Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Hills of Pune?

It is that range of biodiversity that we must care for - the whole thing - rather than just one or two stars of any environmental ratings. ..David Attenborough

Along is a snap which I took by myself showing presence status of our beloved Parvati from Sinhagad road side & I am sure its self speaking about the conditions of unprotected hills in not only Pune but in & around of any urbanized locality. Also similar is condition of Varaje hills &many others which were once green & now surrounded/covered by slum.

I am sharing my thoughts just as an engineer as well a resident of this city & any of my view are personal &  in the form of sharing with you.Since long the issue of Hill Top Hill Slope i.e HTHS  is in lime light & its well deserved.The matter is we need a strategic approach to the problem ,yes I  call it as a problem after seeing the Parvati everyday.

Firstly we have to define what outcome we want out of it,what we meant by "Save HTHSs". Whats our exact plans for HTHS & how we going to achieve it,who will be playing what exact role in this process?
Existing or not, I am still doubtful about the exact definition of HTHS,even though I know that by books if the platue or say the plot has got all four sides approaching are with steeper slope than 1:5 or the plot is on slope itself which is steeper that 1:5.The contour norm is even more confusing.

Is the above definition covers every situation or is there more logical method for analysing the HTHS,this has to be worked out.Visual analysis of any plot,as I keep on reading in the Newspapers cant be the answer as it will create nos of controversies also in some cases its useful while in some we may be doing injustice.Yes it can be one of the mode to apply a theoretical policy but not the policy itself.Basically topography of individual area has to be studied because if we consider Katraj or north side of Paud road then the whole suburbs can be called as HTHS which is because of their natural gradient but the relation of such areas along with the development of surroundings is also an importent factor.So a very simple & practical method to define HTHS is the urgent need.

Many a times such zones when surrounded by residential zone are much difficult to protect is a fact & we have nos of living example for the same. Ultimately when we create any residential or commercial zone,its a tendency of surrounding vacant spots get occupied by the supporting members of the modern needs,such as helpers or sweepers, drivers, watchmen working in our houses or the complexes.This class naturally try to establish themselves near by of any such development as our city has poor public transport system & personal vehicle maintenance is getting costlier day by day.

Any enforcement should be self generated is what makes the policy successful at large.Buffer zone is an excellent idea but think over if we gave TDR or other such benefit even for HTHS by not only just handing over but after maintining the said portion with plantation norms for a certain time span then many people will come forward as well even the policy may be welcomed without any disputes.

Similarly for existing encroachment of slums over the HTHS,it must be considered as a separate policy & worked out to clear the same land for the use which we have destined for. While doing so even if its required to allow some construction in the said HTHS to rehabilitate existing slum dwellers it should be allowed keeping in mind practical viability of other alternative & the ultimate target we expect.

 At last its also true that unless there is punishment & that too in time then people realize the grievance of their mistakes,so a policy which will be workable out of any interference in case of breaking of laws once made regarding this vital issue is also must. All in all we all agree that HTHS are important for the city & on priority protected but then our acts must be keeping in mind the end product that not just protected but in the form where we will be proud of our HTHSs & not a shame like in the above snap.

As mentioned above the first agenda regarding the issue must be making clear norms about the defining HTHS itself.Agreed it’s a tough job to define exact HTHS but for time being if we stick to 1:5,though it may not be possible to follow that the platue will be having perfectly such slope on all four sides ,so if even three sides of the plot are having slope steeper that 1:5 then it should be considered as Hill Top.About hill slopes,if more than 75% part of a plot is having slope in any single direction steeper than 1:5 then it may be considered as Hill Slope & in both the cases the datum must be considered as from the accessing D.P or R.P road,ie accessing road level must be considered as zero & then from respect to that the slope must be measured.

This will help in defining clearly the HTHS,So we can get the markings done accordingly locating all such plots.

