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Sustainable Development Zone (SDZ). A concept by Jaigopal Rao. This concept has received very positive responses from Shri. Thomas Isaac, shri. PVUnnikrishnan, shri. Vijayanand (IAS), Smt Jaya (IAS) in GOK. Shri. Nandan Nilekani –‘core of idea is very powerful’.

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sustainable development zone sdz

Sustainable Development Zone (SDZ)

A concept by Jaigopal Rao.

This concept has received very positive responses from
  • Shri. Thomas Isaac, shri. PVUnnikrishnan, shri. Vijayanand (IAS), Smt Jaya (IAS) in GOK.
  • Shri. Nandan Nilekani –‘core of idea is very powerful’.
  • IIA – kerala chapter and several prominent Architects and planners.
  • Shri. Riyaz, present chairman of travel mart and prominent builder.
  • Several environmentalists incl. Prof. MKPrasad.
  • Hman rights activists incl. shri. CRNeelakantan, Dr. Nandakumar, Geo jose.
  • Women’s right activists incl. smt. Nalini Nayak.
International agencies including BORDA - germany who honoured it as among 12 selected concepts worldwide of 2008.
  • Iowa university, who have asked it to be presented in US in April 2011.
  • Eco-cities foundation, California have commented as a notable concept which has a future.
  • Finance expert incl. Shri. Venugopal govind and Shri. Gopala pillai have ascertained its financial feasibility.
the pressure on land is being felt in many ways
The pressure on land is being felt in many ways

Analysis – present urbanization in India.

Cities/ townscapes bursting at seams with an unplanned mix of residential neighborhoods, commercial spaces, workshops, small and big industries etc.

poorly planned infrastructure facilities for water supply, waste disposal, power supply etc

present urbanization

Present urbanization

Long commuting distances for a large population.

Resulting unplanned urban sprawl.

Multiplication of automobile users.

World over, these three are now considered the big three evils of urban development.

typical urban magnet

Typical urban magnet

Electronics City Bangalore

Electronics City, Bangalore

330 acres in extent; over 60000 IT jobs.

Massive speculation in land prices all around.

Substantial influx of population. Hardly any infrastructure planning,

especially for roads, housing etc. to support this influx.

Affordable housing around scarce, resulting in daily plying of thousands of buses and cars for the working population… traffic snarls, pollution has become order of the day.

Poor people pushed to periphery, causing slums.

Typical urban magnet


Several projects including SEZs, techno-parks, Export processing Zones, large industries, academic universities etc.

Often involves large land acquisition, displacement etc. – real need for the extent is suspect.

Immediately sparks off speculation in land prices; land speculators are often the biggest beneficiaries of such projects.

Master plan of just the project area alone, partially or often totally ignores the overall infrastructure, ecological, social, economic impact of the project on the region.

Result – at times mis-informed, at times true and justified fear especially among those immediately affected, whether disadvantages brought in by such big projects are more than the advantages.

Typical urban magnets

crucial importance of land use planning

Crucial Importance of land use planning

Land price speculation is because of poor land use planning.

Water scarcity is because lakes, ponds, wells etc. got filled up, forests and mangroves destroyed again due to poor land use planning.

Lack of housing for EWS population near work place is again poor land use planning.

Long commuting time, urban sprawl, massive increase in traffic congestion, pollution etc. are direct results of poor land use planning.

Despite economic downturn, India has 7 to 8% growth and also receives massive capital inflow as remittances from abroad; if local governments do not have the right instruments to channelize these for infrastructure development, it is because of poor land use and finance planning.

Understanding the SDZ concept

A win–win solution

Makes use of established land use instruments like FAR, zoning, TDR etc

Improve infrastructure such as waste disposal, water supply, electricity etc

Caring to Economically Weaker Sections

Arrests speculation in Land Prices

Convenient for middle class

Preserves and enhances natural environment and built heritage

Advantageous for genuine investors

Comfortably embraces economic growth and absorbs ensuing migration

Acceptable to ethical among the business community

The core of SDZ concept is that in the case of our developing cities, perhaps we now have a possibility to design High Density Zones (Pedestrianized) to absorb impacts of new development; simultaneously revitalize/ conserve the areas around it
Social Infrastructure Zone

Service Areas




components of sdz

Components of SDZ

HDZ(High Density Zone):

ATypical 40 acre HDZ:

12,000 - 15,000 people staying.

5000 - 8000 people working. (may be IT or an industry or such other employment magnet )

All daily activities of at least 60% of the people in the core such as going to work, school, everyday essential services, recreation and cultural facilities within 500 m walking distance.

Mixed land use of residential, commercial and recreation spaces

High FAR of 4 or more

Coverage of around 30%, interspersed with large open spaces

Inside compact core, only bicycle and pedestrian movement

Ample parking facility will be provided in the periphery.

components of sdz1

Components of SDZ

b) NDZ (No Development Zone):

Natural heritage features such as forests, wetlands, coastal areas, paddy fields, lakes etc. to be conserved as NDZ.

