Name: Neha

Bio: Neha Verma is an Urban Planner with work experience of 5 years. She completed her under graduation in Physical Planning from School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi. After her under-graduation she worked with an architecture firm and prepared master plan for Bhuj University. Thereafter she worked with various NGOs and prepared development plans under JNNURM scheme. After a brief professional experience of 3 years she went to Cornell University, USA for her graduation in Regional Planning. She is currently based in Mumbai and doing projects in Real Estate and Affordable housing.

Posts by nehaverma:

    The Great FSI Debate : Increasing FSI improves housing solutions

    April 17th, 2013

    The minimal FSI currently exists in the Island city of Mumbai and its Suburbs is surely affecting the city’s housing sector and quality of life of people living there. The city boasts one of the highest population influxes (12 million population-highest in India) than any other Indian city and in this current scenario it is farce not to think of increasing the FSI. Currently Mumbai needs around 5,47,434 dwellings but the available number is a meager 72,906 units. According to a report published by Cushman and Weikfield in 2012 Mumbai is expected to witness additional demand of 189,000 units for mid and high-end segment in the next 5 years while the supply in these categories will be 140,806 units. Of the total demand in these two segments, majority (70%) will be seen in the mid-priced housing, but will remain underserviced by 50% in the next five years due to outdated planning legislations. With huge housing backlog along with expected rise in population to 33 million in 2033 from the current 18.9 million it would seem a far-fetched dream to realize its housing shortage. It is not practical to displace slum dwellers or sidewalk dwellers to the fringe area of Mumbai as the infrastructure and transport facilities are not completely developed. The famous fiasco is TMC Malusare project which was not sold out despite of its affordability to middle income and low-income buyers.

    Increasing FSI will also curb the highly volatile TDR (Transfer of Development Rights) market which is presently controlled by few developers. At present, only projects in the island city enjoy an FSI of 1.33. In the suburbs, it is 1; for additional FSI, developers have to buy TDR, mostly sold at a premium. There has been a 100% rise in property prices in Mumbai in recent years, primarily because of the high cost of TDR. If a builder buys TDR at Rs 5,000 per sq ft, he will have to add another Rs 5,000 per sq ft towards the cost of land and construction. This forces him to sell flats at Rs 12,000 per sq ft even in a distant suburb. Once there is a decision to increase FSI, there would be less dependency of TDRs to develop housing projects in Mumbai

    However, many activists and policy makers caution that increasing FSI will only worsen the quality of life in Mumbai due to crumbling infrastructure. They opined if FSI is higher in the other developed or developing economies, it is because the cities in those economies possess superior infrastructure, including better public transport and open spaces. In my opinion with higher FSI there should be better development plans for quality infrastructure to handle increasing FSI.

    With burgeoning population Mumbai not only needs luxury housing but also low-income, middle –income and affordable housing solutions and one way to do that is to make better use of the existing land with a higher FSI. Yet, while increasing FSI is a welcome approach but it should be done in such a way that it adds to the quality of life of a people in Mumbai. The state must look at improving the city’s infrastructure so that Mumbai can rank as one of the best cities in the world.

    This post is part of the “Great FSI Debate “. What’s your view? Submit your opinion to info@theurbanvision.com along with a bio & pic.


    MUMBAI VISIT 19 22 JAN 2013  (572)
    Creative Commons License photo credit: rajkumar1220

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    Why small towns are lagging behind?

    March 31st, 2013

    There are 4,378 urban centres that have the 285 million urban citizens of the country. Of
    these there are 35 cities that have more than 1 million people and together account for 107.88
    million people. That means the remaining 177.12 million or more than half of the total urban
    population of the country lives in small-sized towns or urban agglomerations. Even half of
    the population lives in small-sized town, the bigger cities become the magnet for populations
    that emerge from impoverished and infrastructure deficient rural and urban areas.

    The reason for the skewed population distribution and its consequent burden on existing
    urban infrastructures is caused by lack of investment in the smaller towns. As we know
    that there is considerably large population living in rural areas, the development of smaller
    towns that are closer to these habitats would allow for a more balanced economic growth.
    Generally, there has been a bias within urban studies against small towns, where the idea of
    the ‘urban’ has always been seen to be ideally manifested in the big city. Large investments
    in big cities have often been justified as they are perceived to be ‘engines’ of development
    and growth. Even in cultural terms, the big city has always been glorified, as a space where
    conditions of modernity come together to develop art and a more sophisticated form of
    living. Yet, many scholars of cities still glamorize big cities and tend to influence the shape
    of imaging urban futures. While in reality, not only are smaller towns more manageable,
    they also have a more intimate relationship with their surrounding regions and more often
    than not, these contiguities are what sustains their economies. A country such as India with
    a significantly high rural population would do well to shift the focus of urban investments
    to these smaller townships. With new communication and transport technologies, there is no
    reason to believe that those spaces cannot also become important centres of art, culture and
    commerce and help us transform our notions of emerging India.