Now we come to more critical problem,how to achieve the purpose of maintaining HTHS in the shape which we want i.e to make them clean & green.Where its under Govt. holding & free of encroachments there its no problem,we can demarcate the same & undertake the plantation with providing the fencing.This can be done by PMC or Forest dept.

About the HTHS owned privately if we really want to achieve the target of making them green then we will have to take some bold & practical steps.Presently either 4% construction is allowed for residential & 8% is allowed for educational purpose in HTHS,but what about making them greens? Also how many educational institutes are holding such plots & how many are in position to buy the new ones.Also how many people are in position to built residential units with mere 4% FSI & without no infrastructure in these areas? Considering the quantum of HTHS we are talking it will cover at least 9% to 10 % of total area of PMC including 26 villages.Its huge & any unused land is a threat for encroachment specially when surrounding is developing.

So we need to consider HTHS as a reservation & give TDR against the same on certain conditions i.e it has to be handed over in encroachment free form,with a compound wall may be provision for watchman & with tree plantation as per the norms which we are using for giving completion certificate i.e 400 trees per hector or even more.Also we can take some deposit at the time of granting TDR for one year with interest,just to assure proper growing of them.The reservation status will give authority to PMC to acquire such plots even legally by offering TDR.

About the so called threat of overloading this TDR in Pune city,here I will like to draw your attention even today name any development which is not with TDR where its allowed to utilize may be 1.4.Once we have made the provision for TDR then any developer will be going to take the advantage of the scheme & that was why TDR has been derived.Also what if we don’t think on these line & wait , just see getting all hills ruined?

Now after all these HTHS comes under acquisition then it will be huge job even for PMC to protect it & beautify it,so help from NGO’s like Vanarai can be taken.Also reputed groups like Tata, Bajaj can be asked to undertake some Hills for maintenance.Even Non Conventional Energy Generation activities like Wind Mills, Solar Power Plants can be allowed to be erected in these areas along with the plantation to such firms.We can develop this as Energy Parks.

There have been n numbers of seminars/meetings over this issue & many have keenly expressed their thoughts on the subject. As with all due respect for their intentions, most of the guys were focusing about the things which are possible only after acquisition of the land ie advertising or tax etc. What we are talking about is mainly a land which PMC doesn't own & whatever we are going to do we need to own it even to make compound to the same leave apart plantation or any such act.

Major concern is private land & don't forget even if the land is with govt the concerned departments wont leave it without compensation!
In private ownership there are two types of stakeholders,one which are genuine small timers & have bought the smaller pieces of land for their home purpose. And another is investor or most will like to call them developer class, who has acquired the large chunks for money making keeping an eye on appreciation of the same. Both the segments have there own purpose & that's why resisting to no construction policy in BDP.

For earlier class ie small stake holders we can work out the concept of Irrigation dept ie Rehabilitating during dam construction( punarvasan)! As these people are interested in seeing their home dream comes true & remember ready reckoner rates are too much deformed when its land, for eg any where in Baner land rates are 2000/sft & above & check out ready reckoner rates! So PMC should buy plain land in fringe area even out of PMC limit, make a proper lay out of 3000sft plots with road network & water lines in along with a PMT bus service to such place & give option to these people of exchange of the plots. Most of them will move happily as they wont ever gets a chance of all this infrastructure ever in the hill area they are possessing the land as they are more keen for a piece of land where they can build their home & not the particular place. By this way PMC can acquire the BDP land at much cheaper way even we can use the same funda for Govt land too, as the land in fringe area can be at much cheaper rate. We must make provision in budget right now.

The other segment is a tough nut to crack as they are powerful, they can hold & can be patient even the time delay is there. But if we successfully work out this model  then we can tell them look take the ready reckoner rate or the shifting or go to court but no construction at any cost! This class has invested they haven't got any interest what happens with the land. Once they realize there isn't going to be any construction their interest will fade & they too will move.

