Urban dreams: New cities to sprout across India 28 Mar 2010, 1217 hrs NEW DELHI: Independent India has had the curious—if not unique—distinction of creating large new cities usually when new states are carved out. After all, the four planned entirely ‘new’ metropolises India has developed so far, have come about thus: Bhubaneswar, Chandigarh, Gandhinagar and Naya Raipur. Forty years ago, the great steel plants also forged Bokaro, Bhilai and Rourkela, successors to older industrialisation-led agglomerations such as Jamshedpur, Burnpur, Durgapur and Modinagar, but they could not possibly absorb the influx from rural areas. Today petroleum, steel, cement, infotech, auto and other industries are spurring town-to-city transformations, conurbations and extensions, if not always new cities. Noida, Gurgaon, Navi Mumbai and NewTown (Rajarhat) are some indicative examples; new ports and extensions at Paradip, Kandla, Mundra, Pipavav are also part of this trend. Most important of all, though, is that the government has realised it must take a primary role in facilitating a crying need for new cities in India. And not a moment too soon. Naya Raajpur, the upcoming capital of Chattisgarh In going slow on large greenfield cities, India was in line with global trends, says J David Foster, an urban affairs expert formerly with USAID, who lists new capitals like Brasilia, Canberra and Abuja as the few exceptions. Indeed, more new cities worldwide were stymied by the mixed track record of countries like Egypt and Britain on that front. But as Indians move on from Mahatma Gandhi’s vision of village-centred utopias — and pile into India’s existing urban agglomerations — international failures can no longer be a disincentive. Thus in the past five years the Central government has made a provision for a whopping Rs 1 lakh crore to bolster infrastructure in 63 major cities in India under the Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission, it has pushed for SEZs and then, inevitably, greenfield cities. And if HCC’s under-construction Lavasa, India’s first post-Independence hill station near Pune, is evidence of the private sector’s interest, the Centre’s plan to build six brand-new cities in the next five years may be the catalyst India desperately needs for more such initiatives. New homes in Vadtal, Dholera, Gujarat The greenfield cities on the anvil—Dholera in Gujarat, Manesar-Bawal in Haryana, Indore-Mhow in Madhya Pradesh, and Dighi and Nasik-Igatpuri in Maharashtra—have been conceived on a grand scale, along the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC). For example, at 900 sq km, Dholera is envisioned to be six times bigger than Chandigarh. The success of these cities, however, hinges on DMIC getting private sector investment and the Central government facilitating soft loans from multilateral agencies with a 10-year moratorium at least. Amitabh Kant, CEO of DMIC Development Corporation, a private company formed with 49% government equity, said the master plans for three cities are ready; SundayET has reviewed a part of these master plans. Plans for the two other cities in Maharashtra are at an advanced stage. According to the initial plans, Dholera has a four-year target of completion, with four-laned roads (provision for 10 lanes), a 100 m road corridor, improvements to the NH8E, a broad guage rail line and more. If everything goes to plan, most of these cities would be privately owned. “The model is such that a large part of the new cities would also be owned by the private sector though there would be a mechanism to give the local people a voice in the management,” says Mr Kant, who is excited about the project’s potential to also create 8 lakh jobs. Bus terminal, Rajarhat, near Kolkatta “These will be industrial cities but we want to create them as living organisms,” he avers. “The model will be quite different from the West where people drive 100 miles to work. Ours will be walkable cities. The master plan ensures that anywhere you live, you should be able to get the nearest public transport in 7 minutes. That will make these cities environment-friendly too!” Road ahead not all that smooth But the road ahead is anything but smooth. First, the project will require Rs 17,000 crore as the initial capital, for the trunk facilities alone. Add to that a break-even level possible only in the 11th year, little wonder that the DMICDC has been discussing initial funding with finance ministry officials. A Japanese government official says companies that have shown a keen interest in the DMIC mega-project include Toshiba , NEC, Mitsubishi, Itochu among others. Significantly, Japan is the partner country for the project though India expects investments from US, Europe and South East Asia too. “The Japanese government has given a loan for feasibility study of the DMIC project,” says an official . “We are partners in the process of building this corridor. It would be difficult to estimate how much investment is likely to come from Japanese companies for the corridor though it was earlier estimated to be about $10 billion.” Navi Mumbai, India “Massive amounts of capital and the ability to make fast and objective decisions are not the only challenges,” says Mr Foster, putting India’s dilemma in an international perspective. “Unlike China and Brazil in which most of the development is concentrated along the East Coast, India has two coasts and has long had a more even distribution of cities than most other countries. As a consequence, there are relatively few suitable totally undeveloped sites still remaining in India.” That highlights the second hurdle, apart from financing : acquisition of land. On paper, Dholera has an advantage, as 300 sq km of land (35% of the total proposed area) has already been acquired by the government. Also, there is a proposal to make the farmers stakeholders. But acquisition of the rest of the land remains a challenge. These new cities shows are to be modeled on the few global success stories like Shanghai-Lingang satellite city (positioned as a trading hub with an annual industrial growth rate of 48%), Iskandar of Malaysia and the Amsterdam-Rotterdam corridor. The 2,000 sq km Iskandar city, for example, is projected to grow nearly six times in 20 years from a GDP of $6 bn in 2005 to a $28 bn projection for 2025. New Town, Kolkata But as Mr Foster says, even in countries like the US, the development of new cities has been slow. The private sector comes forward, but cannot proceed fast due to land acquisition. “James Rouse, the most successful of new town developer in the US, has concluded that future such developments by the private sector would be virtually impossible without government assistance in acquiring land,” says Mr Foster. A pro-active government of India is therefore a must if millions of migrants are to find decent jobs, accommodation and proper civic amenities and infrastructure in India’s brand new cities. http://economictimes.indiatimes.com...-across-India/articleshow/5734697.cms?curpg=1 ------ My questions: What are the benefits, boons or banes, of private sector ownership and construction of new cities? What are your views on 'greenfield' cities? Do you think it feasible to construct resource-based cities, particularly in the long-term and given the problems of land acquisition? What of the impact of new cities on existing cities? Navi Mumbai, the world's largest planned city, has shown a penchant to ease existing strain on old Mumbai previously. On the other hand, as Navi Mumbai has grown, it has attracted new migrants from other parts of the country, that eventually seek to make their way to Mumbai proper. What do you think should be done to prevent this demographic 'agglomeration' via satellite cities?