India’s newest hill station builds for the future


Senior Member
Feb 23, 2009
After the success of Lonaavalas' Amby valley, I give you: Lavaasa.

India’s newest hill station builds for the future

Wednesday, 09 Sep, 2009

This (undated) photo handout received on September 15, 2009 from
Lavasa Corporation Limited shows construction in Dasve, Lavasa, near the
western Maharastrian city of Pune. -Photo by AFP

DASVE, India: For India's colonial rulers, hill stations like Shimla and Darjeeling provided a welcome break from the stifling heat and humidity of administrative capitals Calcutta and later New Delhi.

More than 60 years after the British left, the Himalayan towns and others like them still attract city dwellers and tourists eager to take in the cooler mountain air.

Now a new hill station, Lavasa, is being built some 200 kilometres (125 miles) southeast of Mumbai, around a lake high in the Western Ghats range that runs virtually the length of the country.

It is being billed as ‘free India's first and largest hill city’. But to its corporate backers and those who will run it, it represents more than just a symbol of independence.

Decades after India's first planned, post-independence city, Chandigarh, was built, they say the multi-billion-dollar development is a bold experiment that could be a blueprint for building and managing future Indian cities.

Lavasa city manager Scot Wrighton calls the privately-funded project a ‘laboratory’ to test the latest techniques in urban planning and service delivery.

‘The demographers are predicting that India will add three to four hundred million new people to its population over the next 40 years,’ said Wrighton, who has 20 years' experience in city management in the United States.

‘There's no question about whether there will be new cities in India. The question is: what's the quality of life going to be like?’ he told AFP.

With India's population at 1.2 billion people and counting, plus internal economic migration to urban areas from the countryside, the country's cities are bursting at the seams.

Housing shortages, electricity and water cuts, traffic congestion, pollution and a lack of basic services are the reality for millions.

‘The problem is that 20 years back, nobody realised that we would be growing at such a huge pace,’ said Pankat Joshi, executive director of the Urban Design Research Institute in Mumbai, a city itself home to 18 million people.

‘The speed of growth in the last five to seven years has been completely breakneck. It's not just Mumbai. It's more than 50 cities that are growing at this pace.’With infrastructure in India's older cities struggling to cope, and demographics outpacing the planning and completion of construction and transportation projects, Lavasa at least has the advantage of a clean slate.

Dasve, the first of five towns that will make up Lavasa, is due to open next year, with Wrighton promising the city's expected 200,000 permanent residents uninterrupted water supplies, electricity, clean streets and managed traffic.

Environmental sustainability is also a high priority. Seventy percent of the city, which is expected to be fully built by 2021, has been designated green space in this area known as a haven for rare species of animals and plants.

The publicity material promises recycling of waste and water and renewable energy, along with eco-friendly materials in property ranging from the cheapest social housing to top-of-the-range villas.

The Lavasa Corporation Limited, a unit of the giant Hindustan Construction Company, is looking for ‘non-polluting industries’ like the education, health, IT and hospitality sectors to set up in the city and provide over 50,000 jobs.

Krunal Negandhi, head of sustainable development, environment and landscaping in Lavasa, said the sustainable environmental model was ‘the future for cities’.

‘Climate change five years ago was just jargon,’ he said. ‘Today, the reality of it is being experienced in the change in the rain patterns, etcetera. These are the things that people are getting sensitive to.’

But Joshi is sceptical, doubting Lavasa can be a model for future cities, or even if the comparison should be made, seeing the area instead as ‘more of a hill station with second homes for the middle classes’ and a ‘gated enclave’.

‘Our cities don't function for middle classes. The bulk of them are for the urban poor,’ he said, adding that Lavasa would lack the layers that contribute to the diversity of cities built up over centuries.

‘Investment and technology or marketing doesn't really make a city. There are other issues about livelihood, class, culture, creed, community,’ he added.

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