the private sector through a proper mechanism, etc. all controlled and headed directly by the central government. But the flip side of the story is that though Almere was able to achieve its target in terms of the population, it still isn’t a completely self-sustained town as it has failed to a great extent in generating employment. Most of the office spaces lie empty and many people are still dependent on Amsterdam for their living. This has forced the government to revise its master plan to create a new centrality (proposed by OMA).18 A central public library which helps in giving an identity and centrality to a place has already been built to initiate this process. Understandings: Though the government of Netherlands has a long way to go in making Almere a self-sustained town, we may agree that it has definitely achieved a great feat in a span of 40 years (since its first inhabitants started coming in). Efficient and all inclusive planning policies along with a promising transport facility are the key players which have helped in invoking people’s response to this new city. Today it may be argued that Almere is falling short in creating jobs for the people, but it definitely won’t fail as a city in the long run as the state is changing and coming up with new policies to cater to this situation. Comparison with Navi Mumbai, India: Introduction: Navi Mumbai is one of the largest planned new towns of India built for a diverse, middle class population. A state initiated development located 30kms. across the main island of Mumbai, was principally designed to decongest the city of Mumbai. 19

17

(New Town Development - A New Approach in Planning for New Towns A case study of urban growth of Almere, The Netherlands – (2010) Thesis by Hilda Bjorg Thorgeirsdottir – Pg.25) 18 http://oma.eu/projects/2007/almere-masterplan 19 (The Urban Social Pattern of Navi Mumbai, India – (1998) Thesis by Malathi Ananthakrishnan – Pg. 3)

6


Shaping the modern city Alok Kothari – Housing &Urbanism – 2012/13 Architectural Association School of Architecture, London

7. Location of Navi Mumbai with reference to Mumbai

The planning responsibility of this town, which started in the year 1972, was assigned to the City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO) a government agency under the direct control of the state of Maharashtra. Aimed at inhabiting a population of 2 million and providing 750,000 jobs, the new proposed development comprised of a number of nodes with new industrial and commercial activities along with affordable housing for the workers.20 Planning aspects and policies: The main objective of developing this new town was to facilitate the decentralisation of Mumbai, for which the proximity to the main city becomes the primary factor of consideration.21 Thus, it can be observed that the state chose an area, though outside the boundaries of the island of Mumbai, was just 30kms. away. To stimulate the growth in the industrial estates of Navi Mumbai (eventually aimed at employment generation), the government of Maharashtra revised its industrial policies for the island of Mumbai which prohibited the establishment of new large or medium industrial units inside the main city of Mumbai.22 Also, to encourage the people from the city of Mumbai and also the migrant population to come to Navi Mumbai, the development plan proposed a great number of cheap and affordable housing. To facilitate this, it used cross subsidies as its primary tool. The surcharge applied for the high income houses was used to subsidise low income houses.23 By doing this, the government killed two birds with one stone –

20

(The Urban Social Pattern of Navi Mumbai, India – (1998) Thesis by Malathi Ananthakrishnan – Pg. 6-8) (The Urban Social Pattern of Navi Mumbai, India – (1998) Thesis by Malathi Ananthakrishnan – Pg. 5) 22 (The Urban Social Pattern of Navi Mumbai, India – (1998) Thesis by Malathi Ananthakrishnan – Pg. 8) 23 (The Urban Social Pattern of Navi Mumbai, India – (1998) Thesis by Malathi Ananthakrishnan – Pg. 8-9) 21

7


Shaping the modern city Alok Kothari – Housing &Urbanism – 2012/13 Architectural Association School of Architecture, London

