Thursday, August 18, 2011

A safe home !

For safety is not a gadget but a state of mind... Eleanor Everet

In last decade not only Pune city but majority of the urban cities of the country has made rapid growth & it has reflected on wealth also. See the change in demands for housing & we see a huge upsurge about the type of them. No longer we are happy with simple plain homes where shelter is the sole purpose! Now we need comfort along with luxury with all type of posh bathrooms, kitchens, well lit rooms with modern electric fitting & amenities such as club house, swimming pool, Air Conditioners, Hi end specifications & what not! We need big parking lots for our latest cars & even servants room at some of the apartments!

With all such wealth as well the comfort are we not neglecting one major byproduct of the wealth? And it is safety or security of the comfort or the luxury we are enjoying. As with the wealth come along lots of other ill factors who may also be wanting to share the wealth you are having but by wrong ways! Here the safety comes on two rather three fronts. One is from any entity who intends to rob or theft us from what we have, second is in form of terrorism & third is natural calamity or accident like fire or earth quake. How many of us think on these lines while choosing their home? Sadly we are far short sighted when making major decisions of our life & that reflects in searching our own home also. There lies another safety factor which is Environmental safety but that's another topic of write up in itself! Though it has to be always in our mind so we should not make harm to the safety of surrounding environment by our acts.

Going by the first three fronts lets see what’s the scenario? On our wealth safety which we consider rather should consider as a primary thing while looking for our own home. First is what builder has provided & second is what we can amend in what has been provided? There are many gadgets rite from security camera too house breaking alarms but considering our Indian using mentality I personally prefer a single entry & single exit planning for the entire complex backed up with a simple intercom system & watchman cabin at entrance. This may sound a bit too simple but burglars alarm & their setting isn't job of our culture where N number of times people in the house keep doing in & out. A 24 hours surveillance camera is surely helpful but its for post action of any mishap & cant be considered as preventive act. Though they are most helpful in identifying personnel's if at all some crime happens. With the kind of life style most of the time occupants of the house are away from the home at same time or leaving only elderly persons at home. And at such time it’s highly important to guard the entry of unwanted persons itself in first position in our homes. And for that it’s very much important the complex or the building should have one entry & one exit. This helps in controlling the entry of ever visitor to the complex. But this system should be backed up by 24 hours good security men & here is where many societies lack as they try to save on security services. In market many of them are available at all types of rate card but then mostly the cheaper lot you get the worst is the service which may cost us much more at end! Similar is to have a look at the planning of the complex & avoid to go for the buildings or set of buildings with multiple entrances as it provides easier access for any person who wants to get away with his bad deeds. Also important is not to tell the security people our personal works like car washing etc which may deviate their concentration from the duty of checking the visitors. Neither the visitors should feel insulted if they are halted at security gate for identification. These things may look small but may cost dearly at end.

Many amenities which may be part of the complex should be treated with this mindset especially things such as swimming pool so the enjoyment doesn't turn up as a cause of sorrow by accident. Electronic gadgets in the house as well the simple object like gas connection in the home. A p[roper care as well regular maintenance of all such things is the utmost important thing & which should not be neglected.

A safety gate right at the entrance of a building stair/lift lobby which can be locked at late night hours can also be a good option. Here we can ensure entry of only authoritative personals. In most of the commercial complexes surveillance cameras is the best thing as after evening there isn't much occupancy in the commercial buildings, which isn't a case with residential buildings. And in any case our neighbor is the best security watchman so we all must keep our eyes & brains open for routine things in & around the complex we reside. Any sudden change should be looked in & enquired. This will ensure much of a check for all the ill elements around.

This is about the safety against theft or such things at the same time we should be ready for natural disaster or accidents like fire. In commercial buildings it’s advisable to have fire alarms or auto sprinklers. In residential buildings most hi rise i.e. above 15 m height have fire fighting systems with fire down takes & hose reels in each mid landing. Also there are 2 staircases which for every building more than 4 storied which are usually blocked with things like unwanted furniture or planters! A periodical checking of the systems functioning is a must which many societies neglect & at the time when need arises we come to know that the system is there but not functioning. Very small are the monthly maintenance contract amounts but we try to save on them & end up with big losses.

Then there comes the issue of natural calamities. Here though it’s difficult to guess what it can be but one must be aware about at least the kind of things to be done at such times & about the specifications of the building regarding same. And at least we can ask questions while buying the home as well construction processes the developer follows. For eg. whether the building is earth quake resistant & the norms have been followed while designing the same as well in which zone the building lies regarding earth quake etc. Simple things like not to use lift during earth quake or fire must be made known to the residents & mock drills should be conducted. We must have basic knowledge like how to cut of the elctric supply of the complex & things like that at such times.This may sound funny but look at the way Japan has reacted during such bad hit by nature & then we will realize the importance of the same. At last as the wise man has said true safety lies in our approach towards the subject & not just in few devises!

Sanjay Deshpande

Sanjeevani Dev.

Envo-Power Committee, Credai, Pune

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Monday, August 8, 2011

Walk through the city!

Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time.  ~Steven Wright

Presently as of some shoulder injury I am unable to play badminton & so walking from my home to Vaishali ( a restaura joint to meet many frds) each morning to have cup of tea with my group & what an experience to walk! It’s really true what our seniors have said, if you really want to know a city then walk along its roads! Even after spending so many years on the same route the surroundings looks so different when you walk over it. One comes to know so many small things along the road, the daily rituals of the occupiers of the street & the hurdles for pedestrians too! Hardly a 4km stretch of the road & each day something new is on platter along with the routine things! So thought of writing down one of the days walk & here it is...

Starting from my residence at 100’ DP road along river in Patwrdhan baug which has probably the best footpath in city, only confusion is it’s commonly shared with a cycle track often leading confusion whose right first? I.e. Cyclists should give way for pedestrians or vise versa! But mostly because of the undulations on the track & trees over the same its usually pedestrians who wins & cyclists prefer to paddle from the main road. Why people don’t use cycle track was my curiosity which got cleared due to this walk.

The next stage is probably one of the most crowded road in kothrud i.e. Mehendale garage road, it carries the traffic many times more than its capacity resulting in shrinking of footpath with width at some places merely 3’-4’ & that to MSEB transformers, trees , bus stop making it must for a pedestrian to get down on road at n number of times so at last one covers that stretch from road only. But best part in these both stretches is they are at least free from encroachment so that much solace is with pedestrians. The mehndale garage road ends in one of the most crowdie chowks in west & there is an underpass to cross it. This underpass is no doubt very convenient but god knows why it has rolling shutters at its all ends & the watchman locks it during nights. One of the gates has broken down & it’s a hazard that you get down in underpass & at other end you realize the gate is locked due to breakage so one has to go up fro other side cross the road & again go towards Karve road side. Another major hurdle is the flooring is made up of Granite stone, which no doubts look nice but in rainy season is extremely slippery. There has to be a  standard specification for all public works so no one can do fancy things at per his/her whims is what I felt when I stared facing such problem.

Then I come to again one very wide footpath on road connecting Nal stop to Mhatre bridge & gain no encroachment in fix forms but recently all the time it’s been occupied by beggars or flower sellers at signals. These guys does all their daily rituals from bating to eating on this footpath only & result is unavoidable making it impossible to walk on footpath in this part. All the time there are police on this part of road but  no one objects these people occupying the footpath full time & irony is the wall of the church which is along this footpath is painted by some company saying “ Green Pune ,Clean Pune” ! Well good advertise but right in front of the same what is displayed is exactly opposite! As whatever these people do over the footpath the remaining are laying all over the place right from the food waste to their bathing water!

Then comes the great Karve road stretch where food joints are there along with the goldsmiths sharing the shops all along the road. In morning time most of the shopkeepers are busy in cleaning their shops & the best way is to push all the garbage on footpath from the shop! Similarly the bus stops are on footpath only & the auto rickshaws waits for their customers right near bus stop making the PMT busses to stop quite away from the bus stop blocking the driving lanes of main road, this creates congestion of traffic & creating more emission of vehicular exhausts & who else but the worst sufferer is none other than the person using footpath! So many police or traffic police vehicles are going up & down from the karve road but nobody take any cognizance of these autos blocking PMT busses at bus stops. Also why the bus stops cantbe a bit carved down from the main lane & kept a lane inside keeping place for buses as well unobstructed walking place for the pedestrians. We have seen such arrangement in most of the foreign countries.
Also equally responsible are the food joints of which most customers are standing on foot paths literally blocking whatever little place available for walk! Cant there be some self discipline or respect for the pedestrians in the mind of these food joint runners as well the people standing right on the foot path & enjoying their cuppa tea? This question too haunts me!

Then come the stretch of Deccan as well FC road. Most of the persons living in Pune cross this section at least once in a day time for work or domestic purpose making it busy all time of the day. So are the footpaths right from the vehicle parking to cloth merchants to book stalls to foot ware repairer you will find every thing & pedestrians though all of these! What’s worst is the recent flooring made for this footpath, it’s of ceramic tiling & the person who can walk over it successfully in rains should join gymnastics for being able to balance him while he walks! And what more is there is a garbage bean right on the footpath before hotel Vaishali & it always over flows making pedestrian to get down in the one way flow of FC road traffic.

All around the Metro cities of our country scene is same, names may get changed is a fact. Encroachments doesn’t mean that something has been permanently erected on the public area it means the area should be free for the public for the purpose it has been made! I think this understanding is what we need to adopt. As I  have made to get down from the footpath at least 70% of the time during my entire walk. When ever we think of our city & its increased pollution & speak many ways to over come them. But what we should do first is focus on what can be done right now with the infrastructure we have available with us! As the wise man has said any where you can go walking but provided you want to feel like going walking any where!

All these things I wouldn’t have been able to ever experience from car, so I thanks to my shoulder injury & get ready to enjoy my cuppa tea with friends!

Sanjay Deshpande

Sanjeevani Dev.

Envo-Power Committee, Credai, Pune

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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

Please do visit my blog to know about our philosophy at Sanjeevani !

Social Side of Sanjeevani !

Think Green, Think Life