India has had a vibrant urban past, our earliest settlements were in the form of towns and cities. The remains of the Indus Valley Civilisation give us ample proof of our penchant for planned cities. Historically, cities have originated on the banks of a river or at a natural advantage point. Mumbai is a good port, Delhi has a central location, Patna is on the banks of a navigable river. Most of the towns that have naturally sprung up are inclusive, where people from all classes, financially and socially, are welcome and there are no gated communities.
However, as time progresses, most of the thriving cities witness overcrowding, stagnation and eventual decline. Herein lies the need for developing new townships from scratch. Such planned projects have sprung up all across the country and have been more or less successful. Chandigarh has been planned to the minutest of details, and has excellent categorisation of areas as sectors. Similarly, Navi Mumbai is one of the biggest well planned satellite townships by CIDCO, in Maharashtra.
There are a multitude of factors and inputs from several stakeholders that go into making a successful township. The site location, the design and project plans, the amalgamation of various utilities and infrastructure, and finally, the various approvals and standards are a few of the many bricks that prop the project up.
Selecting Real Estate for Townships
The primary concern before planning a new town is the location. As Urban Development Research Institute (UDRI) notes, the location should have some inherent value which will remain for eternity. The city should be well connected to the hinterland and not force new connections. No new city close to a large one can exist on its own and eventually will be usurped by the larger city. Hence it has to be well connected to the old city. Townships have developed hand in glove with rapid industrialisation in India. Be it Bokaro Steel City, Jamshedpur, Jamnagar, etc., many townships are supported by a sprawl of industries in the adjoining areas.
Townships were developed by large industry houses to ensure that their employees were provided with homes near their respective work-places with facilities and amenities including schools, healthcare centres, community halls, playgrounds, shops, etc. The Infosys campuses spread across the country are a very good example of the same.
Besides the presence of an industrial nuclei, other reasons for township development include catering to city-dwellers who wish to live in leafy environs, away from the hustle and bustle of overburdened cities. Such projects can end up functioning as dormitory townships—an epithet that noted author Suketu Mehta once applied to the city of Navi Mumbai. With increasing income levels, higher disposal incomes and changing lifestyles, people are aspiring to own homes in pollution-free scenic locales, equipped with world-class amenities and infrastructure.
The major parameter for selecting a site for township development is the presence of a large expanse of land in an area which is slightly tucked away from the city and yet close to business districts, educational institutes, hospitals, public transport systems, and most importantly, is easily accessible. Other determinants such as construction feasibility, availability of water, electricity, drainage and sewerage also play a major role in deciding the location of a township.
As an example, Nahar’s Amrit Shakti at Chandivali, in Mumbai, is located on a huge expanse of land in the proximity of important railway routes and major road arteries. Township projects are also planned with future infrastructure developments in mind, for instance, the Nahar township advertises its closeness to the proposed metro rail stations, entertainment hubs, business areas and of course, to international and domestic airports.
Another factor to be considered during site selection is that sometimes large greenfield developments are harder to sustain. According to UDRI, it is better to restructure old cities. In such cases, existing infrastructure should be respected. If greenfield development takes place, then the cost of services rise, making it unaffordable for the lower sections of the society. This may also take away from the carbon footprint of the people staying in the new towns.
Proximity to social infrastructure such as existing hospitals, schools, libraries and colleges, etc., adds great value even to a new development. Site selection should be carried out in light of a holistic perspective of land use, development intensity, social well-being and preservation of the environment.
Amenities and Utilitites
Most of the naturally developed townships see haphazard development, and amenities and infrastructure are never fully developed. There is a constant feeling of chaos. A planned township,on the otherhand, keeps in mind not only the current requirements but also the future requirements for infrastructure. The basic aim of building townships is to improve the quality of life of the inhabitants. The planning of facilities and amenities is done keeping this in mind, notes Amit Gupta – MD, Orris Infrastructure.
The amenities that go into making a township project successful include clubhouses, gardens, health clubs, swimming pools, restaurants, ample parking space and shopping plazas. The Nahar township has opened a departmental store along with a medical centre, which is now ready for commissioning. Other important amenities include schools, places of worship, malls and multiplexes, a wellconnected business centre. Townships also offer serviced apartments and office complexes. Moreover a township is always developed in phases; hence all the amenities and facilities planned are also constructed in stages, and deal with future challenges from time to time.