it made the housing available to the workers at a reasonable rate without putting a strain on its own financial resources. Though the development of Navi Mumbai started in the 1970s, the growth was hampered, one of the main reasons being the poor transport link to Mumbai. The extension of railway lines along with other policy changes during the 1990s helped increase the growth rate. CIDCO itself planned and constructed all the railway stations in Navi Mumbai thereby inducing a momentum to its growth.24 Understandings: A cohesive development plan initiated by the state taking into consideration the regional implications has helped Navi Mumbai in facilitating its main purpose – to decongest Mumbai and also attract the new migrants. The state has also made sure that the city doesn’t become a dormitory for Mumbai and the process to make it a self-sustained town has been initiated since its early planning days. Though the city has its own share of problems, which is common to any new town development, it has already been able to survive on its own and is also complementing the growth of Mumbai region on a larger scale. Critical Observations and understandings: Irrespective of who is developing the city – the state or the private sector, the location of a new town development is the primary aspect in making it a success or a failure. After studying the cities like Almere or Navi Mumbai, this becomes very evident. Almere is strategically located on the Randstad which has a very evident link to the other cities on it and is also very close to the main city of Amsterdam which has favoured its growth. Similarly, the proximity of Navi Mumbai to Mumbai was mainly to facilitate the decongestion of Mumbai. Had it been located in a very disconnected area from Mumbai, it would not have done justice to the main objective. These observations don’t stand true in case of Lavasa. A very tough geographical terrain of the Western Ghats and a very weak linkage to the cities of Mumbai/Pune or the development corridor between Mumbai and Pune put a strong question mark on the location of Lavasa. One wonders if the ‘scenic location’ alone is enough to finalise the site for a new town development. By using Almere and Navi Mumbai – both developed with a strong initiative by the state – as the case studies for the new city development, one can easily note the various factors and constraints involved in this process of new town development. It’s not just the location but also the policies decided by the government with regards to the social housing, employment generation, transportation, etc. that underpin the formation of a strong foundation for these cities. This does not mean that a city developed by the state wouldn’t have any hindrances during its growing period. But it is the presence of the Government that helps in overcoming these hurdles because of its accountability to the people and also the private investors involved. For example, one of the major problems facing the city of Almere is – employment generation. But to counter this issue, it has already taken a few measures to create a new centrality by making revisions to its master plan.25 Also, when the

24 25

(The Urban Social Pattern of Navi Mumbai, India – (1998) Thesis by Malathi Ananthakrishnan – Pg. 18) http://oma.eu/projects/2007/almere-masterplan

8


Shaping the modern city Alok Kothari – Housing &Urbanism – 2012/13 Architectural Association School of Architecture, London

growth of Navi Mumbai was stalled, one of the reasons being the weak transport links to Mumbai, the state made sure that new stations are built and the railway lines extended 26before things went haywire. In case of any development controlled by the private sector, Lavasa here, would these issues be addressed keeping the public interests in mind or only individual profits of the stakeholders be taken into account? May be 25 years down the line, when the scale of the problems increase and the profitability goes down, these private investors may ask the government to intervene and bail out the new town from collapsing as they won’t be held accountable for its functioning. This would mean a ‘catch 22’ situation for the government wherein it will have to clear up the mess for which it hasn’t been directly responsible. This would not only mean a great and unwanted loss to the exchequer but also an irreparable damage to the spatial, social, economic and political character of the city. Corruption is so rampant in India, that it has affected all the levels of governance and bureaucracy. The investors of Lavasa used this fact to their advantage (by using their politician friends) to get all the planning and development permissions which gave them a free hand to develop the land. 27Had the national or the state government controlled the planning and development process of Lavasa, as was done in case of Navi Mumbai and which was quite successful in the long run, instead of it being developed just as a company town, it may have come up with an ideal new town concept with a lot of mixed housing for the low income group, good and efficient transport system, etc. beneficial for the Indian urban development process. Also, the most important question is what commitments were made by the investors of Lavasa and the reasons it gave in support of this development, based on which the government allowed HCC to take over the planning process? For a large scale new town development like Lavasa, why was a long term strategic plan taking into consideration the Pune-Mumbai development corridor not established? The absence of this may have regional implications because by taking investments to Lavasa, the investments on the Mumbai-Pune corridor will be in danger if they do not complement and support each other in the long run.

Conclusion: In case of India where the development process is much different than the European countries, the new town development mechanism used in Almere – where there is a strong national government pushing for public reforms, cannot be applied directly. But at least the decision making should be made strong and transparent by addressing the issue of corruption, so that the policies used in shaping the new towns would automatically be revised and improved. On a macro level, planning and design universities can come forward and set up research questions, publish documents to instigate a debate amongst the government authorities, members of the Lavasa Corporation Limited, social activists, architects - planners and the citizens. Even the media can be used to generate a public awareness about the developments happening on the site and may help people in voicing their opinions. However, instead of directly attacking the government for corruption and end up 26

(The Urban Social Pattern of Navi Mumbai, India – (1998) Thesis by Malathi Ananthakrishnan – Pg. 18)

27

http://www.downtoearth.org.in/content/lavasa-s-journey-downhill - This article explains the political patronage enjoyed by the Lavasa Corporation Limited

