Singapore Doesn't Want More Cars And Here's What India Needs To Learn
In 2015, India had set a new record in car sales with more than two million cars that made way on to the roads. Meanwhile, in Singapore, the total number of cars stood at 5,85,384 only, a number which in 2013 was 6,07,292. Singapore's readiness to control the rise in the number of cars has received as much appreciation as criticism from world over.
As per the Land Transport Authority (LTA) in Singapore, public transport has been growing by the day and stands at 66 per cent. The focus of the government is to make such transport convenient and popular so as to render the country fit to maintain a population of 6.5-6.9 million by 2030, as put out by a government white paper. To this end, point-to-point commute, carpooling and a need to set aside 3,000 car parking areas has also been realised. India has a lot to learn from Singapore.
Singapore pioneered, what economists call, 'congestion pricing'. Those driving into the central business districts during peak hour were charged. What's more, there is a limit to the number of new registered vehicles and the authorities also plan to have satellite-linked devices that can calculate distances and hence, facilitate in adjusting tolls at a given place and time.
Given India's population of 1.25 billion as against Singapore's 5.4 million, perhaps it may not be easy replicating the success saga. However, it would be interesting to note that when Singapore separated from Malaysia in 1965, the former had no natural resources left for itself. You can say that Singapore was built from scratch and now it has surpassed most other countries in terms of its urban planning. Comparatively, India has a wealth of natural resources and there needs to be a better way to put it to use.
Here are some takeaways from Singapore:
Self-sufficient residential centres
What developers and urban planners have been talking about these days have been very much the essence of the Singaporean living. Walk-to-work concept or for that matter, walking for all your needs is encouraged in the country. The Housing Development Board (HDB) heartlands have ensured that you get hold everything that is required on a daily basis, very close at hand. This cuts down the chance of having to go far, burning fuel and polluting the environment and at the same time saving your time. Noted town planner, A K Jain, has often maintained that planning should be done in a way that homes are near workspaces and there is no unnecessary burden on infrastructural resources.
Moreover, the HDB units are also affordable. As per the board, first time buyers “used less than a quarter of their monthly income on an average to pay for their housing loans, below international affordability benchmarks of 30-35 per cent.” There are exceptions, too.
Both India and Singapore have similar problems in this regard. While the population size is small in Singapore, the country's land coverage is small, too. On the other hand, India has a vast land but its population is a pressure on the country. Therefore, both countries need to optimise land usage at the same time. Highrises in Singapore are separated by lowrises. This makes cities look less dense and spacious. Rather than making it a concrete jungle, it is also covered with greens, sticking to the theme of green living while also making the area livable and pleasant to look at. Not only this, there are parks close to all the housing societies.
The Floor Area Ratio or FAR in Singapore is 2.8 and up to 36 storeys. In India, the FAR of 2 is rare which has been a cause of discontentment among many developers who feel this is the only way to help them achieve housing for all by 2022.
Also Read: How Singapore Overcame Its Land Shortage
Decentralising central business districts
Much of the problem in India can be traced to concentration of economic activities in one centre. Wherever this centre moves, housing and commerce follow leading to an inequitable distribution of jobs and commercial activities. This in turn leads to pressure on land and consequently prices. Hence, only certain hotbeds in India command exorbitant prices. For example, per sq ft value in Bandra near Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC) can go up to Rs 45,000. Hence, a 1BHK apartment can even cost you more than Rs 1 crore. Therefore, prospective investors start looking at cheaper, healthier alternatives that have a potential to develop. Hence, jobs moved to Lower Parel, to Navi Mumbai and now even to the micro-market of Thane. However, wherever the jobs moved, prices rose, too. This is because there was undue advantage that these specific areas got in terms of roadways, infrastructure, malls and a quicker access to lifestyle amenities. In Singapore, emphasis has been laid to create more job driving centres and new centres such as Jurong and Woodlands are coming up.
Planning the future in advance
No country should overlook need for new infrastructure that may arise anytime in the future. The LTA in Singapore reserves strategic portion of land to construct new infrastructure. This also helps to keep project delays due to land acquisition at bay. The master plans are extracted out of the Concept Plan that charts development over a period of more than 40 years and this aids in the planning over the next 10 years. Meanwhile, feedback from citizens and government agencies is also sought to keep in tune with the needs of the people and their future.