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Apropos of “Make cities taller” (January 9), the government’s move to raise the floor space index (FSI) does make sense, but only to a point. Indeed such a move will reduce pressure on land resources, bring down the cost of much needed housing and, perhaps, even encourage use of public transport as against the burgeoning increase in private vehicles — which should further help in improving air quality and reducing our carbon footprint.
However, our pathetic record in (a) the quality of construction, (b) making available water, power, drainage, sewers and other municipal infrastructure and (c) building any semblance of an efficient mass transport system would dictate that the proposed increase in high-rises should be metered very carefully. As you have rightly said, any increase in FSI should be subject to the two caveats of first building all these systems. A free hand to builders — before ensuring such sound infrastructure — would not only be counterproductive, but it would also be an invitation to disasters of the highest magnitude.
We already have a classic case of Gurugram. This city today boasts of the finest buildings — both commercial and residential — that match the best anywhere in the world. And at the same time it has extremely poor civic infrastructure. Developers have done their job, earned their billions and are ready to take on other lucrative contracts. Residents and occupants of the superb buildings — as well as the poorly equipped civic administration — are left to fend for themselves. There are no proper roads, people face daily outages of power and water, the few sewer lines that are there are invariably choked, street lights are inadequate, local city “rapid metro” is just making a debut and one doesn’t see any half decent buses. A couple of hours of rain cause a deluge in this millennium city and an earthquake can bring unprecedented disaster and misery. And finally — as mentioned in your closing para — Charles Correa probably understood our psyche when he argued about Nariman Point being more attractive than Ballard Estate.
Krishan Kalra, Gurugram
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