The land is to be treated like a commodity exactly the way we treat water, electricity, fuel, oil, coal, food etc. Like every other commodity, the land is also scarce that needs to be optimally used. Cities in the 21st century need to use their land to the utmost efficiency to provide a HIGH QUALITY OF LIFE to their residents. This article talks about how this can be achieved.
Man is always in pursuit of happiness and the age-old adage “Roti-kapada-aur makan”, is still as applicable to him now as it ever was. A few more items are added to the adage and now it appears like this – “Roti-Kapada-makan-broadband-cellphone-computer-goodhealth”. Added to it are “good job”, “security” and others, as man’s expectation from life has been ever-growing. All these factors determine man’s happiness. However, to get these things man has to go to many places, and yet chances of getting them may be low.
What has that got to do with vertical living? – Before we touch upon the vertical living, let’s talk about the quality-of-life (QoL) that people want to enjoy in their cities. The city administration should provide to her residents the basic QoL – clean water, consistent power, underground rainwater system, good roads and other infrastructure.
The higher the QoL a city resident experiences, the higher he is on the happiness index of that city, such is their entanglement. If QoL dips, there would be a marginal dip in the happiness index as a consequence of it. But the question is, “Can the administrations even promise the basic QoL to its residents?” – Hell No!! The administration fails to deliver on this because of the sub-standard infrastructure they got. The residents who use their low-quality infrastructure have to brave health hazards, risking their lives. In such situations how can residents be happy?
To fix this happiness issue, one has to over-haul and strengthen the city infrastructure. The overhauling of infrastructure requires land and funds.
The land is a scarce commodity
Land shortage brings lots of despair to the administration. Since the population is growing, they(administration) has to endlessly expand the city to form housing layouts for providing accommodation to the residents.
In 1947, the POPULATION OF INDIA was JUST 30 Crores, cut to 2020, it has reached 130 Crores and marching towards 150 Crores by 2050. India is seeing rapid urbanization, and there is unbearable pressure on urban centres to accommodate the burgeoning population and provide them with basic services. The country has to do something DRASTICALLY DIFFERENT to handle this crisis.
Pitfalls of horizontal development? – There will be no land left if we stick to the present ways of accommodation – forming layouts to build individual sites. By 2050 we would have occupied all our farmlands and encroached forest-land in large numbers. Also, the expanding cities will intrude into lakes, thus choking our water sources. The consequence of it is, we will have to import food and water from overseas, thus putting our FOOD and WATER SECURITY at utmost RISK. So, India has to STOP growing horizontal and START growing vertical to accommodate the huge population. We have no other option.
The economic cost of horizontal developments
The indefinite horizontal growth of cities is stretching the infrastructure thin. With thousands of LANES, BYLANES, CROSSROADS, MAIN ROADS, HOUSING LAYOUTS in existence, the cost of providing infrastructure to the city residents have reached the sky and is not affordable anymore. It is unbearably expensive to lay long pipelines, cables, construct long gutters/sewers etc.
The Infrastructure services include following
- Laying cables for distributing power, and broadband
- Laying pipelines for distributing water
- Laying pipelines for collecting sewage for treatment
- Laying roads, expressways
- Laying drainage network for stormwater
- Establishing water and sewage treating plants
- Developing parks at various wards
- Establishing primary health care centres at different wards
- Providing an efficient public mass-transportation system
When the funds for the city development are limited, and the city is stretched beyond limits, there is NO WAY the administration can provide quality INFRASTRUCTURE SERVICE to people. That’s why we see potholes ridden roads, trash not cleared, water and power shortages, etc in our cities, towns, and villages. The root cause of this problem is the INEFFICIENT usage of land and subsequent LACK OF FUNDS for development.
Land usage efficiency (LUE)
For instance, on a plot of 100 acres, if the government builds around 5000 houses of various dimensions, it can accommodate a maximum of 5000 families, that’s it. On the contrary, on the same 100-acre plot the government can construct 35,000 apartments (in multiple dimensions) in highrise buildings. By this 35,000 families can be accommodated instead of 5000 families. The LAND USAGE EFFICIENCY for the 100-acre land is high and is good for the economy. That means we are doing more with little.
Cost of service delivery is low in a densely populated neighbourhood
The government can efficiently deliver high-quality services to the 35,000 families at the fraction of the cost, as residents live within the boundary of 100 acres area. Now imagine millions of people of the city living in the well planned-and-built highrise buildings, and imagine how easy it would be for the administration to govern.
Highrise living elsewhere: In Singapore, Hongkong, Taipei, Tokyo, Newyork/ Manhattan in the USA, Dubai, Seoul in South Korea have highrise dwellings and they have had it for several decades now.