Rules and Regulations
The challenges in starting a residential project in India from scratch are manifold. At every step, there are major hurdles in terms of getting necessary clearances and licences. The lack of any regulatory authority and clear land acquisition laws lead to a disorganised way in which clearances are attained, thus resulting in delays and obstacles.
Chandan Singh – Executive Director, Aeren R Enterprises, lists the following challenges involved in township development. Firstly, identification of land allocated for residential development in master plan of a city, then the problem of land consolidation, which involves initiating dialogue and negotiation with various farmers and land owners, and consolidating these small patches into a sizeable land-bank, worthy of development. Once the land is acquired, then starts a process of issuance of CLU or ‘Change of Land Use.’
Licences and clearances form another major hurdle. Even though the developer has acquired land in an area allocated for residential use in the master plan of a city, the builders have to run from pillar to post to at least 10–12 Government departments to get environmental clearance, water connection, forest department. Once all the ground work is done, the developer has to engage competent planning agencies adept in different specialisation such as infrastructure, sewerage, signage to make full fledged project plans. Add to that the fact that there is a lack of skilled manpower in our country.
Among the many permissions required for the project’s go-ahead, the important ones include project layout approval by the local urban government, building proposal approval, environment and forest department approval (if relevant), civil aviation approval for restriction of height of buildings, commencement certificate, occupation certificate, water and pipeline approvals, gas and energy regulations, and intimation of disapproval.
The real estate sector has been requesting the Government to introduce a single-window system for granting approvals since the current approval process is very time consuming.
|Building Carbon Neutral Townships
Zero dependence on grid energy
Zero dependence on petroleum and natural gas
Zero dependence on private modes of transportation (Also making the new township pedestrian friendly)
Zero dependence on outside social infrastructure such as schools, colleges, libraries, health facilities, crematoriums, burial grounds, slaughter houses, warehouses, depots, public transportation, STP, landfills, etc.
Providing for 100% on site disposal of waste materials
No dependence on food from more than 100 km
Principles of Township Development
As UDRI notes, no town can be built on the premise that people will just migrate to it because it is beautiful. Housing and beautification tends to be overemphasised in new towns. New towns look rather like a large scale resort than a city. New towns will only be successful if they are close to an employment source and have different forms of employment sectors. Unless one is planning a township for the retired, proximity to areas where there are opportunities for employment can be a major game changer for the success of such projects.
As T Chitty Babu – President, CREDAI notes, an integrated township is self-contained in most aspects, essentially with regards to basic infrastructure like:
(a)Road Network: A well-planned road network both within the township and connecting to the nearest highway or main road is built, thereby easing communication.
(b)Water Supply and Management: A wellplanned and sustainable water management system is built within the township, providing round the clock water supply to residents as well as treating the waste water generated within the township and recycling it. This also reduces dependence on municipal water supply.
(c)Electricity Supply and Management: Although an integrated township depends on a public or private utility supplier for basic power supply, it has adequate, if not abundant, back-up power for both homes and common areas during temporary or scheduled power cuts or disruptions by the utility supplier.
(d)Communication Infrastructure: Good quality telecom services are also made available within the township and nearby.
While building new townships, several theories and models have to be considered, such as Industrial Location Theory of Alfred Webber, the Von Thunen Model of land use, Urban land use models of Burgess, H. Hoyt Sector model, Harris and Ullman Multi Nuclei model, Levittown and garden cities.
