Cover Story

NAYA RAIPUR GREEN SMARTS

Naya Raipur is fast growing as a smart city. Yet within its hi-tech concept lies a concern for environment. Nishka Rathi delves into the green heart of this smart city.

By-TEAM URBAN VAASTU

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MENTION Chhattisgarh and the mind invariably conjures up images of dancing tribals, raw natural beauty, foaming waterfalls and a folk artist, Teejan Bai, holding a tambura in her hand while singing Pandvani in her inimitable, rustic style.
That’s Chhattisgarh for most of us. But ever since it was carved out of Madhya Pradesh on November 01, 2000 Chhattisgarh is slowly and inevitably changing.
It started with the creation of a new planned city – Naya Raipur. More than just being a planned city, Naya Raipur

is fast coming up as India’s latest smart city.

Nandanvan Jungle Safari
Naya Raipur’s Jungle Safari (JS) is path-breaking in many ways. It is believed to be Asia’s largest, planned safari
To get an idea, the world’s largest man-made safari recently opened in the UAE. It is called the Al Ain Safari and extends over 217 hectares – the size of 304 football pitches.
Naya Raipur’s Nandanvan Jungle Safari covers a greater area – more than 320 hectares.

The JS was developed to provide a unique experience in the heart of the city – an experience that takes you close to nature. It can be an ideal weekend destination, or an exciting change from everyday blues.
Keeping all factors in mind, even the site for Naya Raipur was strategically chosen to create ample green spaces as over 28% of the city is covered with ‘green belts’. The area where the JS is situated already had a natural miniature forest in place; many plantations were raised in 1980 under a social re-forestry scheme of USAID.
‘Chattan land’ or ‘moribund’ land

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was reforested. As is visible in the pictures, the trees look young. The safari stretches for miles and houses water bodies essential for animals.

Merging urban and wild
Naya Raipur is the first Indian city with a jungle safari in its midst. The idea of merging urban and wild is interesting in itself, but more than that I feel with our smart phones and tabs this idea fulfills a desperate need for the current generation – because the moment a person sees a tiger or even a deer look them back in the eye, it reveals to them their role in a greater natural world, and the inter-connectedness of all creatures.
In today’s digitized world, such encounters are getting rare, but if one such escape is just around the corner, wouldn’t you enjoy it?

The way into the proverbial lion’s den – aka the jungle safari – is quite as scenic as it faces the water zone of the Khandwa Dam. There is water on one side and barred metal gates opening to a wild world on the other – quite a spectacular setting.
Our journey starts when the heavy metal gates nestled under the gigantic forest façade of rocks and trees are pushed open with a huge bang and with that you are off – in a heavily protected vehicle. First tip: It is okay to breathe easy because the Nandanvan JS is well-equipped with safari recommended protected vehicles. It also has 20-seater open jeeps designed to keep the fear of animals at bay.
The first stop is the herbivore park, which encloses local wildlife like the barking deer, chinkara, black buck and even the endangered wild buffalo of Chhattisgarh, which is the state animal and is locally known as ‘ban bhainsa’.

It is similar to a bison in appearance but of course, it is completely a different species and is believed to be the predecessor of our current domestic buffaloes.
To my delight, the tiger safari easily yielded a truly majestic sight – a lounging tiger in the open.
Recently, three tiger cubs were released at the JS for public viewing. They were born there in June, 2017. Kishori is the mother and Shivaji, the father.
The healthy cubs are now nine months old and are the size of a leopard. Looking out the windows of the tour vehicle, seeing only wild at the animals lazing among the grass and trees, it is easy to forget that this is in the heart of a modern city.

Breeding animals
Arun Tiwari, the Assistant Director of JS says most of the animals are breeding and this is a sign that they have accepted the area as their home.