High dense urban living reduces the commuting cost
When millions of people live in highrise apartment complexes, they can work in highrise offices too. The government can earmark some areas for commercial developments (Offices, Malls, Restaurants, entertainment complexes). There can be spaces earmarked for education (university colleges, schools) and some other space reserved for health care (hospitals, wellness centres) and market (wholesale & retail) for vegetables, fruits, dairy products etc.
There can be designated areas for building manufacturing units of various companies. When hospitals, offices, schools are all located in pre-determined areas, the concept of “WALK TO WORK” OR “PEDDLE TO WORK” can be achieved easily.
Aphrensions of highrise living
Understandably, people have anxieties about living in highrise buildings and hence hesitate to move into one. Their apprehensions can be addressed as below.
Highrise buildings are not safe: The government has to follow housing specifications DEVELOPED AND PERFECTED over the years in the countries like Singapore, Tokyo, Hongkong, Taipei etc. about constructing and maintaining highrise buildings. These specs will make sure PEOPLE LIVE in a SAFE ENVIRONMENT within buildings.
The government has to contractually bind the builders to strictly follow the specifications. We have seen it already happening in our highway sector, NHAI – the government agency is coordinating with contractors to build international class expressways across India. A similar agency can be started to co-ordinate with builders to construct and maintain highrise buildings in our cities.
Investments in apartments don’t fetch good returns: If the government ENFORCES STRICT GUIDELINES to contractors, with PERIODIC MAINTENANCE of the building exteriors, electrical wiring, elevators, pumps, diesel generators, water tanks and other subsystems, the building will retain its sheen and value. The PROPERTY PRICE APPRECIATES SIGNIFICANTLY and fetches good returns too.
Tier-2 cities like Mysuru, Hubballi/ Dharwad, Mangaluru, Belagavi, Kalaburagi should have their own Central Business Districts (CBD)
Fast-growing Tier2/ 3 cities should have their VIBRANT LOCAL ECONOMY which is self-sustaining. Every city is a hub for something.
Mysuru is known for handicrafts, tourism, electronic design & manufacturing, pharmaceutical & decorative paint production, food and automobile engineering. Education is a big business in Mysuru too. Other than that, knowledge/ R&D based manufacturing and IT is becoming big in the city. The government should latch on to these strengths and build on them.
Hubballi/ Dharwad For instance, Hubballi is a hub for cotton and people across the region come to Hubballi to sell OR buy cotton. Also, the city is a hub for Valves and their accessories, education and automobile manufacturing, which should be tapped to the fullest extent to support a full-blown economy. HD is making great strides in Information Technology (IT) too, which can strengthen the economy.
Mangaluru/ Udupi has an edge in the fishing industry, cashew nuts, spice, cocoa seeds, banking, higher-education industries, which should be leveraged fully to create jobs and add to the local economy. Temple & coastal tourism brings big bucks to these cities. IT is vibrant in these cities.
Belagavi known as the foundry and aerospace hub of Karnataka, is also the hub for food grains, sugarcane, cotton, tobacco, oilseed, and milk products. A sophisticated auctioning centre can be established with electronic trading to buy/sell these products. Also, IT is making inroads into the local economy strong.
Kalaburagi is the hub for the production of oilseeds, food grains, red chillies, onions and other Agri commodities. The government can establish a modern auctioning centre with an electronic trading facility to sell/ buy products.
Tier-2/ 3 cities Startups need a big push
Tier 2 cities are fast emerging as startup hubs of Karnataka. The government should handhold them, nurture them to make them grow big and carve a niche for themselves. Startups have the potential to create lots of jobs, so every effort should be made to turn them successful. The government should do its bit to retain their (startups’) head office in the places where they were born. This will create jobs locally and give the city a required identity and brand.
CBD in tier 2 cities can be a reality
All Tier 2 cities have a functioning ring road and a peripheral ring road (under construction). The government should buy big tracts of land between the ring roads, and encourage building well-planned new cities with skyscrapers – residential and commercial buildings kissing the sky. By this, a new beginning can be made and cities will get branded based on what they have to offer to the residents as well as investors. New investments get attracted, as the cost of doing business is low.
Currently, India’s population is 130 Crores and marching towards 150 Crores by 2050. Though the population is growing fast, the land availability for housing is stagnating, it is the responsibility of the government to provide food, water and shelter to the growing population. Since we are in a sorry state as for as land for the housing is concerned, there is no other option to living en masse in highrise buildings like the people do in Singapore, Hongkong, Taipei etc. It is time, we start this exercise ASAP.