Friday, 9 May 2014


Lastr weekend I traveled to Lavasa alongwith my family. For those who havent heard of Lavasa, its an attempt to create a town on the western ghats somewhere between Lonavala and Mahabaleshwar. Contrary to Lonavala and Mahabaleshwar which were saw organic growth as a hill station due to its proximity to Mumbai and Pune, Lavasa is being developed as a planned hill station which would have an organized town plans on the lines of the Italian town 'Portofino'

Towns and Cities in India traditionally sprung up due to trade. Be it ancient towns which fell on caravan routes or British towns which were ideally a major sea port or a major railway junction as we have seen in our earlier posts.

New Delhi was one of the earliest 20th Century settlement in India which had a planned city layout. It was then followed by Bhubaneswar, Chandigarh and Gandhinagar which were formed adjacent to business centers to serve as administrative capital of newly formed states which would suit the palette of Politicians and Babu's who found the present city too cluttered and inadequate to be state capital.

Lavasa on the other hand might have a political backup but nevertheless it is certainly not planned as an administrative center to govern a country of a state.

For scores of residents from Mumbai and Pune, Lonavala served as a hill station since the 2 cities has been linked, best visited during the monsoon season to have a feel of the western ghats when it is at its best. As its just a 2 hour drive from both Mumbai and Pune it became the port of call for couples and families alike who would instinctively decide to have an outing with no prior planning required.

More recently 'Amby Valley' was developed by the Sahara group which gave access to the High Networth Individuals of these 2 cities who found it too down market to mingle around with the bike riding crowd at the same time wanted to enjoy the easy access which Lonavala offered.

Amby valley boosted of an Air Strip which would transport you from both Mumbai and Pune airports in a matter of minutes. Houses which are available for a fortune and would be envied in the Page 3 circles of Mumbai.

Coming back to Lavasa it offers neither easy access of Lonavala nor does it have the natural charm of an hillstation like Mahabaleshwar. Not only is the entire town under construction it almost feels like a set of a studio which was been erected only to be pulled down by the next few weeks. It seemed like a un-used public urinal which has been installed by an affluent Sarpanch with his own money outside the village without taking the locals into confidence.

To build a town one needs trade. For trade to take place one needs a strategic location and incentive for traders to come and conduct commerce. With 4.5 hours drive from Mumbai its location is far from Strategic and the only people you see there conducting commerce there are those connected to the hospitality industry.

Although Lavasa might boast of recreation and water sports facility the Bird's eye view of Lavasa by a Helicopter, which was being advertised at the hotel reception had been non-functional for last 1 year. The water sports although reasonably well maintained was definitely overpriced. The virtual gaming arcade had equipment not less than 10 yr old. 'Grandmas Recepies' on waterfront served highly acidic slush and a chocolate cookie which would take 2 hands to break!

This is clearly a sign of a town failing to keep up with the expectations of visitors which came in through high expectations.

Like the tourist of this town even the service providers are temporary. With the native population completely left out of the economic activities even the manpower being brought in from outside Lavasa lacked commitment to provide good quality service.

I hope the founding fathers of Lavasa take some lessons from history and are able to establish a resident population which can connect with the city and make it their home. Only then can it be suscessful as India's 1st post-Independence Hill Station.

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