Wednesday, August 15, 2018

New Town now a Certified Green City

New Town Kolkata is now a Green City. It got a Gold Certificate from IGBC (Indian Green Building Council) recently. The Indian Green Building Council (IGBC) is part of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and tries to enable a sustainable built environment for all. It is one of the two organizations whose green building certification is accepted by the State Government for award of additional FAR (Floor Area Ratio) . The IGBC also rates towns and cities for 'greenness'

New Town is a Solar City. It is one of the 100 Smart Cities of India. It is trying to be a Happy City and is collaborating with IIT Kharagpur in this. It is covered under the Green City Mission of the State Government. Meanwhile, WBHIDCO had voluntarily submitted itself to IGBC to see how far it is already proceeded in the matter of sustainability and environment-friendliness. On 20th July 2018, I received a letter from the IGBC stating that New Town has been awarded a Gold Rating. Here is the certificate:
For getting the rating, IGBC considers the following:
1. Eco Vision of the City
2. Land Use Planning
3. Health and Well Being
4. Sustainable Mobility
5. Water, Energy and Infrastructure Management
6. Information Technology
7. Innovation

In respect of 'Innovation', special mention has been made of Water ATMs (now three in Eco Park), bamboo railings for medians, Tall Tree Nursery (joint venture of WBHIDCO and Forest Department Corporation) and Pocket Forests. In respect of 'Information Technology', special mention has been made of GPS based Vehicle Tracking for effective Solid Waste Management, Automatic Controls for all street lights, e-Governance (property tax, certificates, building plans etc all are done on-line in New Town). In respect of Sustainable Mobility, e-Buses (now three) have been mentioned.

Few suggestions for improvement have also been given. For example, to achieve heat island mitigation, IGBC has recommended that high reflective roofing material or vegetation may be used on exposed roofs whenever possible. It has mentioned that public buildings should all be made barrier-free for differently abled persons.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Roundtable Meeting of AIIB (Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank) on Sustainable Cities

I am now in Mumbai, since yesterday evening. This is in response to an invitation from Dr. Joachim von Amsberg, AIIB Vice President for Policy & Strategy. Details of the event can be seen at https://www.aiib.org/en/news-events/events/annual-meeting/program/detail/sustainable-cities-strategy.html

The roundtable conference on Sustainable Cities took place today morning at Mumbai. Experts from Sri Lanka, HongKong, China, Singapore, Korea and India (that was me) spoke. They were interested in   focusing on how AIIB could better support infrastructure development in cities. They invited two groups of stakeholders, including senior city representatives (i.e. vice mayor for finance) and senior practitioner experts (e.g. CEO of HK MTR, VP of Shanghai Municipal Investment Corp, Veolia, and Korea Public and Private Infrastructure Investment Center). AIIB hopes to use the roundtable opportunity to establish first contact with the cities, and followed by continued interaction to explore possible collaboration. Details can be seen in the link above.

Lady opposite to me is Mayor of Colombo

Right: Vice President of AIIB
AIIB said they wanted to be different from World Bank, ADB etc and so wanted to understand new approaches including looking at city level models that have been successful. I narrated the journey of New Town and indicated how it was progressing towards a green city, an IT city with Silicon Valley. I suggested that AIIB could look at technology, electric cars etc and also mentioned that a pre-feasibility study for Monorail has been done. I invited Vice President to visit Kolkata.

I mentioned that New Town was a qualified Smart City among the 100 smart cities of India, that it was a Solar City designing to cut down carbon emissions, a Technology City with Fintech Hub and Silicon Valley Project launched, an inclusive city with care for the young and old, a densified city with additional FAR for optimum utilization of land, and was trying to, with IIT, move towards a Happy City. I invited AIIB to consider funding of technology infrastructure - including high speed broadband, electric vehicle charging network,  and monorail.

