Representatives undertaking development projects and civic officials debate maximising output of land, securing quality of life
As demographic stress on existing urban areas increases, civic authorities in Maharashtra must look towards integrating fringe localities. This was the consensus among speakers on the first day of the conference on 'Use of Land Resources in Economic Development of Maharashtra', held in Mumbai, today.
Representatives from organisations undertaking development projects as well as municipal corporations, who participated in the programme, agreed that land development must focus on maximising economic output and securing quality life for citizens.
Mahesh Zagade, municipal commissioner of Pune, said attention should be paid to development of new urban centres and satellite towns, which will enable people to access commercial benefits without overburdening important commercial hubs. "Pune serves like a relief centre for Mumbai. Many people, entrepreneurs who cannot settle in Mumbai due to shortage of land, come to Pune. We are in talks with the panchayats of villages located on the fringe of the city, as we want to integrate them in our development plans," Mr Zagade said.
The Pune civic boss said that in order to make the most of available land and improving the quality of living, it was imperative to mix land use. "A city is not only a residential or commercial hub, it must have open spaces.
Authorities should focus on undertaking aesthetic, environmental and even small-scale agricultural projects, like we see in Western countries."
Ms Sonia Sharma, who represented Ernst & Young, a knowledge partner with Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation, said, "People must know where land is available, and so government must tell entrepreneurs about new possible locations. MIDC is going to allot 30% of its plots to micro-, small- and medium-scale enterprises, and it believes that new upcoming areas must grow around these."
She gave the example of Nanded and Aurangabad, which boast of good infrastructure. Ms Sharma said the focus should be on developing commercial corridors, rather than isolated clusters. "Government must plan land use and share their plans with industrialists, so together they can come up with strategies that will ensure maximum output from a given piece of land."
SM Sabnis, chief engineer in the state public works department, said ribbon strips along the highways could be developed into important commercial zones. "Accessibility is the prime factor for commerce and the land in the vicinity of the highways can be utilised for greater economic benefits," Mr Sabnis said. The total road length in Maharashtra is 2.1 lakh km, perhaps the highest in any Indian state. "This is a tremendous resource that can be utilised," he said.
SS Hussain, who is associated with MIHAN (Multi-nodal International Hub Airport) in Nagpur, gave a brief profile of the ongoing work for the hub. He said one should consider growing centres with locational advantages for new projects, instead of overburdening existing structures.
Swan was considered after studying different options in India. "The whole thing was given to us as government-approved and there was no suspicion or question raised," Etisalat senior vice-president, corporate communications, Ahmed bin Ali said
New Delhi: UAE-based Etisalat, which picked up equity in controversial Swan Telecom (now Etisalat DB), has said that two leading global banks-Citibank and Deutsche Bank-had advised the firm on investment decision, reports PTI.
"We were referred by reputed international investment banks to invest in Swan Telecom when we were exploring investment opportunity in India," Etisalat senior vice-president, corporate communications, Ahmed bin Ali told PTI.
"There were several options given to us. The banks that had been recommending us for this were Citibank and Deutsche Bank," Mr Ali said.
Swan was considered after studying different options in India. "The whole thing was given to us as government-approved and there was no suspicion or question raised," mentioned Mr Ali during interaction.
He, however, asserted that Etisalat remained committed to the Indian market and plans to raise stake in Etisalat DB.
Mr Ali said Etisalat was not involved with Swan Telecom at the time of licence procurement and this fact should be taken into consideration by the Indian authorities.
"The day we entered into discussion shows that there is big gap between the date we started negotiating with Swan and the date of licence completion process. The authorities must reconsider this," Mr Ali said.
Asked about his view on security concerns being raised about the company by the Indian government, he pointed out that being UAE-based, the organisation has expanded business in countries that share good relation with the country.
"This was one of the reasons that we invested in India.
The UAE government has 50% stake in Etisalat and we are very concerned about country's and company's image," he said.
Talking about Etisalat's relationship with Chinese companies, he said that Etisalat is sourcing equipment from same Chinese companies that supply equipment to other Indian telecom companies as well.
"There has never been any issue with supplies made by Chinese companies to Indian telecom companies. Therefore this should not be a reason for security concern," he said.
About Etisalat's operation in India, he said being an MNC Etisalat is present in 18 countries like any other MNC and hence downplayed the reason being given by security agencies.
"There are many MNCs which operate in various countries.
You can see this in your region as well," Mr Ali added.
Girish Gokhale says drive will cover 223 acres, beginning with Girgaum in central Mumbai
The state government has given its nod for a chawl redevelopment drive in Mumbai, former municipal commissioner Girish Gokhale said on Thursday.
"Two major problems which the government has failed to tackle are slum proliferation and the numerous dilapidated chawls where the majority of Mumbaikars live," Mr Gokhale said. The redevelopment drive will cover 223 acres in the city and the initial survey will be conducted over an area of 30 acres in Girgaum soon, he said. Mr Gokhale is a member of the organisation that is spearheading the drive.
He was speaking at a conference on 'Use of Land Resources in Economic Development of Maharashtra'. The conference focused on land development strategies to maximise economic development and improving the quality of life of city dwellers across the state. Chhagan Bhujbal, minister of state for public works and tourism, inaugurated the programme.
Calling for an overhaul of the development strategies, Mr Gokhale pointed out the need for constant redevelopment of old structures, as land is finite in the island city and there is hardly any place left for fresh development. In this respect, one thing that the government must look into is the FSI issue, because redevelopment and new projects will consume a lot of FSI.
He explained that the government must look for cross-subsidies for redevelopment and rehabilitation as such a Herculean effort would require a huge sum that is beyond the capacity of government funding. Mr Gokhale's remark is pertinent, in view of the government's hesitancy on the matter of extra FSI of 0.33 and the stay on extra FSI for public parking lots in the city.
Mr Bhujbal and Mahesh Zagade, municipal commissioner of Pune, also agreed that slum rehabilitation was a major challenge. Mr Zagade said that if solid waste could be dealt with more effectively, the dump yards freed also could be used for rehabilitation projects.
Mr Gokhale said public transport must be developed and promoted to reduce traffic congestion and cope up with the shortage of parking space. He gave an example of 70-storey buildings in London that provided parking spaces strictly only for the handicapped and senior citizens.
About the proliferation of slums, he said, "The city's development planning has gone astray". Recounted experiences from his tenure as municipal commissioner, Mr Gokhale said, in the early 90s, the government ordered that if new shanties cropped up, the assistant commissioner in charge of the particular ward and head inspector of the police station would be held responsible and they would be suspended. "But when some new slums appeared in Dahisar, the chief minister prevented me from doing exactly what he had recommended. Today, the proliferation of slums has reached alarming levels, and we have failed to do anything to stop it."
"I don't understand why we have to lag at least 50 years behind the rest of the world, when Mumbai is the commercial capital of India. We don't lack resources, but there is no political will to make it a world class city that can attract foreign investors," he said.