    Logging firewood
    Creative Commons License photo credit: Unlisted Sightings

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    Prefabricated Technologies- Future of Construction

    December 28th, 2012
    IMG_8251
    Creative Commons License photo credit: V31S70
    India is a land of opportunities; opportunities for those people who want to contribute their
    efforts in providing better quality affordable housing solutions. With such a high density of
    people in urban areas along with huge pressure on natural resources; it is a pertinent to provide
    affordable housing without compromising on sustainable approach towards environment.
    Driven by increasing urbanization, rising incomes and decreasing household sizes, the residential
    demand in India has been on an upswing over the past few years. The Working Committee of
    the 12th Plan (2012-17) has concluded that the total shortage of dwelling units at the beginning
    of Twelfth Plan Period i.e. 2012 is 18.78 million units with more than 96% of the shortage
    of dwelling units is for middle and low income brackets. In the 11th Plan the total shortage of
    dwelling units for middle and low income brackets was 70%. Unfortunately this figure is often
    overlooked by development agencies because of lower profitability as the construction cost of
    buildings built from conventional construction technologies is very expensive and affordable
    housing doesn’t generate better returns for these agencies.
    At present, our construction system is time consuming and costly; since it takes long time to
    construct a building due to old and conventional techniques. The overall cost of construction
    rises which ultimately is borne by developers who ultimately have no choice except escalating
    the price of property; thus these properties are seldom affordable to people.
    Prefabricated technologies can be a solution to the above problem. A recent prefabricated 10
    storied construction in Mohali, exactly built in 48 hours can be a beacon of hope to developers
    who wants to experiment with low-cost prefabricated technologies to construct affordable
    housing. The steel prefabricated technology used to construct 10 storey Mohali building has vast
    potential to totally revolutionize the much-needed infrastructure technology in the country by
    rapidly speeding up construction of projects. The model of this building has been cleared for
    areas in seismic Zone V.
    The primary cost benefits of prefabricated structures derive from the speed of construction
    and the optimization of raw material. Integrated engineering design and detailing enable
    prefabricated buildings to be erected at a fraction of the time than a conventional building.
    These time savings contribute to lower interest during construction and have the advantage of
    commencing commercial activities far earlier. The optimization of raw material reduces the
    material cost of the building, and the lighterweight of the structures brings about significant
    savings in the foundation cost. Avoiding complexities, a pre engineered concrete building
    efficiently replaces conventional methodologies of constructing a building. Thus, with these
    modern methodologies, large buildings do not require years for construction and finishing.
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    Definition of Sustainability in Hinduism

    March 11th, 2012

    As an urban planner with conscious heart toward sustainability I always try to find its core idea that leads to the path towards sustainable development. Is it the need of the hour due to environment degradation? Is it the recent fad? what makes our fraternity more conscious about this thing?

    As a planner I tried to find answers to my above stated queries and it further led me to explore my beliefs and religion that I practice. As I read more on this aspect I began to realize that Hinduism is not a religion but its a way of life that one should lead in his/her lifetime. In this world there could be millions of material manifestations and forms, but the sustaining force for all is not material but spiritual. Everything has life, so all the life is reverent and has to be protected, upheld and sustained. Respect for the environment is the part of Hinduism where earth is our mother, the mountains are abodes of gods, trees are sacred, rivers are holy, and the animals are vehicles of the Gods, and above all, man’s sustenance has to be ecological.

    Hinduism also talks about the essence of vegetarianism: eco-consciousness. There is no absolute truth in Hinduism, truth is relative, and so is our diet. The consumption of animal flesh itself is not non-vegetarian. If an Eskimo killed an animal and ate its meat to survive, or in the desert one kills someone for its flesh, he is still vegetarian. This is because, in the food chain, one consumes the least life form for one’s survival. But in case of tropical India, where there is plenty of vegetation, kill only vegetable, because it has a lesser life quantum than an animal. One doesn’t need to consume more than necessary; there is enough for everyone’s need.

    Thus, sustainability can be defined from spirituality and Hinduism which is essentially a dialogue of values that defies consensual definition. This aspect is the strength of India and I am sure that this path will reveal a permanent path to sustainability to all architects and urban planners.

    New Year, Golden Chariot, 2011-2012, Hampi
    Creative Commons License photo credit: Arun Katiyar

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    Integrated Township Development

    January 5th, 2012

    MAGARPATTA CITY

    With limited land supply along with huge chasm between demand and supply for individual plots, apartments or sites; developers are now cashing on developing integrated townships in the suburban areas. According to a McKinsey Global Institute report, ‘India’s urban awakening: Building inclusive cities, sustaining economic growth,’ India would need 25 new townships to house about 590 million people by year 2030. This concept has been adopted well and proven a success model in the many developed countries for over 3-4 decades. Since last few years, developers in India are now trying to emulate this success model in Indian cities.

    There is a significant segment of consumers living in major urban centres that are becoming interested in the idea of living in one of a number of planned townships that are being built away from major urban hubs and chaos.These townships not only help in meeting the demand for residential and commercial space but also raise the quality of life that is lacking in high density core areas of Indian cities. Along with that, these townships also provide opportunities for urban planners and architects to play with densities and implement ideas of new urbanism that ultimately raises the quality of life of people living in these townships.

