Orientation Workshop on Agenda for Sustainable Buildings

Kolkata, January 4, 2013

The sustainable buildings team of Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), New Delhi organised a half a day workshop on January 4, 2013 in association with New Town Kolkata Development Authority (NKDA), Kolkata and Housing Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited, West Bengal (HIDCO).

The third in the series, the workshop focussed on the upcoming township - New Town, Rajarhaat, on the outskirts of Kolkata. It was attended by Debashis Sen, principal secretary, Urban Development, Govt of West Bengal and chairperson, Kolkata Municipal Development Authority(KMDA), NKDA and Housing Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited, West Bengal (HIDCO), Gopal Ghose, ceo, NKDA, P. Bhattacharya, principal planner, HIDCO, Sutanu Prasad Kar, joint managing director, HIDCO, P. K. Sengupta, chief engineer and chief architect, NKDA, Laurent Fournier, independent architect and planner, Shobhan Lal Bonerjee, principal architect, S. Bonnerjee & Associates, Shivashish Bose, assistant professor, Jadavpur University, Kolkata among other stakeholders. The workshop was also attended by representatives from ONGC, developers like Unitech, Shapoorji Pallonji and journalists from Bengal Post, Pratidin Sambad, Down to Earth, and Business Economics etc.

The workshop brought forth some interesting points and engaged the stakeholders on the common ground of urban planning, energy efficiency, and people centric urban designs.

The workshop proceeded with CSE's findings on the latest urban building trends across the country and ended with the observations about development paradigm undertaken by New Town, Kolkata. A number of thought provoking questions and issues were raised in the presentation, which later fired the discussion.

According to us, the New Town is ignoring the people centric comforts, such as pedestrian pathways, by lanes, pedestrian crossings, easy access to public transport etc. Anumita Roychoudhury, executive director, policy research and advocacy, CSE rightly pointed out – Good integrated norms are not just constructions. The new Indian 'cities' are loosing its local flavour as more and more unmindful standard designed buildings are mushrooming, increasing the energy guzzle and de voiding them of any identity. The building materials used, specially the infatuation with glass is looked upon as a move to 'ape the west', again increasing the wastefulness.

Dr Bose added, it is important that urban design aspects should be critically analysed at the local and zonal level instead of the entire city plan. The upcoming townships should keep in mind the public realms and be mindful of the fact that the city if for everyone and not just for rich people and builders.

The discussion also brought to light the work of Mr Fournier, who is doing a lot of work with local and green materials which bring down the energy consumption of the units. By using environment friendly material and local wisdom, he is successful in creating what is called a sustainable unit. Both Mr Fournier and Dr Bose are advocates of using local wisdom and material to make the buildings energy efficient and 'green'.

The builder representatives were asked by the pane lists about what do they seek as an incentive to indulge in green practises in the true sense and not just name their buildings 'green'. The example of ONGC's 'green' building was referred to, which is over 90% glass building.

Some key issues that both NKDA and HIDCO decided to look at after the discussions:

  • Rethink commuter crossing between intersections, in the future.

  • Pay special attention to link the public transport section. Efforts would be made that no resident/pedestrian would need to walk more than 500 metres to reach a public transport option.

  • Incentives would be given to builders who take up rain water harvesting and solar panels.

  • There will be plans for dedicated space for cycles and pedestrian.

The sustainable buildings team would monitor the steps taken by HIDCO and NKDA and are willing to engage in a dialogue with more stakeholders for the new townships.

For further details, Please contact Souparno Banerjee (souparno@cseindia.org / 9910864339) of The CSE Media Resource Centre.