Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Hills & the City, once again!







 Territory is but the body of a nation. The people who inhabit its hills and valleys are its soul, its spirit, its life....James A. Garfield

Well this may be true for the great American President but seems people in this very city are forgetting their own hills. Whenever Pune’s issues or problems we may call them then it can’t be completed without the three things; The Traffic, Water & Hills! Pune as I have mentioned earlier has a unique gift of having hills all around the city as well within the city also. Few of them are only for name sake now such as Ganeshkhind or Senapati Bapat road or even Chandani Chowk & some at Katraj., where there were hills but now the roads & commercial development around has wipes out any signs of hills. Few lucky hills like NDA hills are still remained as hills just because strict control of Military or else they too would have surrendered our greed of expansion & poor political will  or poorer administrative policies to protect the same.

Many wont like my statement as what right a builder has to speak on this topic rather isn’t it the builders only who are responsible for this condition of the hills? Is also many will ask. But let me clarify individually I am a citizen of this city first then a builder & take a look around the hills right from Parvati, to Indiaranagar in Bibwewadi or Varje or Ram tekdi at Hadapasr & tell me what you see? It’s all slums & not buildings. No sane builder will dare to buy a land which is marked as hill top hill slope leave apart getting it sanctioned! And if the buildings are their which are illegal then who has stopped the authorities to demolish them & more worst who are the people who has booked homes in such illegal building? I am not dodging the responsibility as a developer neither backing or supporting structures on hills but first question is how the building gets sanctioned on hills & if they are not sanctioned then what are we, including media doing till they come up? As no building can be build in single day, It’s a process of few months at least, till than where is the law & order governing the same? And what are we waiting for when we know there are illegal structures including slums on these hills?

I think answer lies in framing the policies without taking our system’s limitations in consideration. Recently the Hon High Court has ordered Collector office to demolish all the illegal structure around fringe area of the city, most of which is on hills. Now the Collector office is gathering the information of such structures for taking action on them, such is the condition of our system! Leave apart from taking action on them we don’t even have the proper information about such structures. The main question is why the hills are not well defined & why people tend to encroach on them? If we understand this then might be we can save remaining hills which are very much important for the city as it’s our true sky line. With all the modern surveying techniques like total station as well satellite mapping we haven’t yet marked a fixed line demarcating exactly where the hills ends, all in & around the city, not even on map. The one which has been marked has raised many doubts as where we can see plain land to naked eye there hills has been shown & where it’s clear steep slope on ground there is no hill area. These are just few of the objections raised by the people who owns the land in such part of the city. Then there are many cases where already development has been done & just some patches are remaining between two developments yet it has shown as hill. What’s the use of such mapping which doesn’t count reality at site? The need is urgently to define a perfect hill & hill slope & then mark it on ground making all the concern know that whatever may be the development policy or rules but this is final hill line which is not going to change for anybodies interest! And one need not have to be Einstein for defining such line any good engineer can do it. But this has to be done real fast as while I am writing this article still the so called hills are being encroached is a ground reality & then we will think of regularizing the development.

Then comes the State Govt’s decision about giving 8% TDR for acquiring this land under hill reservation & naming it BDP i.e. Bio Diversity Park. No two minds about making it BDP reservation, question is looking at our past performance whether this just declaring is going to help? Many NGO’s as well some political parties celebrated this decision like the hills have already become green but I think the real battle starts now. As how many people will give their land for 8% TDR & why they should give? The logic is any way in HTHS i.e. hill top hill slope zone the FSI was 4% but then when a man gives his land for road then there single sq ft is not allowed to build yet he gets 100% TDR for the area going in road so why a man with HTHS reservation on his land should give his land for mere 8% TDR? Especially now when the actual market rate of that land is much higher than the ready reckoner rate! Here I think the Govt has behaved sentimentally as what if the private land owners refused to give their land for this compensation? We haven’t even thought of that possibility & here is where the failure is most probable of the very purpose of greening these hills. And I am not speaking randomly, the news we all have read of the people agitating about this compensation, whose lands have been hampered by the HTHS reservation. What it indicates is any law if it’s not worked out practically then it may please some but won’t be implacable & exactly this is what I fear most.  And on top of this we all know the lengthy & time consuming process to get the TDR for our own land, so why should people wait & apply for TDR & why Govt itself don’t make TDR certificate & go the doors of the land owners? Here Govt has shown a carrot of additional 2% TDR for the early birds i.e. those who will hand over their land under BDP in first year only. But this carrot is stale & non lucrative as people won’t agree the basic 8% in itself is the scene! The media or NGO’s may cry over builder lobby behind this philosophy but no builder association or organization has uttered a word about this decision is a fact too. Had it been a realty  the way it’s being projected that most of these lands belongs to the builders then by now there have been huge oppose by the builders associations which we haven’t seen.

