Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Realty Check?

Realty Check?

Water and power scarcity put the brakes on real estate dreams around the new airport

TROUBLE AHEAD: Without guaranteed water and electricity supply, builders and developers in Devanahalli are in a fix file pic
Builders have bought acres and acres around the new airport, but aren’t building.

Gated communities, integrated townships, villas and high-end-apartments are all on the cards, but are unlikely to see the light of day in the near future.

Developers bought agricultural land paying fancy prices up to Rs 1,300 a square foot hoping to cash in on the demand once the airport came up. But the harsh reality is that their hands are tied by many factors.

No clearances

The government has yet to release a development plan for the Devanahalli area. Without such a plan, approvals are impossible to come by.

Government agencies such as the pollution control, water and electricity boards are not ready to clear projects as they are in no position to provide service. Farmers no longer own land in the neighbourhood, and housing layouts can’t come up because of a lack of basic amenities.

Water woes

“Water is a major problem,” said Capt Raja Rao, former chief engineer and water resources expert. “The water board can’t supply much, and ground water in the region is already overexploited.”

A developer said the situation had pushed him to pessimism. “Even if the government allows us to dig borewells, where is the water? We have dug up to 900 feet, but it’s no use. We are in a real crisis.”
Premium builders like Shobha, Mantri, and Prestige have lined up mega projects, but nothing is moving. Only GMR has made a leap of faith and built its corporate office in Devanahalli.

Re-cycling of drainage water is one remedy, according to the BWSSB. But experts such as Raja Rao and A N Yellappa Reddy say it is contaminated beyond permissible limits.

Pay up for power

The power situation isn’t much better. A Bescom source said, “It is not as critical as the water problem, but we can’t assure uninterrupted power supply as the IT and BT industries demand. We can try to provide power at high rates, but industrial and domestic consumers may not be able to afford it.”

No IT hub

The software industry is reluctant to go to Devanahalli. No IT company is building an office in the region. Some plan townships for their employees but are demanding a satellite town ring road (STRR) that connects Dodballapur, Devanahalli, Hoskote, Ramanagar, and Magadi. But that is a costly wish.

“STRR calls for massive investment,” said Sudhir Krishna, BMRDA commissioner. “It is estimated to cost a whopping Rs 3,000 crore, or Rs 10 crore a km.”

Though the project has been planned as a public-private venture, no investor has come forward with the money. “With no IT company in the vicinity, our hope for real estate growth is receding. I am afraid we are heading for big trouble,” a developer said.

Some hope

However, the larger developer community is not so despairing. “With older airports running out of space, Bangalore is going to be a major aviation hub. And that will kick-start growth,” said K Sriram, chairman, Builders Association of India, Karnataka chapter.


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