The San Francisco Chronicle has picked up on a story that the Indian press was all over in mid-July: Sabeer Bhatia's big urban development planned for outside Chandigarh. The project is meant to serve as the next Silicon Valley, without all the mess of Bangalore. From the article:
Granted, over the past decade, Bhatia has had his hand in several technology startups and post-startups both here and in India, some mildly successful, some not. But his latest project is one that comes from the heart: He is trying to develop an Indian version of Silicon Valley, a sustainable city spread over 11,000 acres in northern India that he envisions will be home to 1 million residents employed largely by world-class universities and A-list companies that act as the country's idea generators. He calls it Nano City.
Can this planned city overcome the problems that previous planned cities have struggled with? The argument against planned cities has been that they can't deal with organic growth; that their ordained layouts run counter to the slow, unpredictable evolution of human settlements. Urban planners frequently rail against the fashions of earlier urban planners - a common complaint is that the men who put forth mega-projects only succeeded by wiping out older neighborhoods, which had developed over decades, or centuries.
But does India have a choice? Anyone who's been to Bangalore
recently knows how badly it's coming along. And given the hand of
corrupt politicians and developers in the process, one can hardly say
that's the organic model for growth.
Some interesting points about Nanocity, from The Berkeley Group for Architecture and Planning:
- Local villagers are expected to remain on the land to live and work as the first residents of NanoCity. They will be encouraged to gain employment through local construction projects and live in the builder’s towns. These towns will provide technical training, low-cost housing, electricity, safe water and education for children. They will also offer temporary commercial outlets for the sale of building materials and storage space, as well as everyday items and refreshments. As the city grows outward and the need for construction diminishes, the builder’s towns will be integrated into the greater urban fabric of NanoCity.
- At least 70% of the city’s waste will be recycled or composted. The residents of NanoCity are estimated to consume 20 times less resources than those living in other cities, and the city will have the smallest per capita carbon footprint in all of India.
- The first step in building environmentally intelligent urban space is
preserving the naturally existing resources of the land. NanoCity will
take advantage of these limited resources by integrating site-specific
hydrology and agricultural patterns into the greater design scheme.
During the annual monsoon season, water will be harvested from
underground sources for retention and use throughout the year. The
seasonal rivers that border the city will become part of the perennial
- To further dissuade a “car culture,” a state-of-the-art public transit system, featuring electronic schedules and real-time updates, will be on the move. Modeled after successful systems around the world, NanoCity’s Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system will be clean, fast and solar –powered. Two citywide loops will allow the city’s high-speed rail and bus system to connect all city centers and districts in a convenient and efficient manner. Public transit stops will be located within a five-minute walking distance from every starting point in the city.
- To provide fair and affordable housing to all residents, NanoCity will implement a system of land banking during its development. Selective plots of land, strategically located throughout the up and rising districts, will belong to the NanoCity Non-Profit Housing Corporation. This non-profit group will leave the land undeveloped and encourage local villagers to use it for agricultural farming. The crops produced will benefit the whole community and the villagers will profit from their cultivation.