What I feel is why builders but not even common man won’t oppose the BDP's if the compensation is proper which at present isn’t.Any reservation has to be treated at same platform & I still don't understand what’s harm in giving 100% TDR for the land under BDP as we are forgetting major fact that the residential zone is fixed to use this TDR & so as the limit of utilizing TDR on any plot. So where is the question of burdening the city? And then why to restrict this TDR to just PMC limit allow it in fringe villages, why can’t we consider Pune as  a whole & restrict our vision just as PMC? If the city is going to become green then isn't entire region going to get advantage of its greening? On one hand we are talking about merging of the adjoining villages & making it greater city like Metro & on other hand we are restricting the means of growth! Rather the reason for encroaching of the hills for residences, may it be a slum or may it be some illegal building, lies in non availability of enough land or potential of the land for making homes for all segments of the society. A builder may build out of greed something illegal on hills but the buyer goes in such buildings sheer out of need is a fact! And if we provide enough for the need then no one will go & dig the hills is a truth we are ignoring. Here lies the answer what hills has to do with real estate? As if really the dream of all the hills becoming green is going to come true then obliviously the entire city is going to get benefited. Remember the real estate flourish in the cities which are more livable & what better living conditions there could be where from every corner of the city you see beautiful green covered hills!

It’s high time to decide whether we want to save our hills really or just for name sake. Because the more time is wasted in making & implementing the rules & regulations which are not going to work the more difficult it will be to protect the hills. If you don't want to give TDR then don't give a single sq ft but then make provision in budget to pay the land owners in cash for their land & at rate which they will agree not what the ready reckoner says. And this I am not saying as a developer but the recent judgments’ of the courts says while acquiring the land for any public purpose. Refer the Krishna Valley example where their main set back was because of not working out proper budgetary provision for land acquisition. And later court gave compensation to the affected land owners more than even market rates. Also there is no mention of how we are going to clear the existing encroached hills like the Parvati hill. While making a policy for future we are forgetting completely the present. Why can’t the Govt not announcing policy for existing known hills & solution to make them green?

Finally we all want the city hills to be green & make them as a home for all the missing species of the city, like poor sparrows that are also resident of this city. But for that we have to let our head work over the heart & not vice versa or else result will be worst than what we have experienced till today! And that's job of each of us, then only we are eligible to call our self as aware citizen!


--
Sanjay Deshpande

Sanjeevani Dev.

Envo-Power Committee, Credai, Pune

Please do visit my blogs to know about our philosophy at Sanjeevani ! (Click the links below)

http://jivnachadrushtikon.blogspot.in/

http://visonoflife.blogspot.in/2013/01/identifying-good-builder.html


Social Side of Sanjeevani ! (Click link below)

http://www.flickr.com/photos/65629150@N06/sets/72157628805700569/

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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Making of a Mega City or Mega Slum?








This City is what it is because our citizens are what they are...Plato

Recently there was a seminar involving prominent personalities from the city about discussing the future of the Pune city which is fast on the track of becoming a Mega City. Speaking on technical terms a Mega City is the one which has population above 10 million i.e. 1 crore. Sometime its co related to population density also i.e. per sq km population more than 2000, which is for USA or European countries  because if you take Mumabi, then as per 2011 census the population density is nearly      20000 per sq km. And on same account Pune city has already crossed it with approximate population density over 10000 per sq km area! But on scale of total population it’s yet to be achieved honor of Mega City. With present rate we will reach one crore population mark by 2040 is what expected, means in hardly less than 30 years. My personal opinion is we will reach that mark in 20 years only with whatever exposure I have in real estate till now. The seminar was especially for the challenges we will face in becoming Mega City & solutions for the same. I had been honored to be one of the speakers as real estate has to play a key role in this process.

My main concern is, are we really going to become a Mega city just because there is increase in population? Presently I am taking my younger son's study who is in 10th standard & while going through the Economics subject I came across two terminologies & they were Growth & Development. The difference between Growth & development many won’t understand. But growth is a natural process where as development has to be worked out. I realized how similar this is when applicable to the city in context of becoming Mega City on population scale! In last many years whatever growth we are seeing or talking about city is not development but it’s just increase in volume & no one has worked for it. It’s like an orphan growing as per nature's law & our leaders are happy in taking credit for the same calling this as development which is just a growth. People keep on coming in this city as it offers them job, education but what about the living comforts? Many may not like my statement but see the graph of the city in last 20 years & what we see around is just number of more New Townships for a particular class, IT parks, Malls or Automobile Show rooms or Educational Institutes, does means the city is developing? In actual the kind of standard of life the city provides to its citizen that decides whether the city is really growing along with development & even a small kid living in the city can tell how poorly we have done on this front!

