Redefining Urban Development in the Indian Context
Economic opportunities draw people with the promise of better life and living, which leads to the creation and expansion of cities. Over the last fifty years, focus in city building has shifted to designing great looking modern landmarks to define a city's identity. Buildings, like good economic decisions, need to be accountable for performance, lifetime costs as well as efficiency of usage. Lack of this approach has led to a lot of expensive and unsustainable urban mess.
Cities are also developed at great economic costs and need constant influx of financial grants to sustain them. This truly impinges on the opportunities of those who do not live and work in cities destroying the very basis of a democratic society. Funds required for the more needy in societies are routed to benefit those who are more privileged. Agriculture generates over 20 billion $ trade surplus and is a backbone of our imports payments and economy. Shouldn't the benefit of this largesse be distributed to empower those who create it, instead of squandering it on maintaining urban lifestyles of the privileged fewer urbanites? In order to achieve this, a city needs to be planned as an independent economic unit where the costs of living and enjoyment needs to be shared by those who live there. The only way to achieve this is to ensure that planning process also encompasses fundamentals of fiscal prudence and social and environmental responsibility as a basis of its design, usage and upkeep. Cities must be expected to perform like any investment. The parameters of expectations from cities must be set out clearly before initiating the process of urban plans, and the results must be visited regularly for ensuring effective compliance to stated objectives and goals. An attempt to define these objectives is being attempted in the ensuing document.
Twentieth century planning techniques have shifted people from center stage of city's development with a focus on movement of vehicles creating a dream of life around cars.
Cities worldwide are struggling to fulfil their basic purpose of connecting people to each other, creating a feeling of community living. They perform more like a busy intersection of overlapping, multiple layered diverse and divergent groups each operating in isolation for individual benefit. The state finds itself unequal to comprehend or cope with the ensuing chaos. India has a population density not encountered ever before by western urban planners, hence city planning by those benchmarks is conflicting with the previously evolved natural process of social changes leading to class and societal conflicts.
City planning should relate to people and most importantly their relationship with each other as well as the natural environment. For decades, twentieth century planning techniques have shifted people from center stage of city's development with a focus on movement of vehicles creating a dream of life around cars. This has alienated ordinary people from their natural habitat as cities have forgotten to develop requisite pull to engage them outdoors, thus pushing them into becoming cultural and social introverts. These people generate conflicting and ever changing expectations from the city leading to an environment of cynicism, complaints and apathy thus destroying the very dream they migrated for, to the city.
The prevalent public private partnership model of city development presumes great social responsibility on part of the developers. Since any developer's transactional interest ends with receipt of payment, there is not enough effort to introduce design practices which enhance livability, environment protection, human health, safety or maintenance. Colonies, apartments and work places erupt in small islands of insulated and self contained luxury, unrelated to the society outside them. This furthers class divide, enhances crime and deters participative and interdependent community living, which is the backbone of any vibrant city. This destroys the very basis of a democratic society as well as the possibility to correlate and multi-task its various interdependent opportunities. People must get drawn out of these cocoons to enjoy the benefits of living in a new city. For this the city must create opportunities of human engagement and community living in its planning process, development initiatives and policies.
The city must create opportunities of human engagement and community living in its planning process, development initiatives and policies.
India accounts for 17% of the global population, with more an ever increasing migratory pressure. Increasing viewership of television soaps and Bollywood embolden their lives and expectations. In the fast pace of economic changes, individual aspirations spring faster than cities, creating migratory urban slums where both the emerging cities and its growing number of residents feel a loss of identity. Such emerging cities slowly become a crucible of social stratification and opportunity divide.
|| Urban planning and development, if not benchmarked by rules of democratic access, equal opportunities and usage is worse than divisive politics as it succeeds in fuelling aspirations without offering any workable solution. Politicians can be changed in every election, but urban plans can leave scars on the psyche of generations by creating partisanship through design in the use of city's infrastructure and its natural resources. Urbanization must not fuel aspiration alone. It must deliver in a social context while preserving the cultural. The best practices model of the west will not be relevant here as cities there add real estate costs to every resident's transaction. The income, education and economic disparities here, as well as the big gap between rural and urban living calendars make such models socially and culturally divisive while also being inflationary. We must, hence experiment with our own development models, evolved around the context of India and its people. Well planned Open Spaces are the key to create equity in opportunity, access and usage of facilities and amenities; greater social homogeneity and dispelling cultural and economic divide among all its residents. New cities, hence, must aspire for the objective of affording modern day opportunities to each resident or visitor by incorporating economies of scale to their planning processes to enhance satisfaction levels through lower costs. The parameters of expectation from a city must be set out clearly before initiating the process of urban plans, and the results must be reviewed periodically to ensure effective compliance. A beginning of such a process is being attempted in this document.
The best practices model of the west will not be relevant here as cities there add real estate costs to every resident's transaction.
