|One of the utopian type advertising posters in Lavasa, branding courtesy of Landor from what I read.|
While in India, I had an unexpected and pretty amazing opportunity to visit a city called Lavasa, situated in the Western Ghats, between Mumbai and Pune, though technically closer to Pune. I was staying with friends in Pune and friends of theirs involved with the local branch of the British Business Group were visiting Lavasa in preparation for the Christmas Gala event they were organising in the city's conference centre.
My friends in Pune had mentioned to me a new city on the way from Mumbai airport after I’d landed but I hadn’t really understood what they meant at the time. I hadn’t done any research and didn’t have any particular expectations. I was just told it was a brand new city project, initiated by an extremely wealthy building and property company, though apparently almost devoid of inhabitants.
We drove to the Ghats, a chain of old mountains reduced to almost hills running all along the Southwestern coast of India, several quite famous and popular British colonial hill stations are around there. The weather, quite clear in Pune, started clouding over as soon we arrived in the Ghats, and as we drove up in altitude we were quickly and completely in the clouds and mist. After a little over two hours of fast driving (double the speed most Indians drive at), nothing was around but a single quite recently built windy road. We finally arrived to a large portal or gate built over the road with a guardian in the front. It was raining and grey, I didn’t envy the guy's job on that day. We waited for some other people to meet us just beyond the gate and I took advantage of a lull in the rain to go to a panorama point, indicated as such by a handy sign though interestingly there wasn’t any parking space for a car to stop nearby.
|The city view in the valley from the entrance, I thought it was a just a bad day until I was told half the year was like this.|
|The mostly empty houses along the lake|
|And more houses and structures being built everywhere.|
The whole place was being drenched in downpours every few minutes while we were there. One of the employees told us this particular valley received the highest rainfall of India and it rained for 5-6 months non stop every year, often more than that.
The exhibition centre looked both brand new and overused. I supposed the wear and tear of the rain might be to blame for the sorry state of the chairs in the conference rooms.
I asked how many people actually lived in the hundreds of apartments I could see along the lake, and was told it was perhaps two hundred. I spotted less than a dozen occupied apartments from clothes drying, furniture, or curtains. I still suspect most of those are the builders who I could see working on new structures nearby. A parking lot and more apartments, apparently.
|Close up on the Lavasa International Conference Centre.|
I felt we were all listening to a talk about the beauty of the emperor’s new clothes.
As we left under more rain and grey, I couldn’t help but think of several blog posts I’d seen with photos of similar ghost towns in China, and that in the real world, building it doesn’t mean they’ll come - at all.