And the main reason for this situation is we haven't yet understood the concept of Mega City. Leave apart technicality but a Mega City to me is one which is self sufficient, well equipped with all sorts of infrastructure from water to public transport to environment to education & not only for present population but for the generations to come here. And for that what we need is to understand the problems first & accept them. Time & again our leaders as well administrative officers have gone to abroad to visit developed countries & practices they have used to tackle their problems. But have we seen even a single implementation of any such which can be called as outcome of their visit? The answer is clear No because for that we need to change the system which is responsible to implement the solution. All the problems which we are facing today, every major city of the world has gone through similar ones; may it be garbage or traffic or water but then they have a single handed responsible organization to deal with that problem & here is where we are repeatedly failing in our city. For instance see the governing bodies which controls development as well various infrastructure like Water, Power & even Communication of Pune City & surroundig . We have Pune Municipal Corporation, Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation, the surrounding fringe area is controlled by Collector & Town Planning with local Gram Panchayats then we have three Cantonments & one Pradhikaran. These all are just for basic development under their jurisdiction having individual development plans of their own & each body is supposed to execute the DP of their own. And all these organizations are collecting taxes from their respective residents for the so called infrastructure they are providing or supposed to be providing to their residents. Then we have MSEB ie MSEDCl now for power, BSNL for telephones & other private players for mobile services, we have PMPML for city public transport along with ST ie State Transport for rural, we have local trains which are under control of Railway, we have water supply in fringe areas with Jeevan Pradhikaran & roads in fringe areas are being done by Zillah Parishad which are supposed to be in tune with Municipal Corporations development plans. And lastly the water supply of the Municipal Corporations is governed by Irrigation department & the two bodies are all the time in fight with each other over the exact volume of water supplied. This is just tip of iceberg; there are many other issues like public health, education, public safety or security as well art & sports & biodiversity within the city, which we never even take in account when we use the term infrastructure! Above all the culture of the city which is backbone of any society; high need is there to look what we are doing for conserving the same.

Tell me, does the city or a common citizen understand such boundaries when someone says I am living in Pune? All a common man is interested in is what infrastructure he is getting against the taxes he is paying to the respective public body. Just calling some city as Mega City isn't going to solve the problem. We need to streamline the entire system of which a Mega City will be the outcome or else population wise we may become a Mega City but with the present system on the basis of life style it will be a Mega Slum is a fact. Because presently there isn't any co-ordination between any of above organizations is a known fact. For e.g. PMC charges heavily for digging their roads for laying power lines or telecom lines making these services costly for the citizen. But they can’t take in confidence the MSEB or BSNL before making their road & make the arrangements for coming years in advance by which the roads would not have been required to dig ever. The same PMC dug the road for laying water lines or drainage lines or rain water lines continuously & repeatedly for three different times but as these departments are of its own for that they don't have to pay charge, thanks god or else it would have also become more costly for us!

Above is just one example for no dialogue between the different governing bodies. Another is security cameras on roads for traffic control. It’s now over that 5 years the cameras have been installed but who will maintain it i.e. PMC or Police, has  not yet been decided so no action has been taken on millions of photographs of traffic laws breakers in the past is a truth which we came to know via news papers! There has been N numbers of such non co-ordination & who is the sufferer of it? Of course it’s the citizens of the city who helplessly keeps on cursing the system & continues their living in the city & keeps paying taxes yet for the services they don’t get. Are we going to call this as Mega City just we will be of population above one crore in few years? It’s high time that we have to go above politics & individual or any parties interest development & have one single body governing every development here if we really want to make this city a Mega City. Like in USA they have all authority of city planning as well infrastructure with Mayor & City Council; we also must think on these lines if we really mean what we want this city to become i.e. a  Mega City.

Then comes the issue of providing homes to these one crore would be citizens of the Mega City. With the kind of rates of flats, how many people are going to afford a decent home is a main question. And for that we need to define the boundary of the city & then plan for the homes as well services for the same & we need to do it real fast. We all are witnessing the circus which is going on for finalizing the Development Plans of the old & new city. It’s easy to blame builders for the same as well rising prices of the homes but real culprit is non availability of good developed land & age old by-laws which don't permit to utilize the potential of the land to fullest thus making scarcity of homes in city or fringe area. This is one of the main reasons of increase in illegal construction as well slum growth. As people are migrating in this city & they need home is a fact & we are unable to provide the same in their budget is also a fact so the outcome we are witnessing in the form of slums. As of nearly 35 % population of this city lives in slum is what surveys says, what sign is this? Illegal constructions haven't been taken in account in this survey it seems.