In the afternoon follow up, I learnt how shops and well-lit bus stops add to a feeling of security in deserted streets in some cities, and how, in these days of easy movement of capital and workforce, the quality of life and social infrastructure make investment decisions sway one way or the other.


Friday, June 8, 2018

Indo-Taiwan Cooperation : At Taipei, Taiwan

On the occasion of Computex 2018 at Taipei, Taiwan a special seminar was organised today at Taipei. The Chief Secretary Govt of Taiwan, the Secretary General of the Indo-Taiwan Association and the Director General of India as well as CII and many delegates from India and Taiwan were present. On behalf of West Bengal I made a presentation, the only state to do so.

I invited all to visit Bengal, provided statistics, video and graphs to show how Bengal has been making rapid strides in IT&E sector. I mentioned that Kolkata was the closest international airport of India for Taiwanese investors. I mentioned that Bengal was power surplus, with no lost mandays in last 6 years and was the top state in India in Ease of Doing Business.

A booklet on IT&E in West Bengal was, on my request, released at the conference by the Chief Secretary of Taiwan.

Many subsequent speakers thereafter began to refer to Bengal's progress as an example as to why Taiwan should look at India.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Iconic Eco Park Bridge

Design of Bridge Between Herbal Garden and Eco Island

Zone  no 31 of Master Plan showwed a Bridge:  December 2011

Bridge as shown in Master Plan
The island has evolved differently in the past 5 years. There are Ekante Cottages, Cafe Ekante and
Utsari Glass Cottage. It is a popular wedding, corporate and tourism destination.
The Board of Hidco met yesterday and approved construction of an iconic, designer, suspension bridge to connect the 7 acre Eco Island with the Eco Park. At a point where the gap is narrowest, on the northern end of the island. This was the location of the proposed bridge as per the Master Plan drawn up in 2011-2012. Till date, the connectivity is maintained - other than by boat - by a two-step wooden bridge. Two step because it connects a small intermediate island in between. With continued use, and especially with increasing use by battery powered vehicles (eco carts or cargo totos) for ferrying senior guests or for carrying goods (you need to take in food stuff and stocks daily and take out wastes), the wooden bridge is not expected to be sufficient in future. Already, an expert group from the Department of Irrigation and Waterways has done a health check and has recommended re-paintings with thick bitumen for logs which are under water.

The new bridge will be of concrete and steel. It will be an iconic suspended bridge, of length 135 m and width 3.5m. While approving the proposal, Hidco Board stressed on the need for making the structure match the character of Eco Park.

Tenders will be invited soon.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Biodiversity in Eco Park


We are currently undertaking a stock of the bio-diversity in Eco Park. Already, upon completion of 5 years of Eco Park, we have published a photo-booklet entitled "Echoing Green: A Five Year Journey" (Published by Hidco, Price Rs 50). Now with the help of forest department and NGOs, we are documenting the bio-diversity of eco park.

The initial findings show that in addition to the many dozens of types of butterflies in the Butterfly Park of Eco Park, there are three species of mammals, 24 species of birds and 17 species of fish in Eco Park.

Among the butterflies, some varieties are Blue Mormon, Commander, Lemon Pansy, Blue Pansy, Grey Pansy, Common Leopard, Mormon, Lime Butterfly, Common Rose, Tailed Jay and others. Among the birds are Stock Billed Kingfisher, While-bellied Woodpecker, Bengal Bush Lark, Rufous-Tailed Lark, Rock Bush Quail, Indian Blackbird, Green Munia,Malabar Whistling Thrush, Indian Grass Bird, Striated Babbler, Indian Blue Robin and others. Spotted and barking deer are there in Harinalaya. Many Indian Palm Squirrels are present as also many species of insects and ants some of which are fire ant, argentine ant, pharaoh's ant etc.

