ET Realty Convention 2010: Planning new-age townships

ET Spcl: The way forward for new-age townships

20 Dec, 2010, 08.48AM IST, Neha Bhatia,ET Bureau

With metro cities already bustling with over-population , the focus of real estate developers and urban planners has now shifted towards developing the satellite towns on the periphery of bigger cities. However the biggest bottleneck in popularising new townships in the peripheral regions is the lack of proper connectivity. As the real estate sector is finally coming on the fast track, connectivity remains the major concern.

Giving an overview of the sprawling urban areas in different parts of the country at the Economic Times Realty Convention 2010, Kumari Selja, Minister, Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation said, "Almost all the major towns and cities have expanded along the highways connecting cities in regions for example Delhi-Jaipur , Delhi-Meerut , Mumbai-Ahmedabad , and so many others throughout the country.

There are also many industrial hubs and small settlements along these corridors. These could be developed into small and medium size satellite townships with the major city acting as a hub. But fro this appropriate urban planning is required . An important aspect of urban planning would be a well planned transport system . Mass Rapid Transit systems and metro will perhaps lead to the decongestion of existing towns."

The need of the hour is to plan region specific transport policies and link them to the overall transport related initiatives of the Government of India. Even the Union Minister , Ministry of Urban Development, Jaipal Reddy expressed similar views. He said "Apart from land, the other important issue for building new cities is of transportation. No land development should be allowed to take place unless it is a part of the larger plan of transportation. Public transportation should be the major areas of focus."

In the recent past several steps have been taken to introduce well-planned mega infrastructure projects in different parts of the country. Emphasis is being laid for the development of metro networks and high capacity bus systems. Plans have been introduced for the development of NH-1 , NH-2 , NH-8 , NH-24 , NH-58 i.e. Chandigarh highway, Faridabad- Palwal link, Gurgaon- Manesar highway, Hapur link and Meerut highway respectively. Also in process is DMIC- Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor- A dedicated freight corridor between Delhi and Mumbai, covering an overall length of 1483 km and passing through the states of UP, Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra.

The proposed high speed connectivity between Delhi and Mumbai offers immense opportunities for development of an industrial corridor along the alignment of the connecting infrastructure . Another mega infrastructure project is the 135km long Kundli-Manesar-Palwal Expressway , which will be operational very soon and will transform Kundli into a major logistics and warehousing hub of north India. At the same time, another expressway, Kundli-Ghaziabad ,Noida-Palwal will also be implemented soon. After the completion of this road, Kundli will be directly connected to upcoming township of Noida-Greater Noida.


Talking about the need to have better planning for residential cities along the Highway networks Navin M Raheja, managing director, Raheja Developers said, "Development of mini cities results in enormous crisscross movement and heavy traffic along highways. The highway loses its high-speed travel corridor character and takes the shape of any other local road. It's best to have development on only one side as it becomes easy to maintain the free flow of traffic. Moreover, instead of developing a residential cluster along the highway, it makes sense to develop a self-sustaining sub-city that has residential, commercial and institutional functions."

Though forming new cities is easy, the real challenge comes when it is inhabited. S K Sayal, director & CEO, Alpha G Corps informed , "Unless and until infrastructure is developed, buyers are not going to get into these new townships. State policies are there, but the implementation of policies is a big question mark. Till a private developer develops its own infrastructure, nothing is going to change."

Exemplifying his experiences, Gaurav Gupta, director, SG Estates shared, "When we started developing our projects at Raj Nagar Extension, there was no infrastructural development there. Instead of fighting the authorities alone, we formed a consortium through which we could get things done in a faster and efficient manner. As a result of collaboration of around 15-20 developers, infrastructure has rapidly developed there."

Real Estate developers agreed on the requirement to have a more open economy for their functioning. Talking about the same, Sudhir Vohra, Architect & Urban Planner confessed, "The real estate sector has seen a lot of business opportunity in last few years and thus wants no regulators now. There has to be a proper framework on re-development laws and regulators to ensure smooth functioning of these laws. A regulator mechanism is a must for the new cities that are being developed."

Given the pace of urbanization in big and small cities, it has become extremely crucial for government and urban planners to focus on the issues of good governance, efficient transportation and world-class infrastructure . The efforts of public and private sector should continue to activate local commerce, enhance investment opportunities and attain sustainable development.

The discussions during the convention focussed on the need of creating a forward looking policy, ensuring good governance, introducing multiple forms of mobility and paving way for the establishment of smart cities in the near future. Highlighting that new challenges of governance come along with rapid urbanization, Navin M Raheja, managing director , Raheja Developers said, "The country is still running on the old archaic laws and here we need to bring about certain changes. There should be national mapping of the land records. There should be special provisions for SEZs, predetermined processes to get plans sectioned, and clear acts and by-laws to provide a boost to the real estate sector."
Proper urban planning is a pre-requisite for developing better cities in the future. However efforts are required to improve the process of urban planning. Sanjeev Srivastava, senior vice president, NAREDCO was of the view that, "Biggest problem is the people who actually approve building plans are not equipped to handle a modern master planning of an integrated housing or cities.

The people who are approving are not town planners ; they are the junior engineers or the assistant engineers who have no idea about the plan. What we have realized is that these things have not changed." He also suggested that there should be a single window clearance for land, transportation, police, municipality and other departments. But planning should not be related to physical infrastructure argued Anurag Mathur, MD – India, Cushman & Wakefield. "Plan for not only physical infrastructure, but also for social and economic infrastructure," he said.

Infrastructure remains one of the biggest bottlenecks in the real estate sector. "Unless and until infrastructure is developed, buyers are not going to come. State policies are there, but there is no proper implementation ," said S K Sayal, director & CEO, Alpha G Corps. It came out quite clearly during the deliberations of the convention that establishment of new and better townships should be the focus area. "There is need for developing green field townships.

They should be generally be located on less agriculturally productive land and should be on a reasonable distance from existing medium and large towns. Also it is important to develop mass rapid transport corridors between the existing and the new townships so that relationship between industry and commerce develops. Affordable housing has been a concern for both state and private sector," informed S K Singh, Jt. Secretary, Ministry of Urban Development & Urban Povert Alleviation.

Availablity of adequate funds for real estate projects is crucial for the development of this sector. Parry Singh, founding partner, Red Fort Capital touched upon the problem that financing options are very limited when it comes to large scale projects. However, R V Verma, CMD, National Housing Bank was of the view, "Too much of funds coming in without considering the rigidity of supply may lead to inflation in the real estate prices. Thus a bridge between demand and supply is needed to ensure affordable housing flourishes."

The fruitful discussions during the prestigious convention not only assessed the current scenario in the Indian real estate sector but also provided the way forward for the rapid growth of this sector in the coming future . It emphasized that with public-private partnership the real estate sector can fulfill the growing demand of commercial and residential space for the future India.