Technology and Innovation
Developers usually engage the best and worldclass specialists who work with the latest technologies for such projects. Leading architects play a pivotal role in designing these projects. However, it must be remembered that technology alone does not make for sustainable townships. UDRI recommends replacement of planning tool of Floor Space Index with other planning tools which are form based, height based, density based building controls, etc. Public space such as notified open spaces, water edges, paths, urban squares and plazas, etc., should be sacrosanct and not built upon. Strict adherence to the National Building Code for construction quality and Urban Development Plans Formulation and Implementation (UDPFI) Guidelines for planning standards must be considered, while designing these township projects. As per CREDAI, the innovations that go into making green townships include the following:
1) Power: Use of wind turbines
2) Lighting: Use of solar lighting and plugin stations
3) Energy Efficiency: Use of VRV air conditioning systems
4) Building Design: Design the building to minimise heat loads to bring down air condition costs and use of recyclable materials
Various advanced technologies are now being employed in matters relating to building technology and construction management, environmental and water resources engineering, geotechnical engineering, structural engineering and transportation engineering. Also, care should be taken that uniform standards of built form, light and ventilation, and public amenity provision in the Development Control Regulations are maintained for low incomehousing units also.
Energy Efficiency and Self-sufficiency
Besides using eco-friendly and energy efficient materials, architects use a lot of design elements to ensure energy efficiency. From green spaces, water bodies using honey comb designs and ash bricks, architects optimally use resources. According to Mr Gupta, technologies like waste recycling, solar powered street lights, etc., go a long way in ensuring the self sufficiency of a project. Many innovations in design and planning can make townships ‘green’ and carbon neutral. According to UDRI, there are many zero emission codes available in the market today, and a thorough analysis, along with strict adherence to them would be necessary to make new towns carbon neutral.
The basic purpose or aim kept in mind while developing new townships is that with growing urbanisation and increasing job creation, the concept of walking to work is catching up with city dwellers. Townships integrate residential commercial and retail properties, and provide all facilities in close proximity.
The township projects are currently attracting a variety of consumer segments; hence there are luxury, premium and affordable projects that are either ready or under construction. Ideally, the cities should be open, equitable and efficient. Many luxurious and gated townships have also laid a claim on the market, such as the Aamby Valley City, which is positioned as a premium, self-contained city. Yet, affordable housing also neds to be a major chunk of new development projects. There is huge demand for low to middle income level housing.
However, today the lines between luxury and normal townships are getting blurred in terms of the amenities offered. Be it clubs, gyms, restaurants or security, almost all the projects offer most of these amenities. What actually differentiates luxury from ordinary is the use of materials, designers, fittings and fixtures, etc. For e.g., a recent project in Mumbai announced its tie up with Versace for designing its apartments. Versace is now synonymous with luxury and by the association this project has acquired a ‘luxury’ tag, notes Mr Gupta.
Once a town has been built, the developers have to provide for management of infrastructure like public transport, connectivity, waste treatment, water management in such projects. As per CREDAI, a well-planned township should incorporate well-equipped estate management system with the following in place: garbage and waste management for a healthier and ecofriendly township; infrastructure maintenance with proper and regular maintenance of roads, pathways, parks, electrical and plumbing infrastructure. Children play areas and common areas, including community centre, is essential for a well-developed integrated township. Security and safety for all residents is a critical element of an integrated township.
A prominent concern is the protection and enhancement of natural beauty of the locale around a township. Other important factors include flexibility in adapting to the fast changing lifestyles and demands of customers, making provision for future requirements, well-designed structures, and providing for plenty of open and green spaces. Also, GRIHA ratings, BED ZED codes, new urbanism codes and LEED ND codes have to be adhered to while designing and executing township projects.
The Future of Township Development
New towns, when they come up, have to follow stringent guidelines for design and planning principles. The impact of a new town has to be factored in the regional plan of any area. With increasing urbanisation, double income nuclear families and infrastructure challenges being faced in metros and tier I cities, townships are expected to grow in the future. Typically, the working population looks at a work–life balance and seeks all facilities in close proximity. This can be provided by planned townships alone, says CREDAI. Also, there are various issues related to land acquisition, which are rather sensitive and need to be handled with care and fairness to all parties concerned.
The primary task is to analyse the need for new developments. Incremental developments are better than unholistically planned developments. According to UDRI, existing towns in India can handle much higher densities of population if they are planned properly. A lot goes into designing of energy-efficient buildings and spaces while planning a city. Building infrastructure is the key here. High speed trains and efficient public transportation can make the existing cities livable. Hong Kong and Singapore are good examples of such cities. Future options for developers include identifying ways to enrich the existing cities and establishing a balance with new township projects.