But once we speak of TDR, I doubt no court will accept the % wise issue as then why ready reckoner rate  for full land & not for just the % by which we wil be giving TDR? On second thought even if we give full TDR no harm will be there as the residential land on which we can load the TDR is fix by DP & the potential also cant exceed above 40% of the net residential land available. The result will be after some time TDR rates will drop down like anything with so much of TDR available but fixed land for utilizing it! This will help to affordable housing as well re-development projects which right now is out of budget for any person because of TDR rates.

Do mind if we declare it as reservation & then any party especially the later segment is bound to move to court as why not 100% TDR if you are paying me at 100% ready reckoner rate? Only if we make a policy that no compensation in TDR form for BDP then we can escape from this suit. And court has to order logically as with this logic no compensation will be given to those whose land goes in back water of a dam! A reservation is reservation, buildable or not we are taking ownership of land from a guy & court always sees that he gets proper compensation in proper form. Just we will have to remember this factor while deciding the policy.

About the HTHS where there is slum has been developed we may work out the slum dwelling schemes,part TDR & partly allowing development even in HTHS with again stringent norms of plantations.That will at least help in clearing the existing slums.
We need to understand the situation in depth. If we call BDP as reservation then there cant be any construction allowed & then the acquisition can be made only either by TDR or paying the money for the same. The central Govt is in making policy for acquiring the lands & they have proposed compensation twice the land rate in ready reckoner. This is going to make acquisition cost increase double, also most important is if its not utilized within 5 years the reservation will get canceled! With this now also somebody can challenge the whole process! Go thru the paper news cutting about the same.

On other hand if we give any construction ie even 1 % then it wont remain reservation but zone & PMC wont be able to acquire the same ever! Though the land will remain in possession of the respective present owners & its up to administration how to ensure the greening purpose gets executed over these lands.

One should look at the other such cases of city & we havent received enough funds is a fact even for important issues like public transport. What's more important is proper distribution of such funds as NGO's wont be having any control on that process & how we will be ensuring then the acquisition as well the end result we want on hills?
As the great environmentalist has said it's time to think about entire city's biodiversity & not just few patches of hills!


Sanjay Deshpande

Sanjeevani Dev.

Envo-Power Committee, Credai, Pune

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1 comment:

  1. Hope latter part of your above article will be translated in Marathi without any ommission by media. We are from first segament of land owners who purchsed 3 guntha R zone plot in 1982 on hilltop nr.Chandani Chowk Kothrud for building my Dream Gharakul & I have done it thrugh my small saving. I have planted 50 trees so far and sloged to maintained 15 trees on my plot by purchasing tanker water for 20 yrs. & enjoyed my life here for last 5 five yrs. But still I will not allow my plot's aquisition so easily.If you have read Mrs.Anita Gokhale's website on net, you will partly agree that hidden motive of BDP is to make land available to build recreatation clubs, amusement parks,cafes, spajs for very rich class of society who can spend few thousands for a lunch and can afford annual club fees in few lakhs easily. Bajaj or Tatas & few more MNCs may take interest with this angle and not for energy park etc. It is possible only if they are offered big chunk of land like ours on silver platter by PMC using tax payers'money. Recent moves of PMC to make 99 yrs' land lease is clear indication of this. But main question is political will to solve problems. No DP is benificial to administration & corporators who are happy on small earings. Also is there any scientific reason to proove that our houses on our HTHS lands are harmful to Pune's environment, when the same is allowed in other cities worldover. At the same time illegal slum dwellers on govt lands are offered free houses.Mr. Aba Baggul is suggesting to give 3 times TDR to hutment occupier (no need to ask for legal ownership).This is nothing but dirty vote bank politics and Punekars will pay for such mistakes of politicians. Because this DP with BDP will be hanging for next 20 years minimum & when by that time BDP land cost will reach 100 thousand crores atleast. So I request all learned & practicle Punekars like you having high social standing to intervane and save Pune of tomorrow.


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