Lavasa - an eco friendly alternative to urban living

by Sunil Vaidyanathan 10. June 2010 13:31

Lavasa

Western India is famous for its industrialisation; however, this has always been accompanied by unplumbed chaos! Most cities have thus remained shamefully unplanned as a consequence of having to cater to capitalistic avarice and the needs of an ever-burgeoning population.

An attempt to decongest the satellite cities around Mumbai led to a remarkable development in urban planning. Lavasa, which is just fifty kilometres away from Pune is western India’s first planned eco-friendly city. Sited along the banks of an artificial lake, it provides ample proof of the fact that development need not alter ecological balance. Just a three-hour drive from Mumbai and only an hour away from Pune, this new self-contained township boasts of all the functional amenities of a metro city.

Set amidst almost 25,000 acres of natural landscape, Lavasa is embraced by seven hills that girdle its 60 km lakefront. Almost one/fourth the size of Mumbai and just about as big as Paris, (100 sq km) this environmentally sensitive city is planned on the principles of new urbanism, where the idea is to allow people to ‘live, work, learn and play in harmony with nature.’

The township will eventually include four town centres. While work on the entire township will be completed only by 2021, ‘Dasve’ the first town centre that is already fairly functional, will be fully habitable by 2011. It offers among other things, a choice of elegant housing, a country club and resorts, educational and medical facilities set to international standards, edutainment parks for kids and even adventure sports and spas. The religious can find solace in one of the many places of worship in and around the townships.

Led by a committed team of experts that include world-renowned environmentalists, the vision of Lavasa is to provide affordable community living to both the urban middle class and a niche clientele. Its master plan has been conceptualized by the internationally renowned design consultant HOK, USA and is based on the transect model. This hill city evolves from a densely populated town centre, which gets sparser as the elevation increases; thus maintaining the equilibrium between an artificial environment that eventually blends itself into natural surroundings without disturbing the innate character of the place.

Some of the big names already present here are Apollo Hospital, Times of India Group (which will soon be setting up a training centre), Union Bank, Ecole Hoteliere, RPG International and Tommy Hilfiger. With a 365-day economy, Lavasa is set to provide a hundred thousand employment opportunities.

A complete eco-city, Lavasa promises minimum green house emissions, generation of energy through renewable sources, recycling sewage for irrigating its vast tracts of greenery and composting waste, thus entirely doing away with the outdated concept of landfill sites. The settlements themselves are designed to be pedestrian-friendly and encourage the use of public transport. Environmental initiatives include hydro seeding and bio mimicry. Technology will play a quintessential role in the future and all Lavasa townships will be e-cities with an emphasis being laid on e-governance.

Planned as an eco-settlement that can support a permanent population of around 0.3 million, it is estimated that at least five times this number will visit the site as tourists every year. Keeping this in mind, accommodation is being developed to cater to various budgets and there are a plethora of options to choose from. Facilities like rental housing and starter homes are being offered alongside self-owned Goan-Mediterranean style villas and lakeside apartments, which are equipped with all possible amenities. While the up-market hotels and serviced apartments are of an international calibre, the budget traveller can opt for mid-range hotels and dormitories. Food lovers will have a variety of cuisine to choose from; Oriental, continental, traditional Indian, Mexican and Italian promise to tantalize the senses alongside Indian and western fast food.

For the tourist who wishes to flee from the banausic existence of the city, Lavasa provides the perfect respite. Sited along the slopes of the mystic Western Ghats, it is the perfect setting for a weekend getaway. While the township offers a variety of indoor entertainment, which includes cinemas, markets, theme parks and wellness centres, the more adventurous can opt for other exciting diversions such as golf, boating, and other outdoor sports. The golf courses here are built to international standards and could rival even better known venues.  

In the monsoon months, the real magic of Lavasa becomes apparent. The many natural streams that have been channelized to feed the artificial dam come alive. The paths along these rivulets make ideal trekking trails. This is also the ideal time to explore the flora and fauna of the township.   

Although Lavasa is still in its infantile stage, if the pace of development sustains, this might very well be the answer to India’s urban space crunch.


Sunil Vaidyanathan/ Shayoni Mitra

 

 

Some fascinating facts about Lavasa:

Lavasa is sited along the magnificent Western Ghats, which is one of the most significant bio-diversity zones in India. The Western Ghats form a catchment area for numerous rivers that form the drainage system which accounts for 40 percent of India’s watershed. The area is one of the world’s ten ‘greatest biodiversity hotspots’ and has over 5000 species of flowering plants, 139 mammal species, 508 avian species and 179 amphibian species. At least 325 globally threatened species are found in the Western Ghats.

Of the many economically important plant species here, Bamboo stands out for its numerous uses. Lavasa Valley is home to at least 6 species of Bamboo. This gave Lavasa the motivation to come up with a bamboo workshop, which would utilize natural resources to generate a self-sustainable economy in the region. Lavasa Bamboocrafts Limited has already commenced operations at Mugaon in Lavasa. The workshop aims at promoting the use of bamboo in all its uses and will house over 65 workers. Lavasa is also home to a spectrum of medicinal and aromatic plants such as Kumbha, Kuda, Chitrak, Waras, Ranjai and Sawar.

The fauna of this planned township has not been threatened by its tailor made surroundings. It is home to a variety of rare birds like the Tickell's flowerpecker – one of the smallest birds in India and the Osprey – a migratory bird from Europe. The Malabar Whistling Thrush, Lavasa's star singer, has earned the epithet of the 'Whistling Schoolboy'! Other than these rare birds, Lavasa's ecosystem supports two rare butterflies, the fascinating Blue Mormon and the Oak Leaf. The latter with wings closed, closely resembles a dry leaf with dark veins and is a spectacular example of camouflage. Lavasa is also home to the Karvi flower (Blue Bloom), which blooms only once in 7 years. Occasionally, you might be able to spot a small herd of deer that assemble around the artificial waterholes and streams.  This makes for a delightful visual treat!
 
The weather here is pleasant and Lavasa enjoys a year-round cool breeze, with temperatures ranging from 6°c to 35°c.

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