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Showing posts with the label Cities and Urbanization

Cities, Planning and freedom!

 As I glanced through this article on my newsfeed, the picture caught my eye - so elegant, so mesmerising and so neat! Wow! What a view of Paris - the city of Love. Compare this image of Paris to any Indian city and the Indian city will look ugly, disorganized and pitiful - you'd probably use these images to label cities as First World and Third World countries.  But scratch under the surface of your reactionary thoughts, you will realise that the pictures reveal a very different story. Paris or for that matter any city which looks well organized are usually a result of one regime, one ruler being dominant at the time of development of the city - such that the ruler could convert huge swathes of land from private ownership to state ownership, and then develop them into planned cities. A chaotic disorganized city, on the other hand, is a result of common people having exercised their individual rights, their ingenuity, their individual personas, their likes, dislikes to create a ch

Is Humanity Diverging into two civilizations?

v/s I've written earlier about my musings on Clustered cities vs Suburban Sprawls being the two contrasting futures mankind stares at. I concluded in the 3 part series that the future of humanity, at least until the developing world gets to a median level of development, will be to be present in clustered cities. The other alternative which I envisaged for the longer term was to set up a colony on Mars. However, since then we've had many developments and Covid-19 impacting the whole world. While Covid-19 has been devastating on economies across the globe, its impact on climate has been benign  - fall in economic frenzy has only led to a reduction in carbon emissions, a civilizational realization about the value of boosting natural human immunity and end to wasteful ways of living .  The other side of Covid-19 is the realization that the pandemic is also an impact of human activities much like climate change itself. And as Covid-19 rages on forcing people t

Contrasting futures - the suburb vs. the city (Part III)

Those of you who read these posts [ Part I Part II ] know that my worldview of ecologically sustainable living, has, over the years veered towards cluster based human settlement – large metropolises or cities with shared infrastructure which reduces the ecological cost of living and that recent technological breakthroughs in Solar power, off-grid power storage, biodegradable materials etc have created a window for suburban sprawls also be become ecologically efficient lifestyles. But as we concluded in the previous post of this series, the biggest stumbling block in making suburban life sustainable is the real estate overhead claimed by it. Suburban sprawls, however energy efficient, do consume much larger space per-capita leaving less land available for food and related needs to serve the ever-burgeoning population of the world. The matter is further complicated by the rapid upward economic mobility of large populations in Asia and Africa. I wrote about two routes to manage

Contrasting futures - the suburb vs. the city (Part II)

Tesla Solar Roof Continued from here . As explained in my previous post, scientific research proves that cities are more sustainable for mankind to live - the characteristic compactness of cities, for example, lessens the pressure on ecological systems and enables resource consumption to be more efficient [ 1 ]. This assumes that cities will be built to sustain the population load they bear through appropriate infrastructure including public transport, sewerage / eco-efficient waste disposal, provision of parks or other recreational habitats etc. If one observes the ‘ecological cost’ of human living there are 4 direct costs: Food production and transport Waste & Sewage management and processing  Human commute and communications  Real estate needed for stay, recreation and occupational needs (incl. education and administration) Energy is a common cost underlying all four above costs in addition to other ecological costs they impose. Of course, these costs are dire

Contrasting futures - the suburb vs. the city

I grew up in a typical suburban home, single storied, lush garden around it. Whether it was the nostalgia of living that life or observation of lower cost of living in a small city, till recently I used to idolise that life, yearned to go back to it - until I started my research into sustainable living! Until I started researching on what "sustainable" living is, I used to assume that since the cost of living in a small city is lower, hence lifestyle there is less wasteful. And on the surface, it indeed was so in India, until a few years back. Until 2010s, most small cities did not have huge malls - the usual evening hangout would be a park or a single screen theatre; roads were much less crowded and small cars would outnumber guzzlers (SUVs) by a quadruple if not more; people bought fruits & vegetables from small shops who'd get supplied by local farmers. Metros or big cities, in contrast, had big malls, roads were clogged - one wasted more fuel idling at the

Game Changer Part 2 - How to restart maintenance of state owned Sports facilities

Continued from here Sadly, with what I witnessed in the decay of the Sports facility is an indication that we have not only lost the infrastructure, but also lost the spirit. The fall of PSU towns like Bhilai, Bhopal, Rourkela and rise of IT towns like Bangalore, Pune, Hyderabad has led to a breakdown of the self-contained ecosystem of work and life which was built in these towns - and fall of Sporting facilities and Sporting spirit is a collateral victim of this tectonic shift in lifestyles.  This is actually quite ironical given that the newfangled IT crowd happily pays tens of thousands every quarter even to gyms housed in a 2 BHK apartments and would also possibly pay similar sums for Sports facilities of the scale of the BHEL Sports Complex. In fact, Bhopal city itself which has grown all round the BHEL Township, would have people who would be ready to pay for membership in the Sports complex if  it was maintained properly. There are several of these medium and super-ric