    Recently, one of my friends shifted from Delhi to Pune city for a job in a company that has an office space in Magarpatta city. In Delhi he used to commute 2 hours daily to work in rush-hour traffic and spent as much time on the journey back home. He loves driving but given the traffic and related problems; he hired a driver. Still, he was frustrated by the amount of time wasted on road and at the end of the day he never used to get time for himself and his family. Then last August, his company rented an office space inside Magarpatta city, which is an integrated township in Pune. This shifting has made his life very easy and comfrtable as he has taken a new apartment inside the township which is hardly 10 minutes walk to his office. This township has a shopping mall, multiplex, hospital, school and most of the necessary amenities within walking distance. Now he gets time for his family and friends as he has cut down his commuting time.

    Integrated township projects are slowly gathering momentum as the concept of walking to work is picking up among city dwellers. Apart from the change in family structure (from joint family to nuclear family), growing income levels have led to a change in consumer profile. More consumers want plethora of amenities; such as, swimming pools, clubs, landscaped gardens, 24 hours security and housekeeping. Due to huge demand coupled with economies of scale, an integrated township offers all these amenities and at a relatively low and affordable price.

    Since such projects have their own infrastructure, they do not depend heavily on amenities provided by local Municipal Corporation. These townships usually have their own sewage management, water supply and overall maintenance of the immediate surroundings. The maintenance of integrated townships is centralized and managed very well. Also, since such residential projects have strong security measures to protect the entire area under township, people are assured of much higher levels of safety for themselves, their families and possessions. Since all the construction work is centralized there is very little room for variation in construction standards.

    These townships provide win-win situation to developers. Developers in India have understood that in order to lure their customers they have to provide housing with all the required amenities. Thus, the future lies in INTEGRATED TONSHIPS DEVLOPMENT. What do you say?

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    My big idea for cities in 2012: Making cities Sustainable

    December 28th, 2011

    Chawri Bazar Street Scene, Old Delhi
    Creative Commons License photo credit: Barry & PK

    As an Urban Planner working for the last 5 years in small and big cities I have understood one thing that in order to reclaim the aura of Indian cities that existed in past, it is pertinent to focus on sustainability in energy usage, transportation and city administration while implementing any new policies. So, my big idea for cities in 2012 is encouraging urban sustainability in policy measures that would help in improving the plight of our cities.

    Lately we have seen a sudden upsurge of new cities encouraging new urbanism and sustainability but while building new cities we should not forget our close to 3,500 cities that requires immediate attention. In this post I would specifically mention those cities that already exist and require strong policy measures for sustainable development and its successful implementation.

    Sustainability is not a recent fad in India; infact sustainability in city planning started early- almost 4,500 years back, with the Indus valley Civilisation. The cities of Mohen jo Daro and Harappa were amongst the world’s earliest and most unique examples of urban design but unfortunately in modern India, development in towns and cities has somehow not kept pace with the sustainability measures.

    With globalization and increasing job opportunities in metropolitan as well as tier II and III cities, people from villages and small cities are tempted to migrate for better standard of living. Since, core areas in existing cities are already congested with no space for proposed housing, development authorities and private developers are building housing in suburban areas that is leading to problems related to pollution and congestion from private vehicles commuting to core areas for work. Without adequate transportation facilities such as BRTS (Bus Rapid Transit System) and TOD’s (Transit Oriented Development) people rely on their private vehicles for transportation that can have significant impact on the city’s environment. Vehicles account for between 20% and 25% of the world’s energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions. Therefore, while expanding our city limits to accommodate more people it is important to encourage sustainability in commuting systems by introducing BRTS, local rail system, pedestrian friendly walking, cycling, transit oriented development.

    Energy usage in a sustainable manner is another focus area that can help in building sustainable cities. With depleting water and power resources it is important to encourage renewable power sources such as solar energy and wind energy to meet power requirements in residential and commercial buildings. In India many states have started giving incentives for developers promoting these technologies in their projects. Besides that, encouraging rainwater harvesting and efficient storm water management network also leads to sustainable development in cities.

    In order to achieve all the above stated objectives, it is important for Urban Local Bodies (ULBs’) to strengthen their financial position by improving their efficiencies in order to ensure sustainability of infrastructure investments. A strong and efficient ULB demonstrate its sustainability by providing its plan for supporting reforms that it proposes to undertake. For example, the ULB’s proposal for levy and enhancement of user charges and taxes, any other sources of revenue identified to make the project viable (eg. tolls, development cess, parking and advertisement fees, betterment levy, etc.)

    While planning for an Urban Sustainable city, it is critical to analyse proper urban planning and urban sustainability while proposing any new policy for development. The success of the urban sustainability depends mainly on efficient ULB’s and inclusive development with appropriate funding mechanism in place. A joint effort by the governments, civil society and the private sector and an impartial political interest with a national vision only can save the urban centres of India from the challenges associated with climate change and population impact.

    What is your one big idea for cities in 2012? Submit a blog post to info@theurbanvision.com along with a bio & Pic.

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