To be honest, before entering the area I was a little concerned about what to expect from such a man-made open enclosure and the irrelevance of breeding wild animals in captivity.
To assuage my concerns, I even spoke to a wildlife biologist, Anand Pendharkar of the Sprouts Environment Trust and what he said actually took me aback.
He actually defended the need for zoos and enclosed areas for wild animals, “because these enclosed areas serve to educate the public, and are important rescue and conservation centres.”
According to him, animals live longer here than in the wild and now that the wild areas are fast depleting, the need for such spaces is paramount. “Such spaces,” he adds, “are important if they are used to educate and sensitise. They are not only recreation centres and should not be treated as such. Proper interpretation areas that show movies, documentaries and educational clips on the animals are

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an integral part of good zoo and safari experiences as they help people learn and understand nature.”
So, zoos and enclosed spaces for animals are actually good?
“Yes”, laughs Anand, “and real animal conservationists know that.”

ANIMAL Zones
JS is divided into four zones. The initial plan to shift the zoo animals here is still under progress as around 37 enclosures are being built to house various species of animals including leopards and crocodiles. The officials are also creating specific areas for parks for birds, butterflies and snakes.
One may notice that JS is still in a nascent stage but many big plans are underway including an open-air theatre to air wild-life documentaries and videos, and interpretation centres to help people reach a better understanding of animals and their habitat.
Speaking to Tiwari, I realised that the most important consideration for JS is the space and location. The officials wanted to make sure the animals get ample space to roam around. Hence, the area had to resemble their natural habitat. Experts on animal behaviour and natural habitats were engaged to help in the creation.
Another important part of the planning for a safari is to have adequate animal care facilities in place. Around 166 personnel including officials, doctors, zoo-keeper, guards, diet experts for animals, gardeners, trained guides and other staff are employed.

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Al Ain Safari
It nestles between the imposing Jebel Hafeet, and the rugged Hajar mountains in the UAE. On April 20, 2016 the first section of the Al Ain Safari – the African safari – was opened.
It is home to a diverse range of native African animals and plant species including the white rhino, giraffe and the African lion.Among the animals in the safari are some that are critically endangered or extinct in the wild, such as the scimitar oryx and the addax.
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“Animals in such enclosed areas suffer from fewer injuries and heal faster because of the sheer amount of care offered to them,” adds Pendharkar.

Training workshops
Animal sensitisation and training is an important part of training for the employees and the authorities ensure workshops for the personnel on a regular basis.
Many animals have been brought here from different sanctuaries, and the transition was a task that required utmost attention of experts to ensure their convenience and safety.
Tiwari iterated that keeping in mind the urban area surrounding JS, a high boundary wall has been constructed and proper fencing has also been done to ensure safety of the people and the animals as well.
“One of the first issues we faced were linked to land acquisition,” says Tiwari. “We had to overcome litigation over land to enclose this area. Everything here has been created by us. Even the water bodies are man-made. S.K. Patnaik, a retired IFS officer of the Odisha cadre, has helped and guided us immensely with his knowledge and experience.”
A smart city is expected to grow, and Naya Raipur with its abundance of ‘mixed-income and mixed-utility’ properties is bound to house a growing population in the years to come.

The planners know this and are prepared with residential, transport and other utility services to cater to the needs of its residents and businesses.
Nanadanvan JS will surely benefit them by proving them with an exciting experience and a new tourist destination. As a planned appendage to smart city, it further exemplifies the notion of a city which has smart services, world class infrastructure and yet prioritises greenery for providing citizens with a clean and healthy environment and a wholesome experience.
The JS has already garnered a lot of interest within planning committees. Tiwari revealed that senior officials of different states frequently visit to study the master plan.“ I can proudly state that the JS is a model for the entire country.”

Botanical park
A botanical park has been planned within the confines of the JS.
Right now it is in the planning stage and a few saplings are visible; but soon it will house a verdant and diverse forest within itself.
J N Tiwari, the Ranger at JS, explained the vision for the botanical park. It covers 136 acres and will showcase all important plants of central India and will also have an area dedicated to medicinal plants of Chhattisgarh. We have a hi-tech nursery too,” he added.

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A hi-tech nursery develops nursery vegetation using various unconventional methods like vegetative propagation, tissue culture, clonal multiplication and seed germination.

Adventure sport
Naya Raipur also has plans to provide an adventure park. At present, it has a four-km cycling track, facilities for Kayaking, a Burma bridge and a two-km skating track. But there is more in the offing with a jeep line, sky ride, zorbing ball, archery, all-terrain vehicle ride, hanging bridge, bungee trampoline and parasailing planned in the future. Naya Raipur could soon emerge as a new adventure sports destination.
Sendhlake is rated the most serene place in Naya Raipur especially around sunset when street lights shine bright and the road around the lake rings it in a glowing halo. It’s almost magical.
But in the future, it will be buzzing with water sports activities within its confines and adventure sports outside.

