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Tag Archives: Urban planning

World Habitat Day: Resource Efficient Cities


As part of ongoing events of 1st October, the World Habitat day, I was fortunate to attend the UNEP-SBCI webinar and hear the presentation of Mr. Arab Habolla, Head UNEP, Chief of Sustainable Consumption and Production on the 3rd of this month. On his opening remarks he set the agenda in a simple manner, immediately outlining the gravity of the problem at hand.

Currently Cities occupy only 3% of the Land surface, however the impact it has on the Environment is enormous. Almost 50% of the Global waste; 60-80% of the Global GHG emissions; and 75% of the natural resources are consumed by the Cities. A mind-boggling statistics which parches the throat of any environmentalist. And it could get worse – currently we have 50% of the World population living in Cities. Estimates are that by 2050 AD, it would increase to 80%.

While these data mean a lot to those who are attuned to the problem, my article would once again focus to bring this closer to the average person by relating it to events and then pointing towards solutions, which only a ground-swell and active participation of the populace can perfect.

While I concede that when it comes to the Planet, none of us are “experts”. Its too complex a subject and thus it needs the collective advice from all stream of thought. Economic and Philosophical thoughts leading the stream. However, through this article, I would once more attempt to bring out what is being said at the various forums like the UN; and bring to the common person by relating a series of events which are taking place around them. And by adding the various links to earlier articles, refrain from repeating what I’ve already penned before.

Parel mill lands, Mumbai

Parel mill lands, Mumbai (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Let me begin my argument with this DNA newspaper article Going vertical with a vengeance;  – Areas which were not too long ago dotted with settlements for mill workers now boast of skyscrapers. Given the city’s high population density, developers argue that high-rises are more convenient and hold the answer to our housing problems….Several areas in central Mumbai like Lalbaug, Parel and Sewri, which until a few years ago had settlements for housing mill workers and lower-income groups, have now undergone a sea change. They now boast of apartments which cost upwards of Rs5 crore (50 Million Rupee ). Lower Parel, which was once dotted with textile mills, is now in the middle of a metamorphosis. Old, dilapidated structures are being pulled down to make way for sprawling malls, glossy office buildings and skyscrapers. From the 65-storied Indiabulls Sky and the 75-storied tower at the Jupiter Mills site, to the 80-storied Raheja Platinum in Worli and the 55-storied Lodha Bellissimo at Mahalaxmi, these concrete edifices are soaring into the sky, changing the landscape — and the skyline – of central Mumbai. Architect Hafeez Contractor, the pioneer of superstructures in the city, says, “Mumbai has a population of 20 million and but its area is only 470sqkm. When you are looking at such a large population over a small area of land, vertical is the only way to go.”  He predicts that the city’s population will rise to 30 million in the years to come. “How will Mumbai deal with such an increase [in population]? The only answer is to increase the FSI (floor space index). Only when we do this will the city get on its own feet and earn enough to create the infrastructure that will be needed to sustain this vertical growth.”…..

Business persons do not pause to think that their actions can contribute disaster to the already fragile situation(Sustainable Cities – Why town planning is important )and are using the popular media to influence the members of the public as  how their need for housing would be solved by they creating the high-rise. However, the well written article by Rathod, uses a tounge-in-cheek method to show how wrong this is; while remaining true to his journalistic ethics of reporting without adding his bias – Several areas in central Mumbai like Lalbaug, Parel and Sewri, which until a few years ago had settlements for housing mill workers and lower-income groups, have now undergone a sea change. They now boast of apartments which cost upwards of Rs5 crore.How on earth a common persons dream to own a house be possible if the rate of these flats in the high-rises be 50 Million Rupee? And here the city administrators need to most educate the average person as why Town planning is important. We shall deal with a few recommendations in the later section of this article.

While I do not deny that Vertical Growth and Economy of a city is important, short-sighted irresponsible comments by those who are deemed as experts is not a happy situation. Just as in Medicine, so in Architecture. The architect is responsible not just to his/her narrow interest but must look beyond in creating the social fabric of the society. They can define the culture of a place by their imagination turned into reality. It’s the architect who created a City which inspired a Bard to write one of the most beautiful romance – Romeo & Juliet. And it was another architect who created the “Heaven on Earth” another lasting testimony to Love – The TAJ.

One can benefit and even profit by following sensible approach to design,( Green Business Ideas: Carbon Credits opportunities in Green Townships) however unplanned and short-term greed would make our life impossible, which in the City of Mumbai is not too great to begin with.(Sustainable Development Goals: The dangers of Urban Sprawl and its long-term effects on the National Growth) The dangers which the UNEP chief spoke of are real, this needs to be understood by the authorities at the earliest and most importantly educate the grass-roots on the matter and carry out reforms which are sensible.

English: The Seven Islands of Bombay (Now Mumb...

English: The Seven Islands of Bombay (Now Mumbai) before they were merged to form the island of Salsette. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And for this the media must highlight the truth constantly, which the DNA Newspaper did by the follow-up article – Better safe than sorry in seismic Mumbai an analysis by Dr V SubramanyanThe uneasiness associated with high-rises stems from the fact that most of Mumbai has literally risen from the sea and has only reclaimed land to offer for construction. Only compacted soil is available for the foundations of such proposed buildings. When earthquake vibrations pass through them, water in the soil gets released, leading to liquefaction. This converts soil into a jelly-like mass.This causes considerable damage to very tall structures.The architects who are in favour of going vertical argue that they build taller buildings on raft foundations, which behave like “a ship, pitching and tossing during a storm, but not sinking” during an earthquake. However, researchers in the University of Pennsylvania had claimed in an article in ‘Discover’ magazine (July 2005) that this much-touted raft foundation only tilts the tall buildings and does not effectively contribute to their structural stability during earthquakes. In ‘Going vertical with a vengeance’ (DNA, September 27), the writer has projected the developers’ argument that high-rises are more convenient and hold the answer to our housing problems, given the city’s high population density. The article also comes out with some seemingly grandiose information that at least a dozen buildings with more than 60 storeys are nearing completion, 50 similar towers are underway and at least 100 buildings taller than 70m (with about 22 storeys) are in different stages of construction. But, it is difficult to share the enthusiasm of the government at its plans to forge an international image for Mumbai through a jagged skyline like that of Manhattan, Hong Kong and Singapore. What has been conveniently forgotten is Mumbai’s high seismicity. The city faces the risk of being hit by an earthquake of sufficient magnitude (6.5), which can knock tall buildings off their bases. This, in turn, imposes indisputable restrictions on the heights up to which skyscrapers can be safely constructed, despite adopting the best earthquake-resistant designs, because experts cannot guarantee the safety of high-rises beyond a certain limit. Charles Correa, a reputed architect and town-planner, does not subscribe to the credo that going vertical is the only solution to our housing problems. He had, in fact, dubbed Mumbai’s skyscrapers “monstrosities” some time ago.

While the above is a challenge which needs to be understood by the policy makers, that the City of Mumbai already suffering from population density, failed municipal administration and has a low liveability index, the problems which one does not easily associate with bad urban planning must also be understood. Quoting from my favoured Newspaper the DNA, I present the article  October heat leaves city sick; Mumbaikars complain of weakness, nausea, body pain and perspiration…The sultry weather has forced many with electrolyte imbalance to rush to the doctor. In simple words, this refers to a disturbance in the level of amount of electrolytes (like calcium, sodium and potassium) that is required for normal health and functioning…  this article underscores what I had written earlier on how unplanned Urban growth affects our everyday life; (Sustainable Living : How to read the seemingly unrelated dots which coalesce together to create disasters) It is time the citizens of Mumbai read up on Bombay (as it was then called)  in the early 1900; even with all the mills dotting the famous central Mumbai which developers want to turn into sky-scraper riddled concrete jungle, which would stifle the already stale air further; people did not get sick in Mumbai and the month of October is actually cool. Pune experiences it till date. Even Vashi in Navi Mumbai experiences it a little’, which soon the concrete jungle of Vashi – Panvel will destroy; unless arrested with planned and eco-sensitive development.

So what must be done ? How do we develop the climate responsive cities which is so required in the present. The answer is not simple. Because it involves many stake holders. And among the stake-holders those whose opinion matter most ( second to People power ) usually tinge their opinion with Economical consideration as supreme over others. This must change. The datum of thinking must begin with ecological considerations which then would bring in long-term economic growth.

Taking Mumbai as an example; the first thing the policy makers must do is by an act of the Parliament bring about change in land laws. ( Affordable Housing: The Simples rules required.)

The City must have a ceiling set on the cost of land. It must not be dictated by the demand vs supply chain. Zone wise each district of the city must have an upper and lower price band. This will make sure that the seller of the land gets the legitimate price while the developer does not have to sell his last shirt to buy it. If the upper limit is set just 20%, chances are the sellers would choose their developer on qualifications other than monetary, such as their track record in sustainable design development etc. The State legislature must qualify a set of developers who submit an affidavit that they shall always comply to sustainable design development. Punitive punishment to the developer and design house, such as barring the developer from conducting any business within the city limits and a monetary fine be levied via extracting the cost it would need to remodel the project as per sustainable standards from the design house.

If an architect does not design incorrect, there is no way a developer can build wrong. The UN must target the young minds through sustained media campaigns.

Further,speculative buying must be stopped. Investors must be barred from real estate purchases of finished flats. They can however invest on the development. This would encourage the development of rental homes. An economic model be devised, where the leesee can have the option of buying the house on the 5th year at the market governed price. Else they vacate and the property is sold. This will give equal benefit to the user, developer and the investor.

For the Developer can hold on to a property which he has not been able to sell, while at the same time be less pressured from the investor, to whom he can pay the interest he gathers via rent.

The Investor normally seeks profit on his investment, so would wait for 5 year to have the value of the property increase, while getting his interest.

