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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Lavasa Hill city-my impressions

Lavasa is a private city being built and maintained by HCC. This campus is located some 60kms from Pune city. The property is facing lots of environment related litigations and legal battle is going on in court. You might remember Lavasa’s full page ads in leading newspapers trying to justify whatever they were doing.
Recently I had an opportunity to visit Lavasa first hand. I had some time to spare, so drove from Pune to Lavasa, spent an hour or so driving around and then we headed to Lonavala.

Below post shares my observations and thoughts related to Lavasa Hill City.

As we started driving from Pune to Lavasa, google maps was showing some 58 kms but official signage put by Lavasa was showig a much smaller number-about 8-10kms less. It gave a feeling that Lavasa is closer than we thought. But soon we realized that it is a deception. The distance shown by Lavasa is till the big entry gate. After crossing this point one should drive another 8-10kms to reach centre of Lavasa- say the convention centre. So google map was correct.

The roads are superb. While I enjoyed every moment of driving around the curvy roads, some of my passengers started having vomit sensations and head ache.

I am told Lavasa operators have ensured that no other residential/commercial project comes up between Pune and Lavasa to avoid any possible competition. There's hardly anything all along the route, except few petty shops on the road side. We passed by a dried up dam.
Eventually we reached the Lavasa gate. Security guard asked if we are visiting or staying. He gave us a small flyer with information on the events going on in Lavasa and let us through. (At Ambey valley, I am told visitors are not allowed unless authorized by a property owner)

Some online writings have expressed that Lavasa (And also Amby Valley) is ‘Close to Heaven’. Most of them have visited in during monsoon when the weather is naturally cool and inviting. Even the greenery photos taken for ads were clicked in best time of the year. During summer months is when the reality strikes. It is as hot as elsewhere, all trees are cut to make space for buildings and roads, so many of the natural shade is gone.

We stopped at few places enroute to click below photographs.

Lavasa aerial views


Can rivers be private properties? First and foremost thing that hit me was the dam that held back water for the residents of Lavasa. While the dam retained water, the other side of the dam, as you can see in below pictures, is completely dry. Thousands of villagers living along the river bank downstream should be having hard time sourcing water for their daily needs, as their water lifeline has been dried up thanks to the Dasve dam at Lavasa. 

I feel this is a dangerous trend. If builders across the country catch up with this idea and manage to build townships around river banks after building dams, life of people downstream will be ruined. Rivers can't be private properties and should be left flowing. 

At first I thought they've privatized entire river. But a closer look at Google map reveals that Lavasa hasn't built the dam on main water body, but has captured a part of it. This is some relief.  But still larger question remains.
We entered Lavasa town and stopped by a shop to buy water bottle. One litre water bottle, MRP Rs 18, was being sold at Rs 40, at par with multiplexes in the city or 5 star hotels. This was our first exposure to how expensive living or visiting in Lavasa will be. Be ready to pay more than twice for everything.

I guess same logic extends to your everyday needs like grocery and house hold consumables. Prices are likely to be much higher than MRP (or products will be supplied with inflated MRP), as Lavasa management might want a cut from every sale that happens in the city and shopkeepers who paid a premium will be forced to charge extra.

There're designated parking areas where parking fee is Rs 100. We managed parking by the roadside during our short visit.

As we drove around, we noticed that hill side is reinforced with rocks and steel net, to safeguard against landslide. Many of the buildings are built on edge of hill sides that are flattened. A major landslide could potentially collapse an entire building. Hope engineers have factored for these possibilities.

But lot of time commercial interests make management ignore technical advise and compromise on safety.

Construction is still in progress at most of Lavasa. Only part of it appeared ready- the closest ring around the water body appeared ready, while the next circle onwards, it is work in progress.

A work in progress villa below- No covered car parking, no ramp for differently-abled.

We drove across the Dasve dam. Stopped by a club, thinking of having something at their restaurant. But this club being members only, we were politely told to vacate the premises.
Above: Entry to the club and right- boating charges. Click on image to enlarge. 
Below: View of the jetty


View from boarding point for boat ride

One of the hotel complexes at Lavasa. Fortune Select Dasve costs around Rs 7000 a night, Waterfront shaw costs Rs 6000 a night approx. These rates are at par with room rent of ITC Sheraton Park and towers in Chennai. There're no budget options in the range of Rs 1000-2000. It might be economical to stay in Pune and visit Lavasa.
Lavasa aims to be a self contained city, hence had plans for school, colleges, convention centre, hotels, resorts, adventure activities and so on. In order to stay in the news, they do keep organizing festivals/ events all through the year. We spotted a hop on hop off tourist service bus with centre cut off. Good design. We also spotted shuttles plying around once a while.

Lavasa official website doesn't talk about litigation and legal tangle the city is in. For that, you need to dig deeper in the internet. Little digging on internet reveals lots of content about Lavasa- how they are arm-twisting property owners as well, not just the government and generic public. One blog, said to be maintained by someone who bought a house in Lavasa and got cheated, has shared lots of details here:

http://cityoflavasa.blogspot.in/

HCC has bigger plans - to build 100 cities similar to Lavasa all over India. Would you buy a property and live in this kind of towns? What are the pros and cons of living in this kind of private cities? I feel it is not worth buying a property and staying here, because your options will be limited and you'll be captive resident, forced to shell out more and more money for everything. I will share my thoughts in next post. [Now updated here]

6 comments :

AmitAag said...

Interesting. Informative. Thanx!

D.Nambiar said...

I'd like to say exactly what Amit says. :)

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Thanks Amit and DN

Mody said...

Appreciated the article. I did have some apprehensions and reading your article has clarified my doubts. Thanks.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Thanks Mody

Mrinz said...

Mr. Hande ,

Have been to Lavasa and it has been a wonderful experience. Some how , i think , you have written only one side .. I think it is one of the best places that has been developed in the recent past.

A visionary project and should be appreciated. I stayed in a budget hotel - Mercure which was Rs. 3500/- per night , you can check it on Tripadvisor as well. The weather was awesome and we thoroughly enjoyed it !