Can real estate development be socially inclusive? The developers of the Magarpatta city in Hadapsar village on the outskirts of Pune have shown the way.
The new city that beckons visitors with large billboards announcing “You are entering an oxygen zone”, has successfully altered the way urbanisation is being carried out in our vast, unwieldy cities.
To begin with, Magarpatta city was developed by a consortium of farmers who owned the 425 acres of land whose real estate worth had zoomed high due to proximity with Pune’s industrial estates.
Families as stakeholders
They were nearly 125 families, all knit through kinship into a large clan where most of them carried ancestral surname ‘Magar’. Having jealously guarded their land for centuries, they were apprehensive that the clan would scatter if any land shark persuaded the individual families to sell off their holdings for development.
Led by Satish Magar, a graduate in agricultural sciences, they came together and decided to be prime stakeholders in the land and the future development. The leadership was entrusted with Satish Magar and his five brothers, all professionally qualified. They together owned 100 acres of the 425 acres of land in the village in which farm yield was declining over the years because of plunging water table and unavailability of farm hands.
Says Prakash Deshmukh, the managing partner of the Space Designers Syndicate, the architecture firm which planned the elegant township, “while these families sat on land whose worth was Rs 20 lakh per acre in 1995, the farm yield was fetching them merely Rs 40,000 a year. Satish Magar and his family members took a decisive plunge, canvassed for mutual development and roped everyone into the scheme.
From day one, the objective for Magarpatta City was inclusiveness and determination not to let anyone be deprived of land. The slogan was: Be a partner in the growth of Magarpatta City. For the outsiders who aspired to be buyers of sites, flats, commercial and industrial space, the slogan was ‘Buy a flat, get a city free’.
Realising fully well that the government’s acquisition of their land would bring them only a pittance and that there would not be much in terms of resettlement and rehabilitation, and private land developers would not pay attention to their concern over maintaining the integrity of the clan, everyone cooperated with the Consortium.
The Consortium identified 72 youths who could be trained in various skills required for development of the land into a city where residential areas will entwine with commercial offices and green areas.
These youths were trained in plumbing, construction, carpentry, fabrication, electrical works, public health engineering, gardening and landscaping. The official process for conversion of land into building and commercial use involved five years. All land holders were allotted pro-rata stakes into the future township with either flats, plots, or open areas or shares.
While social inclusiveness was just one aspect, the Consortium adopted green practices from day one. Forty per cent of electricity requirement for the township was generated internally with solar panels or biomass plants. The land had 32 wells that were being used for farming. Extensive landscaping and rainwater harvesting ensured that these wells were constantly recharged. It was planned as a zero garbage city with the entire solid garbage to be recycled.
The township sells entire solid garbage to vendors and earns Rs 25,000 a week. The main roads within the township were provided with 40-feet-wide footpaths. All civic amenities were planned to be accessible within five minutes walking distance. A tech park with capacity for offices for 25,000 people also came up on the commercial space.
All IT offices were constructed on double skin building technology with thermos effect. The entire construction, plumbing, fabrication, carpentry, painting works were contracted out to the youth who were trained during the initial five years of the project. One of the former landowners set up a fly ash brick plant during the gestation period which saved the project 21 per cent cost of cement. Thus all landowners of the farms are now crorepati entrepreneurs.
Built-up area only 15 pc
Says Zuber Sheikh, a partner in the Architect and Planning firm, the built-up residential area in the Magarpatta City is merely 20 per cent. Fifteen per cent has been allocated to roads, 15 to 20 per cent to amenities such as clubs, courts, amphitheatre, stadium, fountains, traffic circles, biomass plants, transformers and 35 per cent to gardens.
The farmers who gave up the land for development now run a bakery, confectionery, restaurants, laundry, grocery and greens shops and catering outlets. Magarpatta city today boasts of 25 residential neighbourhoods with 350 to 400 flats each and 18,000 trees. Commercial traffic does not mix with residential traffic. It also has an aviary, a lake and three kms of jogging track.
Deshmukh says the farmers who owned four acres of farm land have now assets valued at Rs four crore. All former landowners own at least two flats and each has two cars. The success of the Magarpatta model by making farm owners strategic partners led to the Maharashtra Township Development Act taking a few cues from the model and initiate measures whereby the landowners interest could be safeguarded.
Says Deshmukh, most developers would like to ride roughshod against the interest of landowners. But by making them stakeholders, we have ensured not only their livelihood but also protected their kinship bonds and social cohesion.