Instant karma has emerged as the driving force behind the state's multimillion-dollar realty industry, with religious tourism turning the twin towns of Haridwar-Rishikesh into hot spots for developers, industry trackers say.
With the two holy cities being located some 200 kilometres from the national capital, Haridwar and Rishikesh are fast becoming a favourite with residents of Delhi and its adjoining areas looking for a bit of quick spiritualism.
Subsequently, these places have become almost an extension of Delhi-Gurgaon for spending the weekend.
"Most of our flats are purchased by the residents of Noida-Gurgaon who visit a couple of times in a year to get a taste of spirituality," says the manager of Gayatrilok Apartments on the Haridwar-Roorkee highway.
Today, it is not only the local developers who are reaping benefits but also big players such as Super Tech, DLF and Sahara, who have now forayed into construction of shopping malls. For instance, the Deep Ganga group of Delhi has already tapped 75 percent of projects.
Real estate major Vardhman group and velvet exporter Rishabh Veleveleen are investing Rs.4 billion to develop a new township Vardhmanpuram, which will have customised villas and interior decorations of the buyers' choice.
"Hardwar, being an important religious place on the world map, has good growth prospects. Statistical figures show that religious towns of India at large are witnessing more than 45 percent annual rise in property prices against the average 25 to 30 percent in tier-II cities," says Vardhman chairman U.C. Jain.
The township proposes to “blend” spiritual living with modern features like open-air theatres, swimming pools, spas, healthcare centres, and shopping plazas with large expanses of greens thrown in.
People at the top corporate management levels, who relocate themselves from big cities, are adding to the shortage, which is being tapped to the hilt by residents of developed neighbourhoods like Shivalik Nagar.
Says Shivalik resident K. Ghai, a retired BHEL executive: "My one-room set here fetches me more monthly rental than the one near Chandigarh, which has more covered area and is located in a newly-built township."
Development is concentrated in Haridwar and Rishikesh, as 90 percent of the state is part of the Ganges and the Grand Himalayas, and the only available land for housing and infrastructure developments is available here.
"There is a huge demand for good housing from foreigners and NRIs who wish to invest here as post-retirement options," says Manoj Gupta, a local real estate developer.
Adding to the demand are forthcoming events like the residential yoga camps and festivals by religious organisations and the Uttaranchal Tourism Board, as well as the Kumbh Mela in 2010.
Growing industrialisation, driven first by hydel projects at Tehri, Maneri and Joshimath, is now doing its bit.
The industrial development area in Haridwar has been declared an “excise free zone”, and companies like Hero Honda, Hindustan Lever, Mahindras, and ITC apart from a clutch of pharma and cosmetic companies are setting up facilities in Haridwar.
The upshot: there's going to be more shortage in Haridwar and Rishikesh. As builders say, these are “the next destination” spots.