The Economy of Sustainable Construction: Proceedings of the Holcim Forum for Sustainable Construction 2013

278 279 Unfortunately, with Navi Mumbai still in a formative stage, the government has recently begun to sell the land to private enterprise—a complete reversal of the earlier policy. This nascent privatization of development in Navi Mumbai has crucial implications for the future of the city. Land in Navi Mumbai is affordable and public transportation is viable. It is still possible for the government to allocate and develop land for affordable housing, and public- sector mobility is the best form of subsidy to housing; it is indirect and thus does not have to deal with the complexities of regular housing loans and the politics of subsidy. For this to work effectively, however, it is essential that the government control or at least influence land markets—which becomes less likely once land ownership is devolved to the private sector. The ideal urban form for such a system—perhaps the most equitable form of development for a democracy—is low rise and high density; it supports public transportation investment and makes it viable. This is most viable when the government facilitates the process by creating a consistent flow of affordable land and allowing citizens to participate in the process of building—most often incrementally. One architectural example from Navi Mumbai that addresses the questions of density, equity, democracy, and economy simultaneously is Charles Correa’s Belapur Housing project, designed for CIDCO in 1985. Equity, in terms of access to land, is treated here as a fundamental parameter for potentially neutralizing the polarity that exists in cities like Mumbai. More importantly, the project shifts its emphasis from site planning to creating spaces for negotiations, porous divisions, and hierarchies that can help form neighborhoods. It squarely addresses the question of the unsettled nature of our cities and anticipates change in our shifting demographic condition. Correa argued that “a policy of equity plots would have the added advantage of not pre- determining social and economic mix in the neighborhood, or across the city,” and the project is premised on the idea that everyone should have, as much as is possible, equal access to land regardless of their income group. 11 However, each individual can build as much as their income or wealth permits them to do. Thus form is differentiated by investment while land distribution remains equal and fair. The Belapur project achieves a density of approximately 500 people or 100 families per hectare. A six-hectare site accommodates approximately 600 units. Slightly less dense than the densest parts of Mumbai, the project offers a low-rise, high-density solution with the obvious advantages of incremental growth and community. Correa highlights this community aspect as he elaborates on the intentions of the project: “Each cluster permits the emergence of a hyper-local community feeling, while integrating each house to the whole settlement at different levels; the hierarchy itself is very organic.” 12 Residents would alter the project in various ways, making it truly their own: “Homes are freestanding, so residents can add on to them as their families grow; and differently priced plans appeal to a wide variety of income levels.” 13 The incremental elements of the project have also produced a fair amount of work in the construction sector, with small-scale artisans participating in the construction process. The most important takeaway from the project, however, is twofold. First, its demographic mix makes for more sustainable communities; different sections of society are not only represented and aware of each other, but also offer each other services in a much as is generally believed. What varies greatly, however, is their acess to amenities. “Housing for the Urban Poor in India: Densities, Amenities and the Built Form” (unpublished paper, 2012). 2 Thanks to films like Slumdog Millionaire and the many international universities that have initiated research projects in Dharavi. 3 See William S. W. Lim, Asian Ethical Urbanism: A Radical Postmodern Perspective (Singapore: World Scientific Publishing, 2005). 4 For a detailed description of the idea of the kinetic city, see Rahul Mehrotra, “Negotiating the Static and Kinetic Cities,” in Urban Imaginaries , ed. Andreas Huyssen (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007). 5 Ravi Sundaram, “Recycling Modernity: Pirate Electronic Cultures in India,” Sarai Reader 01: The Public Domain (2001), publications/readers/01-the-public-domain/093- 099piracy.pdf. 6 Ranjit Hoskote, “Scenes from a Festival,” The Hindu , January 14, 2001, folio/fo0101/01010180.htm. 7 Vinay Venkatramam and Stefano Mirti, “India / 1. Network Design,” Domus , December 2005. 8 Ibid. 9 For a more detailed analysis, see Arjun Appadurai, “Deep Democracy: Urban Governmentality and the Horizon of Politics,” in Environment and Urbanization 13, no. 2 (2001): 23–43. 10 Lim, Asian Ethical Urbanism , 31–32. 11 Correa Charles, The New Landscape (Bombay: Book Society of India, 1985). 12 Ibid. 13 Rameeta Garewal, “Social Polarization and Role of Planning: The Developed and Developing World,” 42 nd ISoCaRP Congress, Yildiz Technical University, Istanbul, September 14–18, 2006. http://www. mutually beneficial economy. This condition introduces the social as a critical factor for the sustainable city. Second, the project shows the rich possibilities for design when there is a shift in the frame or scale of our gaze and the “compact” can find a place in the broader regional planning dimension. The location and access to public transportation demonstrate the crucial role that compactness can play in determining urban form; in the case of Belapur Housing, easy access to public transportation means that the poor and rich are equally mobile. Learning from Mumbai Today, especially in the global south or “majority world,” we must judge a city not by how dense it is but by how it treats its poor. This should be a fundamental criterion for applying any global standards of sustainability or efficiency. Sustainability is not a matter of choosing between the compact or non-compact city; rather, the aspiration to be sustainable must engage several domains in the city simultaneously: ecology, mobility, economy, governance, and infrastructure that, if appropriate access to infrastructure can be ensured, serves both poor and rich equally. Compact cities like Mumbai sustain the economy remarkably well. However, they will be socially sustainable only if they can create equitable opportunities and mobility for the poor in terms of housing and access to infrastructure. Any discussion of the sustainable dimension of compact cities must use parameters broader than the city’s physical footprint and economy and include social, political, and ecological dimensions. Notes 1 S. P. Shorey has shown that the densities of rich and poor housing in urban India do not vary as