The Home seeker, who may not be able to afford to buy a home in a certain locality gets to live, instead of looking at locked-up empty houses booked by investors who would never need to live there.

And lastly and most importantly, The Government would be able to live up to its promise of providing shelter to the citizens and tax-payers who genuinely require housing.

The next step should be freeing up the old city and converting the plots into Bond & Shares. Then developing the area scientifically. Those who would receive areas smaller than what they had, would have the options of using their bonds to buy space,either in the same site or move to another part of the city. Going away to another town to use their bonds would also give them far more return, as the cost of homes beyond Mumbai are less.

Last but not the least should be codifying the development style. Based on the climatic zone, Cities and Mumbai must build only a fixed pattern of structure. The buildings near the coast must not rise beyond 4th floor, while the ones inland can be tall-buildings which adhere to the building norms of the city including taking into account the Earthquake preventions. We all love symmetry, and this extended to buildings too. Venice would not have looked as beautiful today had the town planners allowed monstrous design and construction to happen. Further allowing only 3-4 styles of architecture with special emphasis to indigenous designs would also help assessors quantify the actual cost of the building based on types of material used and amenities given. Thus quality would overtake hype and the Citizens would benefit. Mumbai, can and must understand this and become one of the beacons of C40 cities. India under the UPA-1 had begun well, its time that we carry out the ideas which our PM has -(Green Business Ideas : P.M.Manmohan Singh’s idea of Terminal Market Complex is a superb Green Idea which needs to be implemented) to make our Country and our cities truly climate responsive.

 

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Sustainable Living – Corruption is the biggest impediment


Some recent events in the past week in India were – Burning down of the “Mantralaya”. Mantralaya is the administrative headquarters of the state government of Maharashtra in South Mumbai, built in 1955;  it houses the offices of the MLA’s of Maharashtra including the Chief Minister. It is said that 75% of fire caused in Mumbai are due to electrical short circuits. To find post investigation, that the Assembly had illegal construction and had violated all fire norms leading to the recent fire disaster is most sobering as it is a telling report on the governance in India.

In India Illegal is so common place that it is difficult to know if that itself is the actual Law or not.  The mind & soul of almost all Indians have become immune to corruption, those who indulge in it and also those who suffer the corruption. Apathy of the Governing class has almost reached the zenith and this would likely to have a direct bearing, not only on the growth of our Economy but is also  detrimental to Sustainable Living. And thus has a direct bearing to the destruction of the Ecosystem.

Illegal shops on pavements and lax laws create traffic problems in Mumbai

How are corruption and sustainable living co-related? How does the common person understand the effect of corruption and bad governance?  Below are some thoughts, which will help readers deduce more such situations –

1. When one travels bumper to bumper in peak office hours,two things happen.

a] The mileage of any vehicle goes for a toss. So the common person is spending more than norm in way of added fuel and maintenance of self (hyper-tension; road rage) and the auto-mobile. It also has a direct bearing on inflating cost of goods and commodity.

b] The pollution level rises, with long term effect on the City and  contributes to the Global warming  & Climate change significantly.

Mumbai

Mumbai (Photo credit: chnswam)

Urban planning usually involves experts who take into account the growth of a city from all possible demographic angles. A city or town  must be planned perfect; one can read more in these two articles – Urban Development Rules: How C40 -City rules can make a difference for India.   Sustainable Cities – Why town planning is important.  As what I wrote in these are but a continuation to the argument I am putting here.

An indecent is happening in Pune, Maharashtra. As reported in the DNA News paper in detail “A residential complex in Kakade City spread over 1 lakh sq mt in Hingne area, Pune, enjoyed many concessions which could put the neighbourhood in danger. Documents procured by DNA under the RTI Act show that the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) shifted the alignment of a road under development plan (DP) and turned a blind eye to what could have been an illegal encroachment on a nullah in the area.”

Pune, India

Pune, India (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While it is the responsibility of the state to provide employment & business opportunity to all; but by not creating proper infrastructure and maintaining strict laws which should govern utility and facilities & services in a city, encroachment occur on to the public spaces. Violation of Development Laws, which earmark areas as no construction zone, such as catchment areas, natural drainage ( “nullas”) which can not be seen, but via satellite imagery; and allowing illegal construction lead to events such as flooding. The above news today resonate what was told few months back via this article Bangkok floods – Next, New Delhi ?  We keep repeating mistakes which have already proven costly.

English: India Against Corruption - Protestors...

English: India Against Corruption – Protestors in Pune,India. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The World today does not have the time to recover from the errors we have already made and its mitigation is of prime importance. But that can not be possible unless direct co-relation between a young couple buying an apartment, lets say in the area of Pune mentioned above; thus encouraging more such illegal and unsustainable development is made and most importantly communicated to them. The common person must become aware and angry, if this world needs to survive.

Whenever the common man turn a blind eye to an open and abandoned bore-well ; the likes of 5yr old Mahi to die, 70 feet under the ground, close to her home while playing. While we all know about food waste, little thought is given that by having uncontrolled Urban sprawl we are creating a food crisis, as reported by UN which will lead to famine.

Corruption is slowly leading civilisation to Extinction, its time to understand that the laws of Sustainable Living, is all encompassing and not just  passing laws to limit GHG emission here or planting a few trees or building a small  clutch of energy efficient buildings. And neither is it limited to failure or success of a UNFCCC meet.

 

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Green Business Ideas : Virtual World Design can save the real world losses.


In today’s News paper I read that a project conceived in 2003 in Mumbai has not been able to take off till date. The funding from World Bank has been suspended. The reasons are several, design issues, red-tape, encroachment etcetera. Going through the archives, I found several similar problems over diverse types of projects. I also recollected that there has been a few projects which we were supposed to do but the developer got cold feet due to lack of credible data, as to whether the project would be a success and what would work in the era post A.D 2008.

Could there be a hidden Green Business Idea in this ? Can one’s problem, be another’s opportunity? Rather could the opportunity of the other solve the problem of the former ? Its time our capitalistic opportunism mentality move towards, what I said in my previous article – Benefit Corporation. Presenting a very radical idea; which if polished to its potential would definitely create a green revolution, warming the hearts of UNFCCC honchos.

Large infrastructural projects, in India typically face problems. From conception to implementation, the variable being so many, the scope for “information asymmetry ” or ” leakage” ( plain speak – scope for corruption and wasteful expenditure ) is very high. To arrest these problems and prevent the situation from arising in the first place, a few diverse tools already existing could perhaps be combined.

Virtual world is nothing new to gamers and professionals using computer simulation as design tool.  And “Second Life”; “SIM City” are iconic. But it is the IT-industry which enabled its creation. What if they all were to combined ? What would be the benefits, lets discuss in brief-

Say for example in SIM city there is a game simulation called;  – Rio de Janeiro, 2047 – Coastal flooding resulted from global warming rages through the city. The mayor must control the problem and rebuild. …  With Climate change a reality, if this becomes the basic tool on which the Builders have to submit their plans for permissions to build; they along with the architects would have a near first hand experience of what  should not be attempted.   Thereby should lets hypothetically say – “Bangkok  floods”  again, the combined economic and human loss will be negligible.

Although, no person in her/his right senses would like to invite any disaster, be it the Tsunami that hit coastal India or Japan…that it will happen again because we are on the path to 3.5° C  global temperature rise, is almost certain; if you go by what the experts say.  Therefore the faster we bring all the ‘stake-holder’ into the  ‘game’ the better it would be for the World at large.

Using AI ( artificial intelligence ) based on data collected on the demography of a place, behaviour of the populace over time on Urban planning can be mapped. While having a 100% accuracy would take time, even with a 40% predictability of how the  populace of certain culture / social background would behave over say a 5 year period, could help immensely both Public and Private entities to take measures. Such measures can reduce the impact to the economy and create better infrastructure which is more able to meet up to the challenges of the future, which could not have been predicted otherwise.

Sure there are many institution and think tanks doing exactly the same. But if we still are facing the problems which they are predicting, what good does that do? By bringing the tool to the desktop of common persons – architects, developers and local administration. Taking their inputs form the data they create, a more inclusive people to people development program can be mooted which over time would be successful.

Now having understood through simulation of what should not be done, to conform with the overall Sustainable Town-planning, the Developer and his architect would face the question on ‘ what would work ‘.  Architects are by class – service providers. And more often than not, they need to depend on the commission they would get from investors – ie; home owners, builders or industrialist who have the money to have something built for them. Therefore it is much easier for them to design what their client want rather than impose her / his ideas. And with huge sums of money riding on the project, investors don’t really like to take chances. Therefore good designs most of the time gets sacrificed to popular perception. This overtime leads to wrong Urban planning.

This can be arrested by applying the “second life” concept. Say the architect creates a design and does a 3-D rendering. Then gives it to some company like Second Life, which has mapped the exact town / location  in virtual reality before-hand and allows it to be ‘built’ there ? The builder /developer pays for it off-course. Then he could pay to the advertisers both electronic and print to ask prospective customers to visit the ‘town and live in the residential building, built there’. A virtual assistant could walk along with the “avatar” of the client within the virtual world and explain all the features. Once the client likes a particular property, booking can be made and legal terms set. And once the real building comes up, everything is exactly like it was experienced in the Virtual World.

Changes to the design, remodelling a particular flat post finishing to suit the taste of a discerning client, who wants something different, all could be done within the walls of virtual reality, at nominal cost and without waste of precious materials in the process. Moreover the developer/ architect can ‘exhibit’ any modern thought,  different from the mundane and check for real response with minimal risk.

Authorities too can maintain a vigil by visiting many a ‘site’ to see if the designs are adhering to norms and guidelines. Imagine the building inspectors – civil, fire and safety, structural and the municipal architect together sitting in municipal  office  which is equipped with simulators. There they all sit in front of a console with wrap-around 3-D simulator glasses and then join up with ‘avatar’ clients or other experts to inspect a ‘site’. The details are loaded up into the computer by the developer who carries them on a portable hard-drive. Every detail from the PHE / MEP to the design norms can be discussed and recorded. Changes suggested and a revisit organised to see that the building has come as per the sanctioned norms.

