Archive for the ‘Urban Development’ Category

The road to …… roads

April 11, 2010

Look at what Praful Patel has done to the civil aviation sector in under four years.  And LPY with the Railways in even less time.  But what’s the use of Patel facilitating new and refurbished airports and Laloo upgrading railways, if we will not have proper roads to get to these airports and stations.   Across the country, roads are worsening by the day – make that hour.  In Bangalore, if I try to read an SMS message in a moving car, my optical power goes up by +0.25 per month.  A camel ride is probably more comfortable than moving in a Mercedes on Indian city roads today.  Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have better roads than us.  Why, even aircraft shiver on our tarmacs.

India consumes an unnecessary 16+ million litres of fuel per day because of very poor road quality (supplemented by resultant choking of traffic).  That’s Rs.650 million per day, or Rs.237 billion p.a. at today’s cost (let’s assume Rs.350 billion in 5 years on the conservative side). The cost of building world-class roads (with associated infra) is about Rs.1200 million per square kilometre.   With 32,000 of roads in the country (excluding unpaved rural roads), that’s a whopping relaying cost of Rs.38.4 trillion.  However, revamping and upgrading them to required standards can be achieved with Rs.23 trillion.  Thus, we will not only save Rs.350 billion p.a. in wasted fuel costs, but also another Rs.770-odd billion p.a. in unnecessary maintenance costs (resulting from bad roads).  This total saving of Rs.1120 billion p.a. is 4.87% p.a. on the capex of Rs.23 trillion.  Is it worth it, for sustaining 10%+ growth per annum in GDP?  Well, we’ve got intelligent economists at the helm of our country.


Can India afford horizontal development?

April 11, 2010

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?