Davos, a Swiss ski-resort town with a population of just over 11,000 people, is known for hosting the World Economic Forum (WEF), an annual gathering of world leaders and global business titans. It also might turn out to be the model for a new town in India.
Nitin Gadkari, India’s road transport minister and an attendee at this year’s WEF, says his visit has inspired an idea for a similar destination in the Himalayas.
“After coming to Davos, I felt why can’t we develop a township like this in that area, where people will come in sub-zero temperatures and which will have hotels and tourism facilities…,” Gadkari, a former head of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), told Indian press in an interview at Davos. “A city like Davos in India would give a big boost to tourism, development, jobs and overall economy, while the number of people traveling to holy places in that region will also increase manifold and also increase the faith in our own culture.”
The Himalayas are home to a number of towns that are considered holy by Hindus. The Narendra Modi government is building 1,000 kilometers of all-weather roads to four of them—Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri, and Yamunotri—at a cost of Rs 12,000 crore ($1.76 billion). Gadkari said that his government also is building roads in the hill town of Pittoragarh, in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand.
“We are capable of creating Taj Mahal even in a desert,” said Gadkari, who is widely acknowledged as one of the better performing ministers in prime minister Modi’s cabinet. “It needs a vision, [a] fast-track decision-making process, transparency, and [a] corruption-free system. Another important thing is the commitment to the society and the country, and my country also needs something like this.”
Gadkari’s proposal also comes at a time when India is in the process of converting many of its urban centers into smart cities.
Over the next six years, India plans to transform 98 such cities and towns—which account for 35% of India’s urban population—at a cost of Rs50,802 crore ($7.5 billion). The goal in each case is an adequate supply of water, electricity, sanitation, solid-waste management, and affordable housing. The first few include the eastern Indian city of Bhubaneswar, the IT hubs of Pune and Chennai, and the western coastal cities of Mumbai and Kochi.
However, many Indian cities are still struggling with a lack of even the basic infrastructure. Even the biggest of cities are plagued by frequent traffic snarls, clogged drains, and frequent flooding, and acute air pollution has created a serious public health crisis in many urban centers.
It’s enough to make a remote hillside town sound all the more appealing.