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Greenfield cities to compete with existing urban centres

Greenfield cities to compete with existing urban centres

Nirup Jayanth, Managing Director, Jurong Consultants (India), a Member of the Surbana Jurong Group, Singapore, opines that in a greenfiled city, flexibility and dynamism can be added to infrastructure development, by building in a modular and incremental manner with a cluster-based approach.

What according to you are the important elements to be considered while planning a greenfield smart city?
Todays street smart approach for greenfield cities is to build when needed, what is needed; one cannot afford to build and wait. The trickiest thing in a greenfield city is the chicken-and-egg situation, which refers to the understanding of what comes firstûis it the jobs being created or people being available; infrastructure being built or people needed to use them? The situations are infinite, and any of these can derail or help take off a proposed city development.

Flexibility and dynamism can be added to infrastructure development, by building in a modular and incremental manner with a cluster-based approach. The plan itself will depressurise infrastructure and prevent it from crumbling.

How would greenfield smart cities provide superior quality of life and infrastructure in urban India?
Cities are, by definition, dense clusters of people. If a city fails to offer good quality of life, its ability to attract people is doomed.

Greenfield cities will have to compete with existing urban centres to draw people away from their magnetic, energised, and exciting lifestyles to places that are potentially far away and where they are unsure of all the experiences they are already drawing from a good urban centre. A greenfield city has to put people first, ensure they are comfortable, welcome and make them feel at home in the new location. They should create enough buzz to keep the young people engaged and attract the experienced with strong opportunities.

Today, infrastructure is spoken of in terms of massive size and scale. But, in the new cities, it would mean a convenient lifestyle first, which implies that infrastructure need not be massive, but smartly sized to scale and built for modular management in clusters.

Highlight the government initiatives or policies that would drive the development of greenfield smart cities…
New industry-driven greenfield smart cities need to be formulated. Instead of only looking at central business districts (CBDs) for new cities that are driven by financial hubs, we have to look at the real volume of jobs needed and build central industrial districts (CInDs) that will be pre-regulated with ready-to-occupy industrial clusters and meet the requisite regulatory frameworks.

We are currently working on such projects in Maharashtra, where we follow the new regulatory frameworks, such as the integrated industrial areas (IIAs) and institutional trading platforms (ITPs), in driving development frameworks. By aggregating and formulating a regional plan for an area that is driven by industrial growth, one can not only regulate industries for their environmental safeguards, but also make sure that the people have safe habitable spaces that are well connected. A tie between Make in India and Smart Cities Mission is critical for the development of greenfield cities.

Decongestion of existing cities is an idealistic situation, which can never happen. Cities have remained drivers of economic activity for centuries, and a few cities have lost in their attempts at decongestion in the past. Detroit in the U.S. is one such example. Often, decongestion happens due to an economic or civic collapse, which is not something that can be planned and managed.

How can greenfield cities create world-class platforms for absorbing foreign investments?
India is first seen as a local market to be tapped, which by itself is huge. It is only as an afterthought that it is seen as a destination for cheap manufacturing -a fact well established, especially by the auto industry. Despite being a global hub for the last 25 years, most brands strive to serve the local market and supplement their international supply chain with models which are primarily made for the Indian market. With consistently improving ease-of-doing business, the interest levels for investing in India have been growing. As a base for delivering products to over a billion people, global manufacturers can make their Indian operations self-sustaining even as they cater to other markets elsewhere.

There are certain industries where the economy of scale comes to fruition with the larger Indian market as an anchor. These businesses, in the most lucrative opportunity, will meet 50 per cent of the revenue targets locally; so the global manufacturing hub caters more to niche segment players.

How have recent regulatory changes been impacting these cities?
The state-level regulatory changes, especially with regard to ITPs and IIAs in Maharashtra, are very helpful. Efforts at creating such new avenues are also taking root in Andhra Pradesh, with special planning clusters being created under the Chief Minister’s economic city initiative. Telangana has focused on its industrial heritage strongly, and is pushing for self-contained National Investment Manufacturing Zone capabilities for distinct greenfield Make in India industrial cities. Projects of different scales for a variety of target audiences can give us good scales for success.

We should focus on how sustainable industrial cities can be built, where today they are seen as taboo in the light of issues like the Vedanta-Sterlite project in Tamil Nadu. It is important that such situations do not occur. We have to plan responsibly, create jobs and opportunities equitably, while ensuring that neither the people nor the environment is hit. Industrial cities are harder to plan, as there are significant notified protection zones to be factored, buffers created, and zoning established with rigour. Zero liquid discharge (ZLD) and use of centrifuges to reduce air pollution in terms of particulate matter should be made mandatory.

Apart from Factories Act and MOEF permissions, today, there is no local body responsible for ensuring them. Creating special Greenfield Industrial Smart Cities as new centres of excellence with power to enforce, regulate, and handle situations on a day-to-day basis is critical for their success. If IIAs of Maharashtra can further be empowered with special planning authorities to monitor, enforce, and ensure industrial compliance, a new opportunity will open up for greenfield cities on the back of Make in India, which would pick up momentum to move forward.

Tell us about your first-hand experience of working with a greenfield smart city…
We have been working on the new capital city of AP with APCRDA -Amaravati, where the land pooling scheme for building greenfield city has been a real success. Here, we have integrated work and play spaces in the neighbourhoods in every scale of the city – from a cluster of houses, to the neighbourhood, to the whole city. The city is built on nine specific economic drivers, each with its own ability to have a full-fledged supporting ecosystem.

In Telangana, we are working with TSIIC on the development of the Hyderabad Pharma City, where the creation of an integrated industrial city with a centrally-operated multi-utility network with co-dependant utilities helps ensure common industrial compliance for ZLD.

In Maharashtra, we are working on a private smart city project, where we are creating an economically-driven masterplan for success. It is rather a real estate-derived model, to ensure long-term sustenance and growth.


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