Game Changer - Why SAI needs to become a marketing organization

This interview with Sports Authority of India Director General - Jiji Thomson - highlights almost everything that is wrong with the Sports administration in India. Thankfully, Thomson seems to be aware of all the lacunae himself and is taking on each issue head-on; and while it seems that the new government at the Center is being more proactive, he still needs more executive support. I want to relate my personal experience in this regard. I am not a sports person - so much so that I have never enjoyed playing any sport (with exception of swimming perhaps) - in fact I don't enjoy watching sports as well. However, being brought up in a PSU township at BHEL Bhopal, I had the privilege of enjoying some of the best sporting facilities then available in India. So, even a non-enthusiast like me spent a lot of time playing badminton in a professional covered court, football in a well organized ground (unlike the uneven patches most people get to play in) and had my tryst with learnin

The futility of struggles in Mumbai

I live in Mumbai and while it has become routine for people to sing praises of the city, idolize the 'struggles' they face here, there are   some people , who see the naked thruth through the Stockholm Syndromed reactions of ' Mumbaikars ', and talk sense! Today I plan to add my take to this line of thought. I live in Powai, specifically in the Hiranandani locality of Powai - probably one of the most urbane spaces developed in Mumbai - paved streets, proper footpaths, angled / curved turns etc. Traffic flow has been planned to be regulated well; even then every morning between 8:15am and 8:30am, there is a cacophony of cars honking their way on the road beside my apartment. The reason is that there's a school in the alley behind my house and since it starts at 8:30am, cars of parents who have come to drop their wards occupy one lane of slow moving traffic. I am sure there are several commuters who pass this point every day at this hour and get stuck in this

How to solve the distracted driving problem
Is talking on the phone while driving illegal? [Part II]

Photo Credits: Flickr user Lord Jim Humans are cognitive beings, we instinctively get attracted to actions which involve thinking, perception and interaction with others. And the  crucial difference between human cognition and that of other species is the ability to participate with others in collaborative activities with shared goals [Michael Tomasello, Malinda Carpenter, Josep Call, Tanya Behne, and Henrike Moll (2005),  Understanding and sharing intentions: The origins of cultural cognition ]. Hence, as I argued in the first part of this post  - given a chance, any human will prefer talking and interacting with others, even if it means talking or texting on the phone while driving! Making laws declaring mobile phone usage illegal is probably the easiest but the most difficult to implement solution to this problem. The solution lies in using technology to circumvent the problem. Humans today do not engage in several non-productive tasks such as those involving physical labou

Is talking on the phone while driving illegal? [Part I]

Photo Credits: Flickr user  OregonDOT Short Answer: Yes . Long Answer - read below . Depending upon which source you trust [ 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 ] - anything between 88 to 30 percent of people admit to using mobile phones (talking, texting and using apps) while driving. Several cars (even those not so pricey) available now integrate your mobile phone with the car stereo systems acknowledging that usage of mobile phone while driving is not just acceptable but also to be encouraged and aided with technology. Given these stats, is it really worth having laws which prohibit mobile phone usage while driving? These laws are similar to the sermons of the 16th century Church which decreed the Copernicus system of astronomy to be false. I remember one of my maternal grandfathers telling me that is mother never allowed him to ride a moped or a scooter in his youth because she was afraid of accidents. (Ironically, he got injured on the road was when someone else hit him while he was walki

Lavasa - for luxury or productivity?

Couple of weekend's ago I visited Lavasa  - build about 50 kms away from Pune in the Sahyadri range of hills; its a good attempt to create a Dalhousie or Mussourie equivalent for Western India. While the weather conditions in Western India do not give you the luxury of creating a 'cool' hill station - it sure isn't a bad place to spend a weekend lounging and relaxing. However, as I read through some pamphlets which we got during our trip and researched a little more on its concept - I was intrigued by the tall statement made by Lavasa Corporation which claims that "Lavasa is envisioned to be a more liveable city of the future where residents can live, work, learn and play in harmony with nature ". While I could fathom the live, learn and play - the 'work' aspect didn't quite convince me. My wife suggested that the 'work' aspect probably relates to the workers in hotels, resorsts, hospitals and schools located in Lavasa; but when I dug

Thoughts on a Sojourn - Part II

Continued from here . I did whirlwind tours of Bangalore and Chennai in December, went to Singapore to celebrate our first wedding anniversary and then to Ratlam to attend a wedding. Singapore deserves a separate post, but here are my thoughts on Bangalore, Chennai and sleepy Ratlam. Bangalore Bangalore is fast changing, my last lengthy visit to the city was in 2006 - in 4 years Bangalore has changed - the metro track running all along MG Road has changed the way the city center looks now. I could not recognize the square which I so often roamed around last time, until I noticed that the mall on the corner had 'Forum' written on it. Nice to see that the Bangalore metro quietly seems to be moving faster than its much publicised contemporary the Mumbai Metro.  And the 9km flyover that connects Electronic City to the city is an absolute charm - travel which used to take 2 hours can now be zipped in a cool 25 minutes! There are some things that still haven't changed or

