One of the reasons for the Gowthamans' decision to move from the hustle and bustle of Anna Nagar to a flat in a four-acre township in Ambattur was the green environs the developer promised. They also chose a flat overlooking the 30,000 sq. ft. green landscape even if that meant paying Rs.100 more for every sq. ft.

To maintain the green space in this 216-apartment complex, the association spends Rs. 40,000 per month, excluding expenses on water. The apartment uses about one lakh litres of treated sewage water for gardening. The maintenance charge of the apartment is going to increase by a few hundred rupees, but I. Gowthaman has no qualms. “It is expensive but then people are enjoying and my children too are growing up in an environment with many friends,” says the committee member of Prince Greenwood. Green aesthetics is becoming an integral part of many new residential complexes and many are willing to pay more or shift to a place far away from the madding crowd.

According to landscape architect, Sekar James of Master Plan Landscapes, creating green spaces in residential and commercial projects has become a highly competitive field with one trying to outdo the other.

Landscape architect Ravikumar Narayan of Ravikumar and Associates says: “Ten years ago, a landscape architect was only called at the last stage of the project. Now, even before the architect comes into picture for designing, we are approached,” he says. In some projects, 2 per cent of a sq. ft. rate of a flat is set aside for landscaping.

“Even OSR area becomes an important part because of the space it commands and in many cases it is the USP to sell a project,” says Mr. Narayan. “In multi-storey apartments, the general rule is 70 per cent open space and 30 per built-up area,” says Pratish Devadoss, managing director, VGN Developers, adding that buyers are willing to pay more for such properties. While walkways, lawns and trees add beauty, maintaining them becomes a challenge if they require more watering and need regular maintenance, adding to the cost. Landscape architects say that in some projects they get requests to make it more eco-friendly. “Most plants need to be watered for the first three years, afterwards they grow by themselves,” adds Mr. Narayan.

One of the costliest landscape elements is grass because it needs to be watered every day and cut fortnightly. But, much of it also depends on how the association is taking interest in it. It is for this reason that Open Space Reservation (OSR) in some projects is not open for public access. Access to such earmarked areas is restricted, say developers and residents. Some associations take them on lease from the local body for use by its residents' welfare association members.

A CMDA official says if public is denied access to green spaces developed on OSR land, it amounts to encroachment of public land and it is punishable.

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