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Near the botanical garden is Purkhauti Muktangan, an open museum developed by the Chhattisgarh Department of Culture. It was built to showcase natural resources, culture, local industries and tourist places.
Purkhauti means “of or related to our ancestors” and Muktangan means “courtyard,” according to the guide. Hence, it means a veritable courtyard of our ancestors.
What does one wish to see when one visits Chhattisgarh? For many avid travellers, it is a place to acquaint oneself with the tribal way of life. The interconnectedness of tribal

Tips for a safe Jungle Safari
Does the idea of an animal safari excite you, yet fills you with a slight dread? It’s all those videos about safaris that went wrong that you watched, right? But don’t worry – follow these easy tips next time you visit Nandanvan Jungle Safari and enjoy wild nature within city limits.
◊ Don’t listen to loud music either on mobile or in the vehicle
◊ Don’t walk out of the vehicle to take a picture or pose for a selfie
◊ Get down only at the authorised places
◊ Don’t try to feed or pet any animals
◊ Don’t shout at the animals to get their attention
◊ Don’t throw any objects at them
◊ This is your time with Nature…enjoy it to the fullest.
Highly recommended: switch off your mobile and switch on your senses to the wonder around you.
Interesting facts about Nandanvan Jungle Safari
◊ It is believed to be Asia’s biggest man-made safari
◊ It has four zones:Herbivore, Bear, Tiger and Lion
◊ It also has a bio-diversity park
◊ Butterfly, snake and bird parks are also planned
◊ On an average, it gets 700-800 visitors everyday
◊ ‘Safari Ride’ and boating are the two activities that visitors can enjoy in this verdant jungle
The idea behind the Safari
Arun Tiwari, the assistant director of NandanvanJungle Safari, elaborated on how the idea of a JS in an urban area came about. Raipur has a small zoo called Nandanvan, which operates in a small 60-acre area. Nandanvan started as a rescue centre in 1980.
By 2000 the number of animals had increased considerably but the authorities couldn’t extend the area of the zoo as it was surrounded by private land. Then, the new capital was planned and the officials realised that this was a golden opportunity to shift and expand the zoo.
This was how the idea for the Nandanvan jungle Safari came about. “The aim,” says Tiwari, “is to create a self-sustained institute for wildlife conservation.”
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life and nature is one of the biggest attractions for people looking for a solution to todays disenchanted way of life.
When you visit Purkhauti Muktangan you get a quick, sneak peek into that life. And for my time constrained travel it’s the perfect ‘tribal time capsule’. I didn’t need to visit the interior areas of Bastar or Sarguja for more.
Of course, like many things in Naya Raipur, this too is a work-in-progress but it’s still wonderfully educative.Menacing tribal warriors with horned turbans, dancing earthen toned women and drums of different shapes and sizes held by many statues in different actions atop a human pyramid, denoting celebration and dance in wooden stilts – it seemed that the drum was merged in its culture.Everything was colourful, with boundary walls dripped bright with rich colours and tribal patterns. They have unique storytelling walls as well.
Key archaeological sites and masterpieces have also been re-created through life-size models in the park like the temple of Bhoram Dev.
One may also find models of state tourism sites such as Chitrakote of Bastar, Mata Danteshwari temple in Dantewada, Jagdalpur forest sites and folk-dance models there.
The tribes are depicted as dioramas showing their typical dances in their traditional attires. A section of the park depicts tribal jewellery with walls pasted with huge earrings, bangles dotting the green grass. It was truly a moment given to Bollywood.
With its huge sculptures and facades, Purkhauti Muktangan also reminded me of a lavish movie set and the guide confirmed it; many regional movies are shot in this extravagant setting.
A brilliant concept of a clay cut is one of my favourite takeaways of Purkhauti Muktangan and it seemed many others shared this view. Many families had come to enjoy the scenic beauty of this place and followed the time tested Indian tradition of making a tasty picnic out of it.
Naya Raipur has created yet another place for people to converge and converse on things beyond work and weather. Keeping the rich history and art of the region in mind Purkhauti Muktangan is a definite step towards conserving the unique art of the region and giving it a strong voice.