At the end as the quote by the great thinker says somewhere the citizens are also at blame as they collectively never raise their voice in this aspect. For being a Mega City the mindset of the citizens also should be adoptive for the concept of it & what we see on this front? We oppose even the slightest water cuts instead analyzing our uses or don’t display any civic sense while behaving in public is also a fact. To blame someone for the failure is a very easy thing but what as an individual I am doing for the cause is a question one must ask to one self. Or else we all will become the party for making of a Mega Slum in the name of Mega City & we don't need a fortune teller for this to come true!

Sanjay Deshpande

Sanjeevani Dev.

Envo-Power Committee, Credai, Pune

Please do visit my blogs to know about our philosophy at Sanjeevani ! (Click the links below)

http://jivnachadrushtikon.blogspot.in/

http://visonoflife.blogspot.in/2013/01/identifying-good-builder.html


Social Side of Sanjeevani ! (Click link below)

http://www.flickr.com/photos/65629150@N06/sets/72157628805700569/

For any of your complaints about city, log in at link below

http://www.punecorporation.org/GRS/Complaint/LaunchComplaintCitizen.aspx

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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Kanha, the tiger kingdom on decline!








“Nature is not a place to visit. It is home.”...Gary Snyder 

Many die hard Kanha forest fans may raise an eye brow over the heading of this write-up few may even frown but being a dedicated Kanha fan by myself yet I am sharing what I have seen in my recent trip to the undisputed tiger kingdom of India. In last over 10 years I have been to Kanha more than 30 times & I remember my every trip with minute details as each time it has given me something new making me come again & again there. Just like the quote says I feel like home at Kanha & not in forest or any tourist spot. Every day at Kanha is full of excitement & the mystic forest  always surprise you by the action always on, in the Sal's which grew taller every year.

My this trip also fulfilled two of my long pending wishes, I was telling to the guide in a casual chat during the Gypsy ride that I haven't seen Wild cat in good day light & don't have images & then each time I have seen leopard at Kanha it was on ground whereas the stories of leopard being seen on the tree are on every ones tongue at Kanha! And my both wish came true in this trip; I saw a full grown furry wild cat warming in winter sun & a leopard couple on tree! What more an avid forest lover can expect from the forest? Now you will ask then why such heading to this sharing? Well over the years during my visits in nearly every season & month of the year I have never seen so less numbers of tourists in my trip! The dhabas providing yummy food outside the park were deserted with only the locals having cup of tea & chatting about the summer season, wishing it will generate good business. Never such was the scene, even on a week-end there were Gipsy's available outside the park at visiting hours & after safari time no rush seen at the famous Burman or Mohan dhaba for snacks & tea by the tourist on coldest of the day!

Is it sign of decline of the numero uno position of the park amongst forest lovers? May be yes as the reasons are many for this situation. Despite sincere efforts from the park director & the staff for maintaining the park & protecting wild life, yet why the tourist’s numbers is decreasing is the question which I asked to guides, drivers & localities. The reasons are multi folded, no doubt about the forest its evergreen as it was years back but still the fact remains that out of 100 tourists visiting the park 90 wants to see the tiger only! And with the limited budget because of costing of stay, Gypsy rents & park fees not all tourists can afford to take more than 2 or 3 safaris. And they want to see the tiger in that much short time which indeed is a difficult job in a forest which is spread over 1600 sq kilometers! With Tiger show has been stopped & with better options available in form of Tadoba, Nagzira, Pench MP & Pench Maharashtra; many tourists especially coming from Mumbai & Pune are opting for these destinations. Mainly they are much nearer to Nagpur than Kanha i.e. all of these parks are hardly two hour’s drive from central place like Nagpur where has with the road conditions Kanha is nearly 6 hour drive. Making it wasting two days i.e. going & coming from Nagpur in the process & then the travel costs are there. A private taxi to Kanha from Nagpur takes at least 7000 rupees to drop & pickup. Also the park entry charges at Maharashtra parks are one third of Kanha park entry charges making them much cheaper option. And then at last there is sure sighting of the king of the forest i.e. the Tiger at Tadoba & Nagzira because the spread is small & the forest is dry making sighting of Tiger as well other animals easy than that in Kanha. Though it’s unfortunate that a forest is lot more than just tiger yet the fact remains that we are unable to wipe out the forest safaris tag of "See Tiger", so the main or only attraction of the safari is the tiger!

