Of Badly Planned Cities (Think Chennai Floods), And How To Fix Them

Posted on May 4, 2016 in Society

By Anugraha Hadke:

High rise buildings are seen behind a slum in Mumbai April 28, 2009. REUTERS/Arko Datta (INDIA SOCIETY BUSINESS) - RTXEIGM
Source: REUTERS/Arko Datta 

It has been estimated that by 2050, nearly half of the Indian population will be living in urban areas – that is half of 1.70 billion people (the estimated population by 2050).

Living in the city seems to be the dream that many Indians are chasing. The chance of a better, more comfortable life is obviously an enticement. This is evident in the massive rural-urban migration and the impact is has had on urban infrastructure. In 2012, the government had even addressed the need to modernise these cities before they ‘implode’ under the pressure.

Recognising these challenges, the state has made efforts in speeding up the urbanisation process in the country.
Initiatives like Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM), and more recently Smart Cities Mission and AMRUT (Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation), were launched to improve quality of life in cities, and developing more cities with modern facilities.

But as we make this transition to an urban space, how do we make sure that the economic disparities glaring at us don’t become worse in the future?

How do we also make sure that all aspects of these developing spaces are in sync with each other and don’t end up marginalising any section of the society? And at the same time ensure that our already pressurised cities are equipped to handle the growth?

There are a total of 12 planned cities in the country, and they are clearly bursting at the seams. Bad urban planning was largely responsible for the devastation that floods caused in Chennai last year. The flyover that collapsed in Kolkata, claiming at least 26 lives, and bringing an entire city to a halt, is another example of how important it is to plan our cities more carefully.

Planning an urban space won’t be any good if we approach it with tunnel vision. Each aspect of a city is intricately linked with the other. If we think of developing housing, there are several aspects like water supply, electricity, garbage disposal etc. to also look at.

Holistic development needs to address economic growth, employment, social change. At the same time, it needs to deal with economic deprivation, environmental degradation, waste management, and proper utilisation of space.

The success of any initiative aimed at urban planning and development relies heavily on individuals armed with a varied set of skills, those who realise that all the elements of planning are intricately connected with each other.
Hoping to provide the future urban planners with these skill sets is a fellowship by the Indian Institute of Human Settlement (IIHS).

Launching its flagship Urban Fellows programme this year, it aims to build technical, analytical, professional and interpersonal skills that would be relevant even decades from now.

Kabir, a fellow who was enrolled in the Programme for Working Professionals in Urban Development, shares why he chose to be a part of it:

The nine-month full-time Urban Fellows Programme not only encourages comparative perspective on urban development across cities in India, it also provides a hands-on field experience that would help young graduates and professionals gain knowledge that they can apply in various fields and professions. And seeing how planning requires an interdisciplinary approach, the burden shouldn’t lie on urban planning students and professionals alone. In fact, because urban planning has not been inclusive in the past is the reason why planning has seen such let-downs. Which is why applicants from all fields, be it art, technology or science, are invited to be a part of it.

So if you are inclined to be a future change-maker, entrepreneur or thought leader, this fellowship might be right up your alley!

Last date for applications is 10th May 2016, for more details, head here.