Will high-rise buildings help India's housing problem?

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Today’s upwardly mobile live and work in high-rise buildings with terraces and balconies overlooking the cityscape. In India, the majority of such buildings are seen in the commercial capital Mumbai that is already overstretched. Talks are on about a proposed 320 m high India International Trade Center here that will have 72 floors. Hyderabad is also constructing the APIIC tower with a 100 floors. The structure is likely to be completed by 2010.

With every country in a bid to construct the tallest building in the world, NOIDA has got the government’s go-ahead to build a skyscraper with 135 floors. This is targeted to be higher than the current tallest building on the planet - Taiwan’s Taipei. The building is scheduled to open by 2013. Dubai’s 2,300 foot high Burj Dubai is also in the race to become the world’s tallest building.

The Indian economy has opened up and brought new business opportunities that have changed urban dynamics. With growing incomes, priority for comfort and convenience, and an increasing demand for lifestyle homes, it’s boom time for real estate folks. According to a Technopak study the Indian luxury market is about $ 444 million with a huge potential in the coming years. With this kind of money, there is more scope for high-rise apartments with all the amenities one could dream of.

On the downside however, imagine the lovely landscape of old monuments and manicured gardens being replaced by a cookie cutter high rise skyline. Would that ruin the charm of Indian cities? And how about the issues that come with low cost housing in high rises? Will people learn how to manage personal hygiene and keep their surroundings clean?

While high rise buildings may seem the easiest and most popular solution in the short-run, there are several long term issues we would do well to consider before hopping on the elevator to the top floor!

Would you prefer a smartly appointed apartment in a luxurious high-rise, or the laid-back charms of an independent home with a sprawling garden? Do you think high rise buildings will only ruin the little remaining charm of Indian metros?

Modern day technology does have answers to earthquake-resistant designs that protect a building in such an eventuality. But the question is how many are actually using standards? Unscrupulous builders who would rather cut corners to make an extra buck routinely flout such safety norms.