Built heritage areas also to be conserved as NDZ.

Owners of privately owned such areas to get compensation as development rights in HDZs by a concept of Transfer of Development Rights. (TDR) (or as simple compensation).

c) SIZ (Social Infrastructure Zone):

Comfortable space for accommodation, recreation, education etc of the EWS (Economically Weaker Sections) population near their work places.

Considering 15% of the population belonging to EWS, built up area of an average of 60 sq ft per person to be planned for, at 2 FAR.

Other social infrastructure facilities like anganwadis and PHCs, markets, slaughter houses, crematoriums, women’s development zones etc. especially for the EWS to be provided.

components of sdz2

Components of SDZ:

d) Service Areas:

Water tanks, pump houses and space for main lines of water supply.

Roads, foot paths, street lights and storm water lines.

Transformers, power stations, space for HT lines and buffer zones.

Decentralized solid waste, sewage and liquid waste treatment / management areas and buffer zones.

Buffer zone for hazardous chemical storage and transfer.

In water scarce regions, space for rain water harvesting reservoir to meet at least peak summer short fall.

Parks, playgrounds and community open spaces.

Public spaces such as community halls, markets, bus stand, rail or mass transit stations etc.

components of sdz3

Components of SDZ

e) LDZ (Low Density Zone):

Areas other than HDZ of the SDZ to be Low Density Zones with 1 FAR or

Less, and coverage of 30%. These will have

Villas with gardens and open spaces.

Plant nurseries, automobile workshops and other small industries and

enterprises which need land.

Religious institutions.

These areas will have buildings predominantly with local materials,

land with maximum green cover,

will harvest rain water fully for own requirement,

treat ones own solid and liquid wastes in own premises etc.

Perhaps can have own renewable energy systems

tax relaxations and other incentives to encourage the above.

Feeder buses within an SDZ to link all parts of SDZ to the HDZ from where mass transit lines or trunk buses to take commuters to more distant places. Electronic road pricing (ERP) will regulate automobiles within SDZs.



Concept of SDZ mooted as alternative to SEZ

Improvement of Infrastructure

Cross subsidises housing and facilities for EWS of society.

Conservation of natural and built heritage.

Funding, investment and economic development.

Decentralisation of economy

Arrests speculation in land prices

Improves urban planning as it arrests urban sprawl, automobile dependence and commuting distances.

Child friendly, disabled friendly, aged friendly, pollution free and healthy.

sdz a replicable model of development

SDZ - a replicable model of development

1.Absorbs the shock load of migration of people in urban areas.

2. Depending on expected density, HDZs can have varied FAR such as 4, 3, 2 etc.

3. Consolidating large parcels of land (40 to 50 acres for HDZ, perhaps 20 acres for water harvesting,10 acres for EWS etc, altogether 70 to 80 acres) at desired locations can be a hurdle if it is to be attempted from scratch.

Instead if SDZ are established around already existing large parcels of single owner land (private or government) then the process can be simpler.

sdz a replicable model of development1

SDZ - a replicable model of development

SDZ clusters linked by Mass Transit Systems

  • Existing towns and cities can be divided into clusters of SDZs linked by mass transit systems, water transit systems or a combination of the above.
sdz a replicable model of development2

SDZ - a replicable model of development

SDZ clusters along Key Infrastructure Corridors

  • New express highways, new water transport corridors etc. can be linked with SDZ clusters.
  • Cluster of SDZ in turn can also help fund the infrastructure corridors. Some studies of such business models have shown promising possibilities.




Hopefully we will give space for aspirations of

large buildings showing off glamour and glitter

in our HDZs.

Hopefully we will give space for the small and

the beautiful, which we hope will

be the predominant aspiration, in our LDZs.

Hopefully we will have good infrastructure

in our Service areas.

Hopefully we will be able to take care of

weaker sections through our SIZs.

Hopefully we will conserve mother nature through our NDZs.

sdz concept of the future
SDZ – concept of the future
  • SDZ is a new possibility in decentralized planning which can be initiated by local bodies – 74th amendment brings tremendous possibilities.
  • Has possibility to bring in private – public partnership and can channelise over 40,000 cr remittances coming to kerala every year from abroad, into facilities which are of common benefit for all.
  • It can build concensus among environmentalists, business people, human right activists, planners, builders ……….!
‘One good successful example initited somewhere’, can trigger off its’ potential – is the wide spread conclusion that was received each time this is presented – throughout the world !!
  • All base work has been done in the Inspiration – INKEL feasibility report for Eda – kochi case study.
  • But initiating the first example is a matter of serious political will - for a sustained long period……
  • perhaps, a stable dynamic local body in Kerala can show the way – for the whole world……!!