All this without a single ‘make & break’ routine the building industry routinely follows. Sometime due to changes in market dynamics which necessitates changes to the built space mid-way or due to misinterpretation of certain by-laws enshrined in the building code of the state. One must remember that 40% of GHG is building related and 60% of waste too comes from building related activities. So when almost all parameters of the building is completely understood before hand, chances of error could be minimized to a great extent. Thus creating an Environment which truly aims to be zero-emission.

Before I end, one may ask why I mentioned the IT industry in the beginning of the article.That  is because, all the tools mentioned are already existing but not all common persons / builders can afford or operate such hi-tech solutions.The Indian IT is the best place for out-sourcing. Cheaper and more efficient than most, our boys would never be out of jobs, which ever way the market plays. All that is needed is to adapt and adopt Sustainable living.

 

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Green Business Ideas: Carbon Credits opportunities in Green Townships.


Most women & men have an emotional connect with the home they have lived as a child. In India families often live their entire life in one abode for generations. Even as India grows from its rural to more urban setting, the people still like to retain their “ancestral” home while moving into the swanky new home. There are some emotions which no one likes to part with; and childhood memories are perhaps the most important.

Perhaps many around the world  would share similar sentiments. Some want to make a retirement home, some would want a second home. Given a choice nearly every human would want to identify her/himself with something that is familiar.

This gives rise to a super Green Business Idea, which has manifold potential in rescuing Gaia from Global Warming.What if, future towns and cities are made as replicas ? Modern India has done that and, unfortunately forgotten about it. Cities like Rourkela, Bokaro, Durgapur & Bhilai which have almost similar design created by the master architect. If one pauses to think we have in almost all large cities, the state / city development authority housing board, which make ” affordable ” housing blocks. The typology remains the same over different locations. I think its time for a revisit and see it with new light in the context of abatement of climate change. Imagine High rises, commercial districts, row-houses and bungalows all having same or similar design ? Developed by private entities based on market demand, but following Development Rules which have been strictly adhered to. What would be the advantages, lets examine  in brief and re-kindle the thoughts which are perhaps lost in time.

The most exciting part is the CDM ( clean development mechanism ) potential. Every building has potentially two methods for adoption, to earn Carbon Credits. One is to reduce its embodied energy through better management of building materials. And the other is to reduce its Water and Electrical energy consumption. While the latter is comparatively easy and ‘meth’ AMS-III AE is recognised by the CDM Board. It is the embodied energy reduction that  has greater potential in terms of actually reducing GHG  as building related activities account for 40% of the Emission and 60% of waste is construction related.  However it is difficult to map it  and manage the MRV.( Monitoring – Reporting -Verification.) especially in the Building industry within the Construction sector in India. And this is precisely where I see a solution, should we make ‘replica townships’. We already have the datum to compare. The planned steel townships were made just after Indian independence. It has as any township should have – residential blocks, commercial blocks and infrastructural blocks such as schools, hospitals, cinemas,  police station, post-office , bus and railway terminals. So a major portion of the township plans would be available along with records of construction process; which would be archaic as per today’s construction methods (barring the A- centres of India, tier -II & III along with most rural setting still follow the old method of construction) but the layout plan is excellent. So with foresight and statesmanship, ( wishful thinking does not attract punitive punishment under any law ) should the Indian government both at Union and State level want to pursue its own stated Nation Mission for Sustainable Habitat under NAPCC; they should pass laws under Urban Planning which can make this thought into reality. As the Union government has already created the fantastic Mission, all it needs is to rise above political compulsions and address the issues at the Federal level, by becoming the facilitator in creating sound policies for the States, which then follows the path towards sustainable development.  And the benefits would be several.

First the  Urban Planning will be made easy – The biggest challenge the Urban planners face is the assumptions one needs to take into account, while proposing a new township. What would be the population density? What would be  the amount of water and energy requirement ? How will the municipal requirements met?  How best to accurately calculate cost of development. Where-all would the failure of oversight be, causing unplanned growth or breed corruption? Because post the master layout plan, the State development authority has no control { which is correct to an extent } over what would be the look and size of the building which would come up within the designated zone of the master plan. All such issues would become more streamlined and thus decision making more easy as the learning process gets more refined with each replica township coming up every-time.

The master-plan need not be a monotonous one. India has 5 – climatic conditions and design guidelines based on these are already incorporated in the National Green Building certification program – GRIHA. Therefore Master planners can create guidelines which conform to region and state specifically. However, within that area the designs can remain similar. Further, the best practices followed in other climatic zones and states would be available for record to plan better Climate Resilient cities, which is the underlying purpose of this article too. Imagine the potential, should a developer choose three typical design and develop different projects, in 3 different cities within one climatic zone. While the town-planing would differ in layout and scale, the buildings built therein being the same, would reduce cost of construction to a great extent. Design inputs required would reduce, while scope of improvement increase with every project thus designed. As every project has some amount of wastage, knowing the quantity to a more sure approximation, would help in planning for Reduce – Reuse -Recycle as enshrined within the Green Building methods both LEED & GRIHA.

