Can India afford horizontal development?

DCRs (development control regulations) across India need to go into a jumbo shredder.  The world realized over 50 years ago that horizontal development is expensive.  So, even the richest nations chose vertical development.  It’s a shame that Dubai (a nation-state virtually created with the knowledge and hard-work of Indians) can build a 750 meter tall tower, while majority Indian cities still have problems with 30 meter (short) buildings.  

Where is horizontal development taking us – infra is collapsing, fuel consumption growing leaps and bounds, and worse of all, accident-related serious injuries and deaths increasing daily.  How can we ignore or afford this?  The cost of decent urban infra (including mass rapid transport) is about Rs.175 lakhs per hectare.  Since DCRs in most cities allow max.2.0 FAR, a hectare provides for 265 people.  So, infra cost is Rs.66,000 per person.  Addition of 56 million to urban population in 5 years means a capex need of Rs.3.7 trillion for infra alone (excluding buildings and what goes into them).  How will we fund this?  Doubling FAR to 4.0 will save about Rs.350 billion in infra capex p.a., and Rs.550-odd billion in maintenance and fuel savings, just for 56 million people.  Over time, we could save Rs.5.2 trillion p.a. (or 13% of GDP) for a 325 million urban population.

Just because 7000-odd people don’t understand these basic fundas, 1130 million (plus many more in the future) will suffer.  Maybe if we gave just 15% of the cost savings as an official incentive to thm – that’s Rs.11 crores per person per year – they would understand.  For this, we need young leaders with fresh optimism.  If we don’t get urban infra right, we don’t need civilian nuclear power – is Karat listening?

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