Thoughts on a Sojourn

I have been busy off late and here's why - for Diwali we (me & my wife) went to Vadodara and drove to Bhopal with my parents and brother, the last 2 days of Diwali were spent at Indore; on my return to Mumbai I made a trip to Shirdi and office work made me travel to Bangalore - Chennai lined up next. Posted below are my thoughts from my sojourns: I have posted similar thoughts earlier under the same title. You can read them here . This time, I plan to restrict my post to a reality-check and not suggest any solutions. Gujarat Narendra Modi has been hailed for his development model across the country and rightly so - Gujarat boasts of fantastic infrastructure - urban or rural. From Expresshighways between major cities to BRT in Ahmedabad or roads in smallest of villages - Gujarat's prosperity is quite evident. This also manifests from the habits of Gujarat's rural folk who prefer commuting to cities on a daily basis than emigrating to them. What I am not sure is that i

India Urbanising: A different Perspective (Part III)

Continued from Part II Having said that India needs to extend the reach of urban amenities like roads, electricity, cooking gas, safe drinking water (and education and internet) to the countryside, there is one major cog missing in the wheel – the pull for the above amenities in rural India. The need for high quality infrastructure in cities gets created by higher productivity and resultant income levels, the same applies to villages as well. In most western nations where villages too have a much better standard of living are those where people in villages have earnings comparable to their city counterparts. In the west the low population density necessitated high productivity in rural activities such as farming or animal husbandry. Thus as an outcome farms were mechanized and villages developed. However, this is not true of a high population density country like India – even today employing 10 labourers in the farm is cheaper than buying a mere tractor. Farmland in India is e

India Urbanising: A different Perspective (Part II)

Continued from Part I ' Mamata wants to turn Kolkata into London ' - screamed the headline on rediff.com some days ago. Turning Kolkata into London is definitely a worthy goal - London is one of the most livable cities in the world. However, while the creation of (present day) London was in itself challenging, doing the same in India is even more challenging. Let’s investigate Indian urbanization strategy in a more logical manner by identifying the challenges which India faces today. India’s urbanization effort is challenged by 3 obstacles: A unique combination of large population with high population density never before encountered (in the parts of the world which have been fully urbanized) An existing landscape formed during different periods of history Large sections of populations who have never been exposed to an urban landscape Lack of existing institutions Of these only the last one had been encountered in countries which have previously attempted urbanization, and t

India Urbanising: A different Perspective

I recently went on a religious tour to Tulzapur via Solapur and then to our ancestral temple in Narsinghpur, near Pune. On way I also visited our ancestral village Indapur 150 kms from Pune. While old Indapur still remains a village with roads just about wide to allow cycle rickshaws run through them, I was astounded to see the newly developed areas of Indapur which were no less than private colonies in Teir 2/3 cities in India. Having read Mckinsey’s India urbanization report just a day before my travel, Indapur’s development opened a new chain of thoughts in my mind. Most urbanization studies about the developing world relate to urbanization as development of new cities or improvement of urban infrastructure (like mass transit, arterial roads, flyovers etc) in existing cities. For example McKinsey’s recent research titled “India’s urban awakening: Building inclusive cities, sustaining economic growth” [ 1 ] highlights the need for India to develop 19 clusters of cities (Page 150);

Urban Slums in Developing World

... continued from here . Taking India as the case in point - how did slums in Indian cities come about?  When the British marched into India they were unaware to the way villages functioned in India. This was because by the 18th century Industrialization had kicked in Britain and the city was the center of development - unlike India where villages played a big role in polity and economy - especially due to a strong self regulation and governance system.  In Britian due to the fast industrializing society, the city was where the seat of the kingdom lay and which controlled governing structures. In contrast, cities in India were mere 'centres of trade' meant to facilitate trade between the several villages which surrounded it. In absence of this understanding – the British  assumed  (mistakenly) that India lacked cities and so it lacked development. So what did they do – they killed the village’s internal economy by forcing cash crops like Indigo and Cotton which were compl

द्रुतगामिनी Railroad - Update

I wrote about an idea of a high-speed railway service for India which I christened द्रुतगामिनी Railroad . Indian Railways is now planning a small pilot in a similar direction - a bullet train connecting Ahmedabad, Mumbai and Pune [ HT reports ]. Inspired by China’s plans to develop the world’s fastest bullet train, the Indian Railways has taken the first step to construct high-speed corridors on the Pune. Mumbai-Ahmedabad route for bullet trains running at speeds between 300 km and 350 km per hour .. it could mean the 93-km Mumbal-Pune stretch could be done in 20 minutes. The fastest train on this route, Deccan Queen. presently takes 3 hours 15 minutes.  Similarly, 444 km between Miunbai and Ahmedabad could be travelled in 120 minutes. The fastest train on this route, Shatabdi Express, currently takes 6 hours 45 minutes. Even if it wasn't this blog post which sparked the fire, it makes me happy that the idea is going to be a reality. However, the only grouse is that the Indian rail