Further a brand identity would be built. A building design can be copy-righted so to speak. And what an emotional connect it would be for the newly wed Bride, who has sadness in her heart for having left her ‘Babul ka aangan’,(fathers home) finds that her ‘Pia’ (husband) has the same bungalow she grew up in. Familiar setting instils confidence and a confident and happy new Bride can do wonders in settling herself well into the new life, she would be beginning.  That it would earn the builder/developer a permanent costumer (extremely difficult in this era of multiple choices), is another happy story. And if we speak of men,  I’m a member of an on-line group which was created by my childhood school mates and friends. We all lived in a gated township of a multinational company, where our fathers worked. Today of the 300 odd members, 51% would surely buy a home, should I design the replica of the town we all grew up in !

And the final winner would be my Countrymen, most are laymen when it comes to understand the importance of town-planning and Sustainable Urban development.  By providing them with standardized product, they would have more informed choice to take the right decision, as they do while buying their refrigerator or car. And most importantly it perhaps would become easier to decongest the future Megalopolis. For why would one not move into a newer town for better prospects while still be able to live within similar surroundings ? And why would people migrate to a particular city when similar ones are next door offering similar opportunities ?

And the final thought would be, the Urban planners should consider bio-mimiciry in their town planning. As technology would allow us to make higher sky-scrapers, rules must define low rise zones to be closer to coast and high rise more inland, this simple thought would allow for more natural wind flow pattern, which will help limiting air  pollution.

While no one can make another New York, Hong Kong  or Mumbai in similar form, potential or opportunities the new ones at least would have a future of their own making and who knows better the best that is in offer today.

Moreover Climate Resilient Cities which I am proposing would be offering a more prettier skyline than what any present day modern megalopolis has to offer. To underscore my point, which from all the above images posted in this article would you choose first for a postcard ?

I rest my argument !

 

 

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Green Business Ideas : P.M.Manmohan Singh’s idea of Terminal Market Complex is a superb Green Idea which needs to be implemented


The Prime Minister of India 2012

The National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) was released by the Prime Minister of India on 30th June 2008.It outlines a national strategy that aims to enable the country adapt to climate change and enhances the ecological sustainability of India‘s development path. It stresses that maintaining a high growth rate is essential for increasing living standards of the majority of people of India and reducing their vulnerability of the impacts of climate change.

During that time he also reinforced the idea of Terminal Market Complex – to combat food waste due to transportation & storage problems. The detailed report must have been read and perhaps being implemented too. But in this I found a Green Business Idea which perhaps can bring a sea-change in the thoughts of Climate Resilient Cities we need to build.

The idea of Terminal Market Complex conforms to Agenda 21 and the C40 cities program if we can design it right in the heart of a city. Yes, it is possible. It is very similar to a  concept which I found in a recent article, published by NDRC blog and tagged under urban farming, an old building was transformed into a public garden. The concept of Multileveled Vertical Urban Allotments, has been designed by Aspiring interior designer Lucie Sadakova, and another addition to superlative concepts many other Architects and Designers world over, are coming up with. The combination of each idea together I hope, would help rid the problems all Urban areas in the World are facing. It is a super step towards creating the Climate Resilient Cities.

Most Indian urban centers, especially cities like Mumbai, India; face severe shortage of space.This lead to shrinking of open spaces, trees and green patch in general. Making do with a few potted plants, hanging out of tiny windows or narrow flower-beds never can compare to a beautiful park in full bloom and surrounded with shady trees. The absence or shortage of open green spaces is harmful to the health of citizens; it raises the overall temperature of the city, which is known as heat island effect and both physical & psychological problems arise due to such unplanned development. What is more worrying is the rapid pace at which urban centers in the Emerging economies like India are growing. With slow or zero pace of reforms initiated by the policy makers, we are heading towards disaster which the PM and his Planning commission has been able to see, but not been able to address as it should have. The main reason behind the government not being able to have a sound Urban Development rule, is more political than administrative. And I strongly believe that should one take an issue which is important for the well-being of the citizens to the citizens directly, it would get mass support. And in a Democracy, mass support is the best driver for implementation of good governance.

Next, if the idea could have the possibility of generating income, its popularity would rise faster. Let us in this article explore a few ideas and see if sound, innovative and transparent policy and public will & participation can make them popular for all those cities which need to return to sustainable growth.