Among the trees, there are Pink Cassia, Burmese Cassia, Sasage Tree, Variegate Bakul, Fern eaf Tree, Red Sandalwood, Yellow bottle brush and 62 varieties of fruit trees such as mango, jamrul, jam, banana, grapes, chickoo, pomegranate etc. There are 23 varieties of bamboos in the Bamboo garden and in the heliconia garden there are species such as Lobster Claw, Parrot's Flower, Metal Leaf,Spider Lily etc. There is an orchid garden and a cactus enclave too. There is a Hibiscus GardenThe Japanese Forest has species that are related to some in Japan as suggested by a Japanese Professor from Tokyo. Rabi Aranya has plants and trees mentioned in Tagore's literary works. The tropical rain forest has large tropical trees of many kinds. The huge lake is dotted with coconut trees, boguvillia, palm trees and date treesThe Banglar Gran enclave has common vegetables and cereals. The Herbal garden has 241 varieties of herbs.
Signage outside Herbal Garden


A five acre plot near Banglar Haat, called Pakhibitan, has been created as a virgin marshy eco system for insects, birds, lizards and reptiles and fish too.

The study of the biodiversity is as yet incomplete. We are trying to do a documentation in a professional manner by expert groups led by the forest department


Sunday, May 6, 2018

Eldercare in New Town

India's elderly population will grow dramatically by mid-century. A quiet crisis is building up. India's population's 8.5% is 60 plus (10.39 crores in 2016). Bengal also has 8.5% elderly population while Kerala tops the list at 12.3%.Life expectancy at 60 is 16.9 (male) and 19 (female).   Elder population is growing @3.5% per year, double the rate for the population as a whole. UK has recently, in January 2018, appointed a Loneliness Minister to take care of the mental health issues of living alone, especially for the old. No wonder, many elderly care institutions are coming up in the corporate private sector such as Antara in Dehradun (Rs 1 crore to Rs 7 crore per apartment), The Nest, Bhopal (Rs 36 lakhs to 75 lakhs per apartment) .

Keeping this in view, an independent and assisted living luxury hotel-like eldercare home is being built in New Town, near Swapna Bhor, Seniors' Park. Seniors' Park has already got a membership of 700 plus who are engaged in weekly cultural functions, health camps, games and recipe competitions, outdoor tours and travel, book releases and more. The eldercare habitat "Snehodiya" members will get to become members of Seniors' Park automatically. The first phase of application kit sale will close on 31 May 2018 while the last date of deposit is 30 June 2018. The application mney is Rs 1 lakh while air-conditioned rooms start from Rs 25 lakhs up to 50 lakhs, 75% of which is refundable on vacating (without interest) to the nominated person. See http://wbhidcoltd.com/uploads/announcement/Ann635.pdf for e-brochure and details. Kits can be purchased / deposited at select Axis Bank branches.

I visited Snehodiya last week. One demonstration room is almost complete. Here is a snapshot on my mobile:
See my silhouette on the glass reflection ! 
The guest house is also nearing completion. Project should be ready by Deember 2018 as per present estimates.

Yesterday, there was a photo shoot with Soumitra Chatterjee who will be our brand ambassador for Snehodiya. Here is a photo on my mobile of the photo shoot that took place yesterday.


Saturday, May 5, 2018

Awareness Camps on Property Tax Starts

Property Tax has been introduced from this FY 2018-19 in New Town on the Unit Area Assessment system. Already more than 3,500 self assessments have been filed on-line and almost 3,000 residents have made tax payments. Many persons are visiting the help desk at the new 5th floor Property Tax Office in Action Area 1 (located near water tank no.3). However, a fresh drive is being taken to reach out to the residents throughout the month of May as penalty will be levied unless the tax for the first quarter is paid by 2 June 2018. A schedule has been drawn up for the camps in various parts of New Town (for details, see  https://www.nkdamar.org/Downloads/Order03052018.pdf ).

An FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) is also uploaded on NKDA's website for clarification of doubts (See https://www.nkdamar.org/Pages/AssessmentPropertyTax_FAQ.aspx )