Key archaeological sites and masterpieces have also been re-created through lifesize models in the park like the temple of Bhoram Dev

Why is Naya Raipur called a Green and Smart City?
Along with the safari and green belts Naya Raipur also has many green ideas embedded in its motherboard. Ideas like:
Zero-water discharge zone
The future city of Raipur has a brilliant facility of recycling sewage water and utilising it later for other purposes. In this way, the city uses water productively and never faces scarcity of its resources.
Eco-friendly city
The green and smart city has a vibrant heart and stunning infrastructure with more than 5 lakh trees. According to estimates it contributes to 27% of India’s greenery
Eco-diverse city
The city with its jungle safari and (planned) botanical garden makes great contribution to country’s rich flora and fauna. It’s an ideal destination for wild-life lovers
World’s fourth largest stadium
The second largest cricket stadium after Eden Garden in Kolkata and fourth-largest in the world, the Shaheed Veer Narayan Singh International Cricket Stadium in Naya Raipur has a seating capacity of 65,000. It was inaugurated in 2008
Adopt a zoo animal
England’s star cricketer Kevin Pietersen has set up an organisation named ‘Saroi’, for the protection and conservation of rare and extinct wild animals.
Recently he adopted a leopard cub from the Nanandanvan zoo. This move re-energised the trend of adopting zoo animals among youngsters and wildlife conservationists.
Animals like the leopard, sambar deer, hippopotamus and tiger and along with rare species of birds are kept in the zoo. Adoption means that the person will invest in their medical care and feeding.
The authorities have worked out the daily feed expenses for each animal.
The programme creates awareness and also helps develop compassion and bonding between humans and wildlife.
This programme has evolved into an effective revenue model to help maintenance of the zoo.
“I’ve adopted this little orphaned leopard in Raipur,” said Pietersen. “The opportunity came up a couple of weeks ago, when I saw 40 leopards were killed in January in India, a third by poachers, I decided to try and help.”
He also expressed his desire to support the conservation of the rare wild buffalo and the bird ‘hill myna’ found in Chhattisgarh. A rare bird species, the hill myna can mimic the spoken language.
Bio-diverse flora
Naya Raipur’s botanical garden promises to create a wealth of bio-diverse flora and medicinal plants.Cultivation will be done throughout the year and the nursery plans to create a poly house, mist chamber and a net shade.They also have a bamboo garden with 115 varieties of bamboo
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Art in a prison
This awe-inspiring story has to be told. Sonabai Rajawar, an illiterate village girl was married at a tender age. Her husband was 10 years her senior. He was of a despotic disposition and kept her locked in the house. She was not allowed to meet or talk to anyone else other than him.
Then 10 years later a son was born to her. Now, she and her son lived together, cut off from everyone else. Out of desperation she started creating clay toys for her child and painted them in vivid colours from her home kitchen. Soon, she couldn’t stop creating.
She created pale lattice jaalis in windows and decorated them with brightly painted birds and animals or moulded characters from folk tales. She moulded winding snakes in the jaali, perched emerald green parrots in some nook, made playful monkeys dangle from tress, all with a definite eye of beauty.
She even made her own brushes and created sculptures in a broad variety of colours. Bit by bit, she transformed her entire house: with sculpted jaalis between columns, brightly painted figures and textured mud walls.
Her art form was discovered by villagers when her husband reduced his vigil and with time word of her amazing skills reached prominent artists and collectors. Soon she was whisked away to international exhibitions and there she again re-created her art for admirers.
Through those years of seclusion, she built an enduringly beautiful art form –Surguji.
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The Green Smart City
Naya Raipur is not only engineered to hold buildings, but also to preserve culture and environment. With its unique combination of ‘green smarts’ it looks poised to a great beginning as India’s first Smart City.
In our next edition, we plan to look at the ‘smart IQ’ of Naya Raipur and see how it is information technology as the principal infrastructure and the basis for providing essential services to residents. But for now, I was happy exploring the green heart of this smart city.

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