Just go Green

Making tall urban buildings green is necessary, but it will solve only a part of the problem

By Dr Shyam R. Asolekar

It appears that our understanding of the urban ecosystem in our cities will continue to limit our competence in providing environmentally and ecologically sustainable alternatives for urban habitats. One solution, experts argue, is to go vertical, while improving all the other needed services like roads, water and waste disposal. These are all no doubt”politically convenient” potions for the pains of our urbanitis. But as we advance into the 21st century, the economic costs of excessive growth and the associated instability is forcing us to see through the glitter of aluminum facades, neon signs and the romantic conquest of clouds by high-rise structures. Given the scarcity of land, the increasing population density of our cities is only adding to the pressure on available resources.


Global stars to grace IIA National Convention in Bangalore

British celebrity architect Will Alsop, Turkish urban planner Cengish Bektash, Columbia University professor of environmental sciences Dickson Deshpommier and China’s brave new architect Ma Yansong are among some of the galaxy of international architects to grace the three-day national convention of architects in Bangalore from Wednesday.

The convention, hosted by Indian Institute of Architects (IIA) – a national body of architects founded in 1917 comprising nearly 18,000 members now – is to be opened by Infosys cofounder Nandan Nilekani at the Nimhans Convention Centre. Nilekani, a resident of Bangalore and author of his maiden book Imagining India will talk on how architects and architecture can make a difference in the new century, the future and role of architects in imagining India.


Shelter Fund for Affordable Housing in Urban India

India needs a dedicated shelter fund to achieve its goal of providing affordable housing to all in urban areas, a task force has noted.

The report of the task force on providing ‘Affordable Housing for All’, led by HDFC Chairman Deepak Parekh, has recommended a 0.5 per cent cess on all central Government taxes, to be credited to the dedicated shelter fund. The proposed fund will be managed by the National Housing Bank with an equivalent budgetary support so as to make a long-term impact in terms of affordable housing.

The report, which was submitted to the Housing Minister Kumari Shelja today, also recommended that ‘affordable housing’ be brought under the definition of infrastructure. Apart from the NHB, the report has suggested the formation of a housing finance company, focusing on housing micro-finance loans.

Cities Infrastructure

Mumbai: Big Steps in Infrastructure in 2009

The new year will be a busy one for the infrastructure sector as some prestigious projects finally see completion and with others scheduled to take off. The much touted Bandra-Worli Sealink, an urban haat in Navi Mumbai on the lines of Dilli Haat, eight flyovers on the Western and Eastern express highways and 50 skywalks are expected to be ready in 2009.

But it will be a mixed bag for Mumbai’s infrastructure agencies as public toilets under Nirmal Abhiyan and projects like rental housing would be only partly ready before the year ends.

Bandra-Worli Sealink

The long-awaited Bandra-Worli Sealink is expected to be commissioned by March 2009. The Rs 1306-crore link is 6 km long and commences from the Mahim interchange (intersection of the Western Express highway and S V Road at Bandra) and ends at Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan Road in Worli.

The flyover at Love Grove Junction in Worli, Cloverleaf Interchange at Mahim intersection, the solid approach road from Mahim interchange up to the start of the toll plaza at Bandra and the public promenade is complete.

Crucial work on construction of cable-stayed bridges with viaduct approaches extending from Bandra to Worli, is also done, except part of the sea-link towards the Worli end. The project is being implemented by the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) through contracting agency Hindustan Construction Company (HCC).

Prompted by concerns about traffic dispersal towards the Worli end of the link, the MSRDC has adopted several measures like construction of steel car decks, widening of roads and trimming landscapes on the dividing lanes and footpaths to accommodate the huge traffic expected to hit Worli.


Historic buildings lost to India’s urban boom

The Lal Mahal – India’s oldest surviving Islamic palace – was demolished earlier this month, despite some efforts to better promote preservation.

By Mian Ridge | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

from the November 26, 2008 edition

New Delhi – Hidden behind the concrete sprawl of a prosperous New Delhi neighborhood, the Lal Mahal or “red palace” attracted few visitors. Guidebooks neglected to mention that this crumbling sandstone building was India’s oldest surviving Islamic palace.

Then, on Nov. 1, within a few hours, the 800-year-old structure was demolished by a private developer. Horrified conservationists complained to the city authorities, but there was little they could do: The Lal Mahal was not on the government’s list of protected buildings.

This is a depressingly familiar story in India, where only a fraction of historic buildings are protected by law. And as millions of people move from the countryside to India’s cities, cash-hungry property developers are tempted to demolish whatever stands in their way.

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), a government body, has a list of more than 3,600 protected monuments that it must protect and conserve.