9


Shaping the modern city Alok Kothari – Housing &Urbanism – 2012/13 Architectural Association School of Architecture, London

playing the same old blame game without any substantial outcomes, the debates should aim at a much more cohesive process of discussion aiding the private investor and the state to work in collaboration. Moreover, the involvement of the citizens in the debate would add a third voice to the planning process which at the moment is either dominated by the private sector or the state or both and make them both accountable for their actions in the future. The purpose of this paper is not to say that private sector should not be involved in planning because without its presence there wouldn’t be any economic life to the city; but at the same time if the public sector is not involved, the civic life would be hampered completely. Instead, the analysis has helped in understanding that a new town development done entirely by the private sector is not a potential model and has the highest probability of failure. To avoid this negative impact, the most important step is that the state should intervene and takeover the planning control of the remaining development. Also, before starting with the further development, the government should establish a strategic plan as discussed above by taking urbanists, architects, social activists and citizens on board. This will help in addressing existing issues, anticipating further problems and working out long term solutions for those before the further execution is started on site. Otherwise, a few years later, Lavasa might just end up being a dormitory or may bump along and survive without much to offer to its residents and the region as a whole.

10


Shaping the modern city Alok Kothari – Housing &Urbanism – 2012/13 Architectural Association School of Architecture, London

Bibliography: http://www.tribuneindia.com/2012/20120418/main5.htm Lavasa project comes under CAG fire - Shiv Kumar - Tribune News Service - Mumbai, April 17, 2012 http://www.downtoearth.org.in/content/lavasa-exposed Lavasa exposed - Arnab Pratim Dutta, Kumar Sambhav S - Apr 15, 2011 http://www.downtoearth.org.in/content/lavasa-s-journey-downhill Lavasa’s journey downhill - Apr 15, 2011 http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/07/india-invents-a-city/308549/ India Invents a City - Jeremy Kahn - July/August 2011 Atlantic magazine http://www.nikhilkulkarni.in/2012/01/lavasa-for-luxury-or-productivity.html Lavasa - for luxury or productivity? - Nikhil Kulkarni - January 15, 2012 http://blogs.reuters.com/india/2010/11/19/lavasa-city-of-shared-sensibilities/ Lavasa: City of shared sensibilities? - Lyndee Prickitt - November 19, 2010 http://www.newint.org/columns/currents/2010/05/01/lavasa-indias-first-private-city/ The great urban juggernaut – Tarsh Thekaekara – May 1, 2010 http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/article859868.ece Symbolic of luxury, Lavasa is built on irregularities - Amruta Byatnal – The Hindu - Pune, October 31, 2010 http://www.lavasa.com - The official website of Lavasa city http://edepot.wur.nl/57124 New Town Development - A New Approach in Planning for New Towns - A case study of urban growth of Almere, The Netherlands – Thesis by Hilda Bjorg Thorgeirsdottir - February 2010 http://english.almere.nl/ http://oma.eu/projects/2007/almere-masterplan http://scholar.lib.vt.edu/theses/available/etd-32098-102210/unrestricted/THESIS.PDF The Urban Social Pattern of Navi Mumbai, India – Thesis by Malathi Ananthakrishnan - April, 1998

11


Shaping the modern city Alok Kothari – Housing &Urbanism – 2012/13 Architectural Association School of Architecture, London

Bibliography – Images: Image no. 1 - http://www.esri.com/news/arcnews/summer06articles/summer06gifs/p15p2-lg.jpg Image no. 2 - http://www.expat-properties.com/properties/lavasa/lavasa-locationmap01-l.jpg Image no. 3 - http://www.lavasa.com/high/master_plan.aspx Image no. 4 - http://autowale.in/our-top-5-picks-for-monsoon-weekend-destinations-around-pune/ Image no. 5 - http://www.zeeburgnieuws.nl/plannen/ijburg/ijm_regiokaart.html Image no. 6 - http://www.transrapid.de/cgi-tdb/en/basics.prg?session=543d3&a_no=6&main=drucken Image no. 7 - http://www.navimumbaiindia.com/

12

Profile for Alok Kothari

Private New Town Development – A new urban impasse (by Alok Kothari)  

Research Paper - Alok Kothari - Architectural Association School of Architecture, London

Private New Town Development – A new urban impasse (by Alok Kothari)  

Research Paper - Alok Kothari - Architectural Association School of Architecture, London

Advertisement