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Oasis beyond the concrete jungle

mumbai Updated: Jun 24, 2011 00:52 IST
Naresh Kamath
Naresh Kamath
Hindustan Times
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Sunder Anant Palan, 63, says the best decision he ever made was to shift to Asangaon from Thane, where he lived for three decades.

“There is peace and tranquility in Asangaon, unlike in Thane, where chaos rules,” said Palan.

Located on the banks of the Bhatsa river, Asangaon may seem like a weekend getaway, but the picturesque town, in fact, the entire Vasind-Asangaon belt in Thane district is seeing a gradual influx of residents from both Thane and Mumbai.

Three factors are drawing the middle-class to these areas: Affordability, pollution-free environment and good connectivity. In response, developers, both small and big, have started launching projects here.

Currently, real estate rates are between Rs 1,500 and Rs 2,700 per sq ft.

“People can get bigger houses at affordable rates and it’s a good neighbourhood,” said Brotin Banerjee, chief executive officer (CEO), Tata Housing, which is building an integrated township of 2,500 houses complete with a healthcare centre, mall, multiplex and clubhouse on 65 acres of land.

The Shahpur Infrastructural Development Pvt. Ltd. is constructing 1,200 to 1,500 houses on 45 acres, while the Sanghvi Builders is building 700 flats on a nine-acre plot in Asangaon.

“This belt is seeing a lot of developmental activity as big players are entering this market in a big way,” said Suryakant Nimse, 48, a real estate consultant who has lived in Vasind for three decades.

Connectivity to Mumbai and Thane is making the big difference, say real estate experts. Both Vasind and Asangaon are suburban railway stations on the central line on the Kasara route, and you get direct trains from CST, Dadar and Thane. For those who are game to some more commute, the two towns have affordable options.

Asangaon, which is home to the famous Jain temple Manas Mandir, also boasts of a plastic manufacturing zone that has around 250 small-scale units, offering employment to many people.

The textile town of Bhiwandi, which has the largest number of power looms in the country, is just 30 kilometres from the Vasind-Asangaon belt. “Many workers from there are buying properties in this belt because the highway is in good condition now,” said Narendra Patil, a teacher with Saraswati Vidya Mandir, Vasind. “I have never before seen such a fast pace of development in the 20 years that I have lived here.”

The Vasind-Asangaon belt is a developing corridor on the Mumbai-Nashik highway, which is currently being expanded to four lanes.

Tarun Vyas, a developer, agrees with Patil. “The last three years have changed the face of this area; we see a lot of activity here,” he said.

The rapid development, however, has made many town planners nervous. VK Pathak, former chief town planner, Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA), is unhappy that “development has overtaken planning”. “There is a need to provide holistic planning for emerging townships,” said Pathak. “We also need to give priority to public transport such as buses and metros.”

“Our main concern is that the place should not become a concrete jungle,” said Stantaram Gawari, president of Durvankar, an NGO that has been taking up social causes in the area. “We are also worried that infrastructure such as roads and drainage lines will not be able to take the pressure of development.”

The two towns have got many things going for them, and if town-planning authorities anticipate the growth and start putting the required infrastructure in place right now, the Vasind-Asangaon belt can develop into a beautiful residential hub for the middle-class.