Concerned over high density of population in the cities, Urban Development Minister S. Jaipal Reddy today said there was a need to go in for high rise buildings.

“We need to go in for high rise buildings in cities...There is high density of population in urban areas,” he said at a workshop on centres of excellence of the Ministry.

The minister said he was “zealously protecting” the Lutyen’s Bungalow Zone (LBZ) in Delhi due to its heritage status and there was “pressure” on him to change the land use.

“But we cannot afford LBZ elsewhere in Delhi and the country,” he said, adding that one needs to go in for redevelopment in other areas of the city. LBZ, in the heart of Delhi, has ministerial bungalows on prime land.

The ministry has 13 centres of excellence across the country — nine for matters pertaining to urban development and four for urban transport.

Mr. Reddy said a huge capacity building exercise was needed in the urban sector and added that the centres of excellence would generate capacity through ideas.

“It is an ambitious programme,” Mr. Reddy said on the centres of excellence, which include the IITs in Delhi, Chennai and Guwahati and IIM Bangalore, apart from other institutes in the government and private sectors.

These centres would disseminate best practices in the area of municipal service delivery and reform, development of dynamic integrated land-use planning model, preparation of climate change adaption plan for cities and development of design guidelines for comprehensive decentralised waste water management system.

Mr. Reddy said in India urbanisation was only 30 per cent even as half the world was living in urban areas in 2007.

“This is an opportunity to prepare ourselves for the urban challenge...It is a huge monumental challenge,” he said on the growing urbanisation and the need to provide delivery mechanism to the urban population.

He said urbanisation was inevitable and as it could aggravate the problem of environment, the issue has to be looked into as well.

The Minister said that through the JNNURM, Rs 1 lakh crore was meant to be spent in seven years but in the first three years itself, the Ministry has sanctioned projects worth Rs 95,500 crores.

“This amount is chicken feed...There is a hunger in urban areas for more money,” he said, pointing out that 90 per cent of the money is being spent on basic services like providing drinking water, sewerage, drainage and sanitation.

Mr. Reddy said the government has focussed on public transport and Bus Rapid Transit System has been provided for in 10 cities.

Denying charges of any political discrimination against States on party lines while sanctioning funds, he said, “nobody has accused us of any political discrimination in sanctions”.

The Minister referred to the expansion of Metro rail in Delhi and its implementation in some other cities and said 15,500 low floor semi-luxury buses are being provided through JNNURM funds to augment public transport in several cities.

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