Monday, August 1, 2011

Lavasa: Future of the Future City

Last Sunday, I went to Lavasa for short summer ride. It is only 42 Kms far from Pune and almost 200 Kms from Mumbai. We were group of six people with three motor bikes on the road. We crossed the Pune-Mumbai Expressway bypass road and our trip kicked off in the morning.

Soon after about 10 Kms, it started to rain. It was heavy rain, so we took first break (I). There was a small tea shop. We were excited, tea didn't taste good, but we were loving it. Cool weather raining outside, good company and green views were all that mattered.

After almost 35 Kms, we stopped for second break (II). We took some photos. Then got grilled corns on roadside. We liked that, demanded more. There were so many people selling vegetables, fruits and corns all locally grown. Whole members of family were selling.

Finally we reached Lavasa (III) :) It was lunch time. First of all, we went for lunch.

This was the third time I visited the hill city. Last year in August, I went there for the first time. It was work in progress. Again I went there in January. Construction was stopped. It is still stopped 'work in progress'. Some court orders!

The newly planned Independent India's first hill city is facing some of the toughest setbacks. Issues like environmental clearance, land acquisition and corruption. Bombay High court had ordered to stop construction. The future city faces mainly two controversies.

First obviously is Environmental Damage: I think very few people agree with this one. I suggest anyone to visit Lavasa and observe it. The project has made it greener if it has done anything wrong at all. And you know who is Jairam Ramesh.

Second one is Land Acquisition. Well, this is controversial everywhere in developing countries except in China. This would not be so even if it was in State of Gujarat. Some NGOs are working hard to make on news headlines. I never came to understand what NGO/INGOs are meant for.

It's obvious, tremendous benefit will go to locals. Come back to my initial point. Locals are selling tea/coffee(I). They are getting money out of everything that can be produced in the area. (II) This is almost impossible if there was no Lavasa. We spent almost triple on that trip than we normally do in our city life (III) It directly went to local people's pocket. 

Interestingly, a recent Marathi movie was shoot in Lavasa. In the scene, I hear that a local girl meets super rich NRI and marries. Who is there to object? Events like this can happen. Billions of investment in a particular place is a big deal. Lavasa has built highway, offered employment to thousands of people contributing significant amount of GDP to Maharashtra.

This is very ambitious project; building entire new community out of nothing. They say even Oxford University is planning to set up India campus there. Infosys plans to develop it's own development center. These are just few examples. This is going to be place where 'global' will reach 'local'. Now, come up and tell to Mr. Ramesh that this is not his father's hard earned property.

PS. It is one of the best places for short summer ride from Pune and Mumbai. It drizzles daily. Greenery everywhere. You will love it. Plan your weekend!