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Rajeev:Manifesto update : urbanisation



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[Topics under debate]: GOOD GOVERNANCE
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Here are some points raised by Bhuwan & my response ( RM ) :

... serious strain the infrastructure of big cities have to endure due
to massive influx of migrants. As a city grows it attracts people from
the villages seeking employment ...

RM ... These are text book concepts and holds true in the context of
urbanisation. There are what they call the "push" & "pull" factors.
What we need to critically look at is why this migration happens in the
firstplace. When rural areas cannot provide jobs or "satisfactorily
paid employment" there is an exodus. At times it is a transitory flux.
Between crops, labour is idle and this segment also moves into cities
to look for work. How can we address this ? 
The shanties or slums which house these migrant communities are
normally illegal. They are sustained by a nexus of politicians, land
mafia and so on. 

Cities need labour and these communities fill this niche. Unfortunately
the planners are blind to this fact and haven't accounted for this.
It's a little like the fancy apartment blocks where the architects
forgot that people use clothes and they have to be washed and dried. So
we have laundry hanging out to dry on the balconies .. !

The urban predicament is far more complex than stated by you.

I spent a year on a project " The Politics of Urban Planning " in
Mumbai. I have spent a lot of time with these migrant communities.
Their homes, though miniscule are kept incredibly clean. The filth is
on the outside, where the authorities refuse to provide basic amenities
and the system refuses to offer permanency, because there are profits
to be made from this status quo.

<< ... The fundamental problem is our total inability to understand
urbanisation ... >>

RM ... This is absolutely true, though not in the sense that you mean.
We need to examine whether massive scale is the answer, just because
they exist elsewhere. Urbanisation usually because of sheer scale, has
also resulted in the dehumanisation of mankind. Relationships are
artificial, buildings take on egoistical proportions, becoming "Trump
Towers" and so on. This scale and density also results in the
concentrated consumption of resources. Its waste and after effects are
felt far away. Power generation for example is located far away. Large
dams are an example, ( apart from ecological problems ) has often meant
displacement of ethnic communities who have typically not been
rehabilitated. They are dumped in locations that are unlivable and
forced to eke out an existence that cannot utilise their skills. Of
course we urbanites cannot fathom this and do not really care. 


[[ If it's of any worth ... From UN Habitat Best Practices Programme
for Habitat II :

... The growth of cities is the most striking result of the human
presence on Earth. Cities, with nearly half the world's population, and
on 2 per cent of the world's land surface, use over 75 per cent of the
world's resources and discharge similar amounts of wastes. They also
suffer huge internal problems of homelessness, unemployment, crime and
pollution. 

It is not surprising, then, that the world's large cities have had a
bad press in recent years. However, all over the world cities have made
huge efforts to improve living conditions and reducing environmental
impacts. These examples, collected by the UN Habitat Best Practices
Programme, indicated that a great deal of effort is being made to
improve urban social and environmental conditions. In total some 700
'best practices have been collected which are contributing to global
know-how on how to make the 'urban age' of the 21st century
sustainable. ]]

RM ... Imagine the huge costs & resources being directed to rectifying
the urban phenomenon !


<< 4) India desperately needs to urbanise. For years we have had the
luxury of having enough land and growth opportunities in our existing
major cities. This is fast disappearing and if we do not fix this
problem soon we will end up like Rio where parts of the city are
outside of government control.>>

RM ... I think what we need 'desperately' is to look anew at what the
nature of habitats should be. If we can adopt technologies that
enhances efficiency and ensures excellent reliable connectivity, the
nature of future settlements can change dramatically. Our problem
really is our inability to perceive a future from within the cliches of
the present. >>


5) A good example of Positive Urbanisation is Hong Kong which despite
its size limitations and tight density still provides all its citizens
a standard of life far superior to the Best Indian city.

RM ... What exactly is this "far superior life" Bhuwan ? Are people in
HK stress free ? Or probably they don't die ? Does it mean the numbers
of cars that they can own ? Or maybe the sft of realestate that one
owns ? Or a 40" HDTV hometheatre maybe ?

There are numerous issues that we as laymen cannot set as directions in
a manifesto that is to be looked on as guidelines. Hence the request
that before we really mass-mail it we must first send it out to
qualified people to comment on. Nothing will be the final verdict, but
at least it can be an informed opinion.

Regards

Rajeev
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