New Town The Face Of New Bengal
It has always been a question in the mind of people whether the eastern part of India can compete with other progressive regions of the country. The state of Bengal, has been a witness to and the main epicenter of all movements of the country whether it be cultural, social, religious, political or freedom movement. Partici-pation of Bengal was no less. It played an active role, but with the passage of time and the advent of digital age, the country is slowly forgetting the contribution of Bengal.
The image of an old city of Kolkata with problems of traffic has always been in the mind of people. But things are fast changing; the city of Kolkata is shaping its way towards making a world-class city with the essence, flavor, touch and nostalgia attached to the cultural capital of India. New Town can be considered the smart and modern side of the historic city of Calcutta.
With the Partition of India in 1947, there was a huge influx of people into Bengal, which created living space for people a prime concern for the government. Under the visionary leadership of the then Chief Minister of West Bengal Dr Bidhan Chandra Roy the government planned cities were designed in post-independent India at Salt Lake—now called Bidhannagar on the eastern fringe of Kolkata. Kalyani was another such planned township within 90 minutes from Kolkata. Durgapur Steel Township was the third example of setting out a planned city during that time.
In the 68th year of India’s independent existence, all these towns have crossed 50 years now and as the proverb goes, change is inevitable. Urban sprawl around Kolkata is spreading fast; more people are coming in from the countryside for the three E’s—Employment, Education and Entertainment. To prevent this unplanned growth, in mid-1990s, a New Town was conceived at Rajarhat between Bidhannagar and the Kolkata International Airport. The state government set up a new corporation called HIDCO in the year 1999 to coordinate efforts of land procurement, land use master plan, drainage and water supply plan, road network, power and optical fibre backbone to create a futuristic smart town. The master plan was drawn up initially by IIT Kharagpur. Since then, there have been continuous improvements and innovations. New Town is designed to spread out in 30 square kilometers with a target population of 10 lakh and a floating population of 2.5 lakh.
In the past few years, New Town has seen a drastic changes to the city and has become the face of the Kolkata city and has also become the talk of the town with all modern amenities of life. Although the design was drawn a decade and half ago, the dream was turned to reality by the farsighted modernisation approach of Debashish Sen, IAS, Chairman of West Bengal Housing Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited, better known as HIDCO, who has been working tirelessly to give New Town a new identity and the dream has started showing its light.
Talking to Uday India the Architect of New Town, Debashish Sen said: “The basic theme of New Town is to create a perfect work life balance, to create a green eco-friendly habitat that will allow people to walk to work. A cluster approach is another pillar that underlies the design of New Town. This is to help networking and collaboration to propel further growth. Thus in New Town there is an IT hub, an education hub, a culture hub, a health hub and the latest a finance hub”.
The slogan for New Town is—“Be Where It Matters”. New Town has emerged as a futuristic, smart, eco-friendly city. It is being developed as an Eco 2 city—one that is both ecologically and economically advanced. It is poised to be a smart city, efficiently developed with energy-saving devices, and other technologies put together.
The Government of India has already recognised New Town as a solar city. Now the state government has presented it to be a Smart City with a specific proposal to the Central Government. Debashish Sen, who is also the Principal Secretary, Department of Urban Development and Town Planning, Government of West Bengal, said: “The innovative design is to support housing for people directly connected with the economic sectors co-located in New Town itself, in keeping with the ‘Walk to Work’ and ‘Green-Smart theme’. What does that mean in simple terms? Suppose we are trying to build a financial hub with a series of bankers, the questions arises: where are the executives going to stay? Where are the security personnel or cleaning staff going to stay? So if it is directly related to an economic activity that generates revenue, we would reserve land to cater to the accommodation needs.”
He added: “New Town offers the highest FAR up to 6 in selected areas of New Town. Since land is very scarce, we need to make full use of it as Singapore is doing, as downtown New York is doing, where the Floor Area Ratio (FAR) is around 11 or 14. Increased FAR means creation of more virtual land. The plan is to encourage compact, dense cities, which can enable maximum utilisation of existing land. There should rather be vertical cities than urban sprawls. The buildings should make use of rain harvesting, water harvesting to follow green building norms, solar power wherever possible, efficient machines, air-conditioners, so that the vision to make an environment friendly green smart city is achieved soon.”
New Town has developed a character of its own; it cannot be directly related to other planned cities of Bengal like Durgapur, Kalyani or Bidhannagar.
It is smart, it is clean and green, with a perfect work-life balance, which envisions healthy, happy families moving around shopping in malls, attending cultural events in Rabindra Tirtha and Najrul Tirtha, or playing tennis at the sports arena and then attend the core business meeting in the upcoming 3,800 seater convention centre, which makes it different from other cities of the Bengal.
The New Town Financial Hub in Kolkata is close to the IT Hub, Salt Lake Sector-V, where thousands of young IT professionals work every day and night. There is a state-of-the-art plug-and-play infrastructure. Already more than ten major financial institutions have participated in the Finance hub spread over seven acre island.
Apart from this there is Wax Museum, Rabindra Tirtha, Najrul Tirtha, Senior Citizen Park, Tree Bank, Arts Acre and original sculptors scattered around the 10-lane road which will soon be Wi-Fi enabled. Upcoming projects include Eastern India’s largest convention centre, IT hub, health and education Hub.
Sen said: “We have done a pre-feasibility study for a monorail project in Salt Lake-New Town-VIP Road. New Town is the new smart city that is setting new standards in urban design and planning. It is the Singapore of Kolkata. You can’t miss New Town if you are in Kolkata.”
So, next time when you visit Kolkata, You’ll feel that you are no longer in an old and historic city but you are riding through a smart city called New Town—Singapore of the East.
By Joydeep Dasgupta from Kolkata