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Besu design duo ace green makeover contest

An alternative design of Surat has won a team of two fourth-year students at Bengal Engineering and Science University (Besu) the Green Design Building Competition 2012 award from the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC).

Subhodeep Maji and Anirban Maiti, students of the department of architecture, town and regional planning at the university, aced the competition by redesigning Surat in a clean and green manner.

Given the task of designing or redesigning a city in India with greener aspects, the duo chose the “diamond city” to try out their ideas and learning.

“We chose Surat because it is an unplanned city,” said Subhodeep. “The main populated area is not properly planned and there is a lot of energy loss and misuse of national services.”

Surat has the river Tapi flowing through it. The river forms a loop before flowing into the Arabian Sea. According to the planners duo, the existing human settlement has grown “haphazardly” along the riverbank but the cusp of the loop remains barren and unpopulated. Some industrial belts have developed far from the main populated centre on both banks of the river.

“There is a disconnect between the human settlement and the industrial zones,” said Subhodeep. “As a result, the industrial zones have not developed at all. There are some ONGC and L&T colonies in the zones but apart from that, the zones are barren.”

There are other things about Surat that got the duo’s creative juices flowing. “The city doesn’t have a proper road network, there is a virtually unused airport, with just two or three flights operating from it, the groundwater table is low and the river water is not used properly,” said Anirban.

So what are the main features of the prize-winning plan? It draws upon the river “to regenerate human settlement, starting from the industrial zones and later spreading through the whole city”.

The crux of the plan is to create branches of the river radially through the cusp of the river loop, said the team members. The city should have water penetration both below the ground as well as on the surface, they added. The main river, along with these artificially created radial branches, or canals, could be used for surface transport like Venice, the budding architects said.

The team was against concreting the river and canal banks to let water seep into the ground, preferring to develop them into “green” amusement parks. “Once you concrete the riverbank, the water will dry up. To sustain the canals, one has to plant trees on the banks and create micro-climate parks. Besides, tall buildings should be located as far away from the river as possible. That allows for wind circulation and sustainability of the waterways,” said Subhodeep.

Struck by the way the team used the river to redesign the city, the jury of IGBC — comprising 10 eminent city planners and architects — decided to award the first prize to them at the CII-Indian Green Building Congress 2012 held at Hyderabad recently. Anirban and Subhodeep came away with a certificate and Rs 20,000.