Another factor is things like routes & rotation system of vehicles as well drivers. It may be good in keeping benefit of equal opportunities for all locals who are dependent on the park & tourists for their day to day earnings but a good driver is something very much important in forest & a regular tourist if wants to have a driver with whom he is tuned, then having new driver on each safari is very disturbing. Because you need to get tuned with driver for stopping at proper timing & picking up right moment of an animal or a bird. Why can’t the park management make separate policy for the tourists which are taking or booking more than six safaris at a time & allot them zone as well driver as per their wish or demand? As there always going to be a difference between the interests of an armature visitor & frequent professional visitor. We can keep some tickets quota as privileged clients & charge them higher for that. Such flexibility will help in making a professional tourist to come more often than getting discouraged with the present safari arrangements. Also there is a high need of not just registering the drivers but give them training like it’s given to the guides; about calls , driving manners & work in hand with the guide. Another issue is of booking, now with limited vehicles entry i.e. in all hardly hundred with all four zones is Kanha, Kisli, Sari & Mukki & online booking with 90 days in advance facility; most of the bookings will be blocked by foreigners or travel agencies making it impossible for an individual family. And Indian tourists are never famous for planning travel in advance their holidays so this again is major aspect in deleting Kanha from the travel agenda in vacation. There has to be some quota available for 30 days booking plans. As I have witnessed, the zone bookings were showing full online & actually there were no vehicles in park, this is because though the 1500 rupees park entry fee for one safari may seem big for common Indian tourists but its peanuts for the foreigners or big travel houses. So they book in advance& may not come in actual as for them the cancellation charges loss is nothing.

Then there are things like many major routes have been closed abruptly making sightings more rare & difficult. Whereas parks like Pench have made new routes making forest more explorable off-course keeping within guidelines of Supreme Court. When Kanha has such vast landscape I personally think that they should not only open up the blocked routes but should carve & make new routes as after all people come there to see more & more of forest & not just to see the same age old routes. Also no toilet facilities on the safari way is there, one has to come to center or at gate for the same, making this very inconvenient for the elderly people as well kids especially in cold winters of Kanha nature’s call does make it difficult on a safari with now urinals at frequent intervals in the park. Agreed there is issue of hygiene & sanitation at forest chowkies but we can have now water less urinals with modern technology in. As we can install them without harming the environment even this can be helpful for the park staff too. And we can have them sponsored by corporate.

One more significant thing I observed this time is high increase in numbers of guides as well drivers eating heavily tobacco or guthka, the percentage are alarming & at very young age. Reasons may be any like extreme weather or work stress of odd hours working yet forest department needs to do something about it as conservation of forest means conserving the people also surrounding the forest. Also the poor working condition of helpers or bell boys at resorts is another neglected issue. These are mostly local boys & they work on very less payment & nearly full day working making them away from education thus an entire generation is being denied the basic education here. Also they are not financially self sufficient with the poor salary they are getting & are unable to buy even basic things like shoes or sweaters to protect themselves from extreme cold.

Many a will ask what’s big deal in above things as what it matters if tourists come or don't at Kanha & what if an entire generation is getting addicted to guthka from a remote place like Kanha? 

Well, places like Kanha are not just National but World treasure with the kind of biodiversity it has, making it home for thousand of species who otherwise don't have any shelter left in urban world. And the more people will visit the more they will know importance of such places & nature conservation as its one subject which can’t be taught in class rooms or books. And for that we need to make such places more explorable to common man as if he gets aware about the forests then there is some hope left for the species like Tiger or else some day we will just be reading about Kanha in books only! And this is not just forest departments but every body’s responsibility to do something about the cause as a heaven like Kanha gives memorable moments to all of us & it’s high time to ask our self what we are giving back in return to Kanha?

--
Sanjay Deshpande

Sanjeevani Dev.

Envo-Power Committee, Credai, Pune

Please do visit my blogs to know about our philosophy at Sanjeevani ! (Click the links below)

http://jivnachadrushtikon.blogspot.in/


http://visonoflife.blogspot.in/2013/01/identifying-good-builder.html


Social Side of Sanjeevani ! (Click link below)

http://www.flickr.com/photos/65629150@N06/sets/72157628805700569/

For any of your complaints about city, log in at link below

http://www.punecorporation.org/GRS/Complaint/LaunchComplaintCitizen.aspx

Think Green, Think Life

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