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 )

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Smart Library for New Town: Design Starts

Site of Smart Library in Nazrul Tirtha, New Town
How does one design a smart library in this digital age where e-books are abundant (https://books.google.co.in/ ), sometimes free, while the Kindles of the world have made books almost obsolete? Is there a need for a book library at all? These were some of the questions discussed in a brainstorming session held yesterday with Dr Arun Chakraborty, DG National Library, Ms Arundhati Biswas, former US resident and officers of Hidco and NKDA.

We concluded that a good public library also serves as a social meeting point and I recalled that a National Geographic documentary had shown how San Diego city turned itself over into a smart city based on the a great Central  Library that was created with public participation and contribution. Here is the video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LAjznAJe5uQ (see, especially, from 4minute onwards).

In Swapna Bhor, the Seniors' Park in New Town, a beautiful library has been in operation for the last few years. This uses a model that has an attached coffee shop, a newspaper and magazine reading space, several books for borrowing, and, the most interesting, an opportunity to buy latest books at a small discount through an arrangement with the book store Story:

Library Room in Swapna Bhor: Lending, Reading and Selling

We concluded that there should be priced e-books and e-subscriptions, e-readers like Kindles that can be borrowed, audio books, CDs/ DVDs and Online resources, Digital Archives, information centres and career guidance corners along with newspapers, magazines and a coffee shop. I recalled the ambiance of Cavilam, Vichy, France that I often went to during my training at ENA, France:

Image result for cavilam library vichy
Cavilam Library has Digital Wing on first floor,
books and magazines and reading spaces on
ground floor

We agreed that there would be a children's section, colourful and vibrant. I remembered the public library in France where the kids section had a great comic section:

Résultat de recherche d'images pour "la mediatheque comme 3 eme lieu de vie"
Photo from internet:  Comic Books in Children's Section of a Library
in France
We decided to form an advisory committee consisting of Arun Chakraborty DG National Library and DG Rammohun Library Foundation and a resident of New Town, Dhrubajyoti Chattopadhyay, Vice Chanellor of Amity University New Town, Anuradha Biswas, past US resident and resident of New Town and officers of Hidco / Nkda. We would expand the committee further.

Meanwhile, we requested Chief Engineer Supriyo Bagchi, GM(Engg)2 Arup Ghosh and Consulting Architect Parineeta Hati to make some layout plans that can be discussed in the next meeting of the Advisory Committee.
* * *
Some of the suggestions received in the brainstorming session included the following written suggestion by Ms Biswas:
* * *
Goals
1. Make available all information and resources to every member across all age groups.
2. Provide a quiet and safe place for study, reading and constructive use of leisure time.
3. Conduct activities that strengthen community bonds through socio-cultural and educational development.

Divisions

1. General Section
a) Open shelves for easy access to books, AV material, magazines
   b) Adequate seating
c) Public computing area with PCs and a printer machine                         
2. Children’s section
a) Shelf heights suitable for children
b) Colourful furniture, floor rugs
c) A storytelling corner
3. Teen services -
a) Seating to enable group study/project
b) Caters to middle school and high school children (classes 6 to 12)
4. Events and workshop corner
5. Cafeteria
Library Plus Activities
1. Events for children can be held – a workshop, storytelling session, documentary show etc.
2. A ‘Friends of the Library’ program under which volunteers sign up to assist the library management regularly in maintaining the library and conducting activities, thus involving the community at large.
3. An ‘Over-reach service’ under which a weekly mobile van carries books to senior citizens’ complexes in Newtown.
4. An annual book sale of old books from the library can be done.
5. The atmosphere of the library should be warm and welcoming.
6. Career counselling for students may be organised.
7. High school and college students may be allowed to volunteer their services from time to time against a certificate for community service.



   


Monday, April 30, 2018

Smart Street Railing

The familiar green bamboo railings of New Town are a familiar sight. The design of the railings are tweaked from time to time at the times of annual maintenance. The railings serve several purposes like protecting the street median plantations and preventing pedestrians from crossing the streets indiscriminately.
Of late, the traffic police has requested that since these bamboo railings are easily damaged and are easily uprooted if forced, especially in areas where pedestrians have a tendency to cross wide streets at prohibited zones, permanent steel fencing could be arranged in suitable phases.
That set us on a design think process. I was looking at several options that would reflect the character of New Town, with its Wi Fi and OFC networks, smart water networks and tall buildings and metro railways. I had several rounds of discussions with Abin Choudhury, the architect founder of  "Kolkata Architecture Foundation" (KAF), who readily agreed to join me and help develop a smart urban railing for streets of New Town.
Here is the design:
Design of Futuristic Street Railing of New Town: Courtesy KAF
(Note the simulation of tall buildings and coloured squares representing closed networks)
A prototype is being built at the roundabout near Eco Space / Gitanjali Park of TCS. We will further refine once fully implemented and then roll out in other areas in consultation with traffic police. Here is the photo, taken today, painting yet to be done: