Saturday, August 31, 2013

"The Sky is the Limit"

In the latest issue of the Urban News Digest (Aug 2013 : See ), the headline is "The Sky is the Limit". Basically, it argues forcefully about creating vertical cities in the context of increased urbanisation trends across the globe. I quote:
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" With a population of 1 billion and growing, India has no choice but to go 
vertical. Having said that, it is imperative the government begin massive 
infrastructure projects that allow a high-rise city to thrive. Expanding 
horizontally, which means more road construction, more electrical grid 
extension, more cars and eating up valuable land that could and should be 
used for agriculture, is not the way forward for India. . ..."
- Timothy Johnson
Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH)
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I was reminded of our efforts beginning with the national seminar on 'Densification of Cities' held last year and the various expert committee deliberations leading to recommendation for change in the Building Rules of NKDA so that areas in CBD/Sub-CBD lying within 250m from the Metro Rail corridor, a higher F.A.R. would be allowed  on payment of fees to Hidco.

In today's Board Meeting of Hidco, this decision was endorsed and a fee structure was recommended. While it will still take few weeks to get all notifications and approvals in place, the 'Sky is the Limit' story gives us confidence that we are moving in the right direction.
* * *
Yesterday, Chief Minister of Mizoram visited Hidco to complete formalities of a plot. A photo:
Extreme Right: CM Mizoram

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While water is receding slowly from Eco Park and already the Eco Park is almost normal now, today's Telegraph carries a photograph of the situation we passed through:

Here is a clipping from yesterday's Khabar 365:

And, finally, a clipping from yesterday's Bartaman:

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Detroit Style Land Fill?

The second day of the innovation conference continued yesterday. In the first session chaired By Sam Pitroda, during the Q&A session, I remarked that getting landfill sites for cities was becoming increasingly difficult because land was scarce, and almost unavailable for dumping solid wastes, even after exhausting the 3 Rs (Reduce, re-use, recycle). Because of NIMBYism (Not-In-My-BackYard), nobody wanted to have a garbage dump site near one's place. So as existing sites filled up, alternatives are hard to find. For Kolkata, it is even worse, I said, because the traditional dumping stes at Dhapa were now considered East Kolkata wetlands and under Ramsar convention restrictions, could not be so used as landfill sites. I remarked that similar situtation may be faced by small countries like Singapore / Japan etc and suggested if the National Innovation Council could find some innovative technical solutions. Mr Sam Pitroda remarked that he'd seen huge mountain-like waste disposal sites in Detroit. But, according to him, it required only a little technique. Looks like, I have to enquire about the Detroit Style Landfill.
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Here are two clippings:

Abz dt 28.8.13

Khabar 365

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Innovations in Urban Governance - National Conference

Minister Firhad Hakim and I am attending the National Conference at Vigyan Bhavan New Delhi since yesterday. It is about Innovantions in Urban Governance. Sam Pitroda, Chairman of National Innovation Council, was a key speaker. Union Ministers Kamal Nath & Girija Vyas also spoke in the inaugural session. The two-day conference will end today. The first day's session was dominated by group of Mayors from Uttar Pradesh / Rajasthan who screamed that despite 74th Amendment of the Consttution, no powers were given to them and state government and their officers by passed them completely. Minister Hakim on his part explained that in West Bengal the devolution of powers to the Urban Local Bodies was full and effective as mandated in the Constitution and that there was no such issue. Here is a photo of the inaugural session:

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Limit of other uses in homes raised in New Town

We often receive requests from residents of New Town as to whether they can use part of their homes for small business activities like copying centre, photo studio, beauty saloon, kid coaching etc. Existing ules permit 10% of the allowed FAR. In the Board meeting of NKDA held recently, this limit has been raised to 45% of FAR. However, there is a list of 29 specified activities that are only allowed. And a fee has to paid. A similar system prevails in Bidhannagar too.
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Here is a cutting from yesterday's Khabar 365:

Friday, August 23, 2013

1100 LIG and 400 MIG flats to be launched in New Town Kolkata

I just received an intimation from Bengal Shapoorji Housing Development Pvt Ltd that Phase 3 of SP Shukhobrishti will be launched in AA-III of New Town on Sunday next. It will consist of 1,106 LIG apartments and 409 MIG apartments. Last date of application would be 8th Oct 2013.

For LIG, family income must be less than Rs. 15,000 per month.; for MIG,it is Rs. 25,000 per month. Cost of LIG flat will be about Rs.4.51 lakhs. For MIG, price will be about Rs. 10.12 lakhs.

I have been to the site only last week. It is quite well located and connected.
After a long time, there will be some flats for the MIG / LIG in New Town.
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This afternoon, I broke a coconut on the occasion of Bhumi Puja for a market in Action Area II of New Town. A photo:
Bhumi Puja for Market in AA-IIB
 Here is the architect's impresssion of the market complex:
The 3D picture of the Market
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Here are a few press clippings:
Anandabazar dt 23 Aug 13

The Salt Lake Telegraph: 23 Aug 13

About the Water Project of New Town (cutting)

Khabar 365 dt 22 Aug

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Depression and Rains

It has been raining heavily since the last few days. Today, the monsoon was especially dense in the evening. I and all senior officers of Hidco - including P.P.Datta, S.P.Kar, Gopal Ghose, S.P.Chatterjee, S. Guha, Suman Niyogy, Arup Ghosh, Debashis Banerjee and others of Hidco & NKDA - toured various parts of New Town to see where water logging had happened. We continued our inspection till 10 pm. There were 39 water pumps that have been pressed into service. Control Room has been opened in Hidco Bhavan. Water level in Bagjola Canal, Kestopur Canal, Eco Park and Ghuni Khal are being monitored. Weather report is being monitored. I hope the depression will go away soon.

Rains play havoc in outdoor works. The photos below were taken in the last few days:
Caterpiller Excavator Completely engulfed by mud:
At Banglaar Haat site. Stones were being brought to site with this machine
as no truck can enter

Amphitheatre gallery completely submerged:
How to construct up from this?
I copy the following quote from the web:

“Do not be angry with the rain; it simply does not know how to fall upwards.” 
― Vladimir Nabokov

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We had a 3 hour review meeting by Hon'ble Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at Town Hall today. A photo on my mobile:

   * * *
Here are a few clippings:
Khabar 365 Din: 17th Aug

Times of India dt 18 August

Friday, August 16, 2013

City of London and City of Kolkata

City of London, as we have noted earlier in this blog, is a small part of London known as its Central Financial District where the Financial Service Institutions are located. Last year Minister Firhad Hakim and I met senior directors of the City of London and discussed about the Internatinal Financial Hub that is being developed in New Town Kolkata.

Recently, Mr Rishikesh Chanda of the British Deputy High Commission informed me that the City of London has carried relevant details of the Financial Hub in Kolkata in their newsletter. A snapshot:

Meanwhile, we have obtained a list of 26* institutions who have applied for new banking licence and I am writing to them to consider the Financial Hub of Kolkata.

(*some of these are: Reliance Capital, Srei Infrastructure Finance, Magma Fincorp, JM Financial, Sriram Capital, IDFC, Indiabulls, India Infoline, Religare, Edelweiss etc: Source Business Standard)

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Independence Day 2013

We launched Eco Cart in Eco Park this afternoon. This was followed by a Light & Sound Fountain in Eco Children Park. We'd published few advertisements too in today's paper. Both events were drawing huge attention at the Eco Park. However, torrential rains led us to postpone the Eco Cart event by an hour. The continuing drizzle was a dampener though. Some photos:

Eco Children Park: 6.30pm, 15th Aug 2013

Eco Cart at Eco Park: 6pm, 15th Aug 2013

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In the morning, I hoisted the National Flag at Hidco Bhavan, NKDA Office and Nagarayan - in that order. After that, I went to Red Road for the State Govt ceremony. Pictures:
Hidco Bhavan: 8.30am, 15th Aug 2013

NKDA, 8.45am

Nagarayan, UD Deptt: 9am
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Here are two clippings from yesterday's papers:
Khabar 365


Sunday, August 11, 2013

Gangasagar Bakkhali Development Authority Constituted

In its notification no. 2197-T&CP dated 6.8.2013, the Urban Development Department has constituted the Gangasagar Bakkhali Development Authority. This is Chaired by Shri Bankim Hazra, MLA while members include Principal Secretary Tourism Department, DM South 24 Paraganas, MLAs Samir Jana & Jogranjan Haldar and other officers. SDO Kakdwip is the Member-Secretary.
I spoke to Chairman Bankim Hazra and informed him of the decision. State Government is laying a lot of emphasis in he development of this belt and is drawing up elaborate plans. The UD Department has already advised the Member Secretary to request setting up a second cottage at Gangasagar adjacent to the xisting one, on a PPP basis.
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Yesterday, I met Golf Trainer Mr Indrajit Bhalotia at Hidco. He had come with a proposal of setting up an aqua golf course at Eco Park. I did not know that such a thing existed, but apparently it does in other countries. He showed me a power-point presentation and I asked for a specific proposal. Here is a picture showed by him:
Aqua Golf in Eco Park?
I took the opportunity to inform him that we had plans to set up a golf demonstration area in Eco Park near the butterfly garden. He seemed to endorse the idea and said that "putting courses" were also a popular format. I showed him the following part of the master plan:
* * *
Here is a clipping from today's Ei Samay:
* * *
Here is a clipping from today's Times of India:
* * *
And  here is a cutting from Khabar 365 of last Friday:

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Child Rights to be Considered by Urban Development

In a letter bearing number F.WB-11015/45130/17966 dated 17.7.2013, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, New Delhi has advised that the Urban Development Department must ensure that while granting permission for the construction of residential / housing complexes in the State, the matter of safeguarding the rights of children may be kept in view as follows:

a. Play areas for children should be safe from traffic, pollution and social hazards.
b. Play locations should be judiciously located so as to minimise noise hazard to dwellers.
c. Play areas to be located near central part of house so that children are secure and close to parents
d. No discrimination in allowing access to children to play grounds.
e. Play area to have provision for Gross Motor Play ( slides etc) and Quiet Play ( Puzzles, books etc).
f. Barrier free playing for children with special needs
g. Designate public playgrounds nearby to housing complexes without play areas
h. Boundary wall and security personnel for housing complexes to ensure safety of children
i. First aid and pediatrician facilities for dealing with children in emergency.

I have given this to the Chief Town Planner of the UD Department and will soon convene a meeting to give shape to the guidelines.
* * *
Here is a clipping from today's Pratidin:

And here is a clipping from yesterday's Telegraph:

Thursday, August 8, 2013

First Anniversary of Rabindra Tirtha

Today, Baishe Sraban is the first anniversary of Rabindra Tirtha at New Town, Kolkata. I look back on this day last year when Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee inaugurated Rabindra Tirtha and planted a sapling. Today, another sapling will be planted by Minister Firhad Hakim. Here is the programme - advertised in few Bengali papers today:
We had weekly cultural events in the past year. We observed Basanta Utsav, Pochishe Boishakh Winter Festival, Bijoya Sanmilani. We had dramas, songs, recitations, dance-dramas. We had Film Appreciation Courses, Children's Play Workshop, Solar City Seminar and Technical Workshops. Most of all, we provided a platform for New Town Residents to showcase their cultural talents.
We will publish a booklet that chronicles the activities of the year that passed by.
I wish to add some pictures of this afternoon's events later
** *
Minister Firhad Hakim releasing a book published
on the occasion of 1 year of Rabindra Tirtha:
(L-R): Me, Poet Joy Goswami, Minister Hakim

Performance by Dancer's Guild on 8th Aug 2013
at Rabindra Tirtha

Sunday, August 4, 2013

World Trade Centre in Kolkata : Plans

Last Friday, I discussed with the Chief Planner of Hidco to make out a proposal for setting up a World Trade Centre on a PPP basis on the prime plot of CBD of New Town where the Iconic Tower is planned. Since both concepts have much in common, a common approach will be useful, we thought.
* * *
The EoI for Eco Island was published on 1st Aug 2013:
* * *
Here is a clipping from today's Times of India:
* * *
Here is a clipping from Anandabazar dt 2nd Aug:
* * *
Here is a link to a video of the cultuural function in Rabindra Tirtha today:
And here is a still picture:
Vice Chancellor Dr Sabyasachu Basu Ray Chaoudhury came and inaugurated a book exhibition of Viswa Bharati books. A troupe from Viswabharati, Shantiniketan performed Chitrangada.