Mumbai, is the commercial hub of India. Here we have people who have wealth which could buy them a palace in many other urban centers around the world, but here they make do with a high-rise apartment due to severe lack of space. And almost all the financially well-off  citizens, have a second home. Locations at a distance of 100 KM to 150 KM from the city center are most popular. There you would find beautiful bungalows, with lawns in front and kitchen garden at the back; vast farm-houses fenced and barricaded. These houses lie vacant for most of the year and those of the super-rich, for years; because they have other similar abode near other cities .So  most are left in care of  a man-servant and his family who also double up as the gardener, housekeeping and guard. While I have absolutely no issues, if poor underprivileged villagers are provided with a decent shelter and employment, I do have strong reservations on this type of growth of ‘second homes’ which usually come up on, especially near Mumbai; ecologically sensitive western ghats. The primary reason for this type of growth is because the rich citizen of Mumbai want to ‘get away’ form all the heat and dust of everyday living.This is the pulse, which the Developers and the Urban Development Ministry failing to cash on. A bold and unusual  Green Business Idea, which if implemented and  made a success, could change the way people live in Cities.

If say, we can provide lush-green abode at the heart of the city along with the option of fresh food terminals which reduce food waste and generate employment we are able to create a super sustainable city program. And the best part would be it would reduce the heat-island effect. Limit the horizontal growth of a city, which we call an Urban sprawl, which eats up more and more green field areas, pushing the farm lands further away from the city center, this creating logistical problems for storage and transportation of  fresh food. Further a direct connect with nature would insure that the future generations would not be divorced form sustainable living practices as we are in the present.

Terrace garden are nothing new. But if with policy support from the government the free FSI / FAR  is tweaked to help the developers who are able to build high-rise, with a kitchen – garden along with lawns & flower beds, imagine the result. It would be like living in a bungalow in the clouds! The hanging gardens of Babylon coming back to life. True, the kitchen garden would not be able to supply the demand required. But that is not the point. The point is it would be an extra support to the terminal market complex we could be building, which is additional to the thought given by the ministry and similar to the hollowed out building shown alongside. And where is the space one would ask ? Just look at any of the large Bus Depots in Mumbai, and imagine having 20 stories of light-weight structure made of Thermo-Polymerized rock  , say 12 meters wide floor plate stacked one over the other at distances and design which allow for sunlight. Not only would such roof-top or terrace fields help in the agribusiness, it would save the fertile topsoil of farmlands from being destroyed by the ever growing foot-print of the concrete jungle.

What a relief it would be for a  tired office goer to alight from the bus which are parked under the shade of this bus-terminal-cum-food-terminal, go to the co-operative vegetable mart and buy vegetables before heading home. And all those vegetable sellers, blocking the foot-path along the suburban rail stations and over-bridges could be shifted and even provided with space perhaps at the first floor level, to do what they do best. Sell and grow vegetables. The marginalized farmer who having lost his land need no more live a life of indignity by begging but instead, work under a government aided program to farm and perhaps even get employment with private city center farms, as explained below.

Malls usually have huge floor plate and therefore huge roof area, which get super hot during the summer, requiring a lot of energy for air-conditioning. Mall roofs too could be designed to have vegetable gardens similar to the image shown.  It is a logical idea, as these usually also have the supermarket where people go to buy their grocery. While I concede that all the ideas are Utopian, I believe that someday somewhere I would be able to make a township with these very ideas and more. In 2009 during the Vishwa Show in Mumbai, I had got a whole three-minute to speak with my hero, the past President of India, Shri A.P.J Abdul Kalam. I spoke to him about my idea of building a CDM complaint township, adopting my idea from another Great Leader of India, Shri Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. Gram Swaraj or village self-rule, was a pivotal concept in Mahatama Gandhi’s thinking. I happened to read his ideas and was so mesmerized by his thinking that today the concept I have visualized is nothing but pure inspiration. All Dr. Kalam said  post hearing me out was, as it is a Gandhian idea, it would be a success!

Note : I thank all whose images I have found and used from the internet. None of the concepts shown are my own, and I give full credit to those who have been able to think these ideas, as they are inspirational.

 

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World Health Organization – Can be the Best advocate for CDM


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The United Nation World Health Organization (WHO) can be the biggest game changer in heralding the era of Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) in almost all parts of the developing world. In a recent article published in a News paper in India, a scary report about 10 million Indians carrying two deadly bacteria: ha-MRSA and ca-MRSA which are now resistant to almost all available antibiotics in the World. The reason given were the easy availability of over the counter antibiotics and poor hygiene. The report was published originally by Der Spiegel .

UNEP logo.

This information should, with proper verification and irrefutable proof be used by UN-WHO to strengthen the UNEP-SBCI. The United Nations Environment Program – Sustainable Building & Climate Initiative is tasked to create sustainable cities. Now, this process can be accelerated with the help of WHO creating awareness on the deadly disease which lurk due to unhygienic conditions that gets created due to unplanned Urban Development.  Cities, throughout the Developing World have the problems of Slums, and Urban Planning which takes into account the benefit of proper sanitation methods can be show-cased by WHO as models for improved health benefits. Developers and Municipal administrators would be able to directly see the co-relation between sustainable design and health and would be able to educate the citizens for better living.  This is because it is only a body like the UN which can through its various arms lend the credibility which would be paid heed to by the powers that be, as the UN can engage the people at the grass-root level, which is always needed for any change to have prominence and permanence.

Has Kyoto failed Africa?Further, poor hygiene in the rural areas, I don’t have much to worry about because in my beloved Country, villages are mostly clean and have a more or less healthy atmosphere. But I am a Citizen of a very large City in India. A very large and a very dirty city where plush apartments overlook slums. My City has the distinction of having the largest slum in Asia, that means the largest concentration of most unhygienic area ! And as per the report, these two deadly disease came into being because of poor sanitation standards. Therefore it could be possible that we and our families are at risk.

By the line of logic it could also affect the Rich & Super Rich who too live in this very City. And as they hold almost all the business and trade, they would surely be able to see the “profit” of living a healthy life, thus the “crony capitalistic” mind-set which does not allow for scientific urban development can for once be set aside at the earliest. And having done so they could herald in a movement which would truly be able to see the profit in following the path of CDM.  Refer to my –Clean Development Mechanism – A guide to Profit in slow Economy 

 Now it remains to be seen who would ask WHO to take on this task of completing the circle of Environment – Health & Safety and presenting the case to the World at large.  “EHS” as we call it, is a near alien word in the Indian Construction & Development sector.

 

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Urban Development Rules: How C40 -City rules can make a difference for India.


The C40 Cities( http://live.c40cities.org/about-us/ )Climate Leadership Group (C40) is a network of large and engaged cities from around the world committed to implementing meaningful and sustainable climate-related actions locally that will help address climate change globally. The C40 was created in 2005 by former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone, and forged a partnership in 2006 with the Cities program of President Clinton’s Climate Initiative (CCI) to reduce carbon emissions and increase energy efficiency in large cities across the world.

While in most Indian cities and perhaps the surrounding South Asian countries, due to various socio-economic situation City centers have become congested and un-livable, the problem in the City of Mumbai, lies more with a lackadaisical approach of the authorities for this mess. Let us see through the example of Mumbai City, what are the basic problems which most of the Cities in India face and as Tier-II & Tier-III Cities start making their presence felt, how the same very mistakes the big Metros like Mumbai & Delhi have made keeps getting replicated. Far flung villages as far as 80KM become part of the growing new “suburbs” of the City. In Architectural terms we call it the Urban Sprawl. The historic Mumbai city limits was earlier about 25 -30 KM, then in the 1980’s-2000 A.D  we were measuring the distance around 60KM ( via local suburban train – Churchgate to Virar). Now we are looking at places like Panvel in the main land ( for those who are unfamiliar with the Geography of Mumbai; it’s an Island city) as part of Navi (New) Mumbai (Bombay). Now, if one cares to travel to the far-flung suburbs of Mumbai, one would see how these new townships are mushrooming up.  Getting down on most of these suburban station, you would be surrounded by filth; Polythene bags, empty satchel of tobacco, extremely narrow road leading to a bus-stop. The foot-over bridge are already captured by illegal hawkers. Moving into the town one would notice how fertile agricultural land are getting filled with construction waste, leveled and ugly, poorly constructed buildings are mushrooming. The word town-planning is alien, as in almost all suburbs you can see violations of every town-planning law ever legislated.

 I have dealt in detail on the importance of Urban Planning and Sustainable Cities, in my article “Sustainable Cities- Why town planning is important.” I would not dwell in detail on that subject here. I would rather like to point out that as India starts making its presence felt as an Emerging economy, the traditional business center, Mumbai,  attracts more business and thereby provides more work opportunity. This in turn would (rather is ) begin the growth of a city beyond its traditional municipal boundaries. And extend the problems of urban disease, pollution and destruction of natural habitat. With the World in tether hooks, in terms of Global Warming and its resultant Climate Change, can the people of India and its administration continue to build cities in the same foolish way ? Or should we at least adopt the C-40 Cities program? Which our city leaders have avoided till date? While Mumbai & New Delhi, under Mayor Shraddha Jhadav and Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit are shown as participating Cities, I am ready to wager that not one man in the street would be aware of this program.

 Further, almost all the member cities have begun one program or another we do not find any mention of India. It is time that the people of the Cities are made aware and enough pressure created to the administration, to implement laws for a sustainable city and stringent action taken against violators. Following the C40 Program would provide untold benefits to the Citizens of this cities and the program must get carried and replicated on other up-coming and growing towns & cities before the disaster of Climate Change strikes; the world has only till 2017 AD to move away and roll back the trend of Global Warming ! The details of it have been mentioned in my article – IPCC’s special report on Climate risks -IMPLICATIONS FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT.

Following a sustainable approach is the only way to avert not only personal & physical loss but also avoiding the impending Business risks which climate change entails, such as Tsunami & Hurricanes. With the government of Maharashtra predicting that by A.D 2026, the present suburbs would grow and become town and cities we have very less time to act. Lets not read in the future a headline in the news papers –Indian Urban Planning and Development Rules led to  loss of CDM opportunities and is  the recipe for future Misery.

 

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