Metro Valley's association with the State of Haryana is motivation for focus on Gurgaon. The Gurgaon Manesar Urban Plan 2031 outlines the blueprint for development of the Millennium City over the next decade and a half. Gurgaon plan has provision for accommodating both in over 6500 acres of developable open spaces and greenbelts, apart from natural conservations measuring 8373 acres and declared dense plantation area of 2017 acres.
This document, The Responsive City, explores how best to creatively engage with the immense open space resource created in the Master Plan, to make Gurgaon an equitable, interactive, engaging, regenerative and responsible urban development. The document's intent is:
- to fulfil the multi-faceted needs of citizens of Gurgaon,
- to create equitable rights to Open Spaces for all,
- to create newer and engaging opportunities for the society and the local economy,
- to make Gurgaon a regenerative and responsible landmark city by example.
Well planned open spaces are the key to create equity in opportunity, access and usage of facilities and amenities; greater social homogeneity and dispelling cultural and economic divide among all its residents.
The ensuing document is the result of research carried out by Metro Valley in order to enhance the dividends of multi facets of human life including work, play, live and relax by showcasing the possibility of a new and all engaging urban typology. This is only possible through defining new kind of planning models that craft urban designs based on social, environmental, economic and cultural relevance by creating economies of scale to deliver more fulfilment per capita from less consumption per head. This is the only way to make our democratic process inclusive, our outreach and efforts more equitable and our society more responsive and vibrant.
The focus is to reconnect the urban dwellers in the proposed plan to seamlessly benefit from the opportunities of planned development, with a special focus to bring them back to nature and in the process bring back nature into urban living. It explores ideas of introducing human scale into city planning to revive the depleting relationship of city dwellers with nature. It is also about exploring the notion of democracy and equality in urban living through physical and programmatic planning of social spaces. The aim is to create a sense of ownership of the areas, which bind the city together rather than fragmenting it into clusters of inequity and hierarchy. The necessary precondition for achieving this is to create engaging and diverse social and public areas that are designed to encourage democratic access, rights and use while being low on maintenance and upkeep.
Metro Valley believes that Open spaces should not merely used as recreation facilities and parks. They must be planned in order that they can be multi tasked among a divergent group of city's age and demand groups and their needs across the day in order to be constantly alive and efficient. Such spaces improve physical and psychological health, strengthen our communities, and make the cities and neighbourhoods more attractive places to live and work and enjoy. This enhances sense of security and lowers the cost
||of maintenance while increasing human satisfaction index across strata.
Metro Valley believes that open spaces should not merely used as recreation facilities and parks. They must be planned in order that they can be multi tasked among a divergent group of city's age and demand groups and their needs across the day in order to be constantly alive and efficient.
Each citizen forms an essential component of their neighbourhood's sense of place, by virtue of the fact that they live, work, and/or play there. However, in any city most people never speak to each other, or may not even notice each other, unless the city provides well designed and welcoming public spaces in which they can connect, interact and feel welcome. In order to create a great public space, individuals have to be surrounded by all different sorts of people, but still feel like they belong. This ushers in a feeling of both identity and relevance. When an individual feels encouraged to participate in shaping the life of a space, it creates the kind of open atmosphere that attracts more and more people. Only such human inclusiveness creates the dynamics of a truly democratic and vibrant society. To be relevant, meaningful urban planning must ensure that benefits of city living can be enjoyed without the burden of social, cultural and economic divides and costs by its citizens.
We firmly believe that for any development to be sustainable it has to be planned to be regenerative and responsible. Consuming the resources of the future for immediacy of personal gain is no longer affordable. Special emphasis must be laid on conserving natural resources with emphasis on 4Rs: recycle, restore, regenerate and reuse. Urban systems usually touted as efficient, have actually led to depleting of underground water levels by disposing off surface run-off directly rather than allowing it to naturally penetrate underground. Managing what we discard can be hugely expensive. Collection alone fritters away resources, expensive storage facilities are poor in design, management and upkeep and regenerating processes or conversion is either not available or not efficient, as western incinerators are not designed around the caloric potential of waste caused in India. Water is a precious natural resource and prudent recycling processes must be planned at the household, colony and the city level for recycle and reuse. A comprehensive water and waste management policy which complements the Open Spaces development must be evolved as a part and parcel of Open Space planning. The state must create the policy infrastructure that catalyzes interdependent waste management practices that creatively recycle, reuse and regenerate resources amongst mixed communities like agriculture, industries, households, transport sector and workplaces for working towards a zero waste city. This would create avenues for employment, generate economic activity, keep the city cleaner and easier to manage and cause huge economic benefit to the city and its residents while keeping it clean.
This would create avenues for employment, generate economic activity, keep the city cleaner and easier to manage and cause huge economic benefit to the city and its residents while keeping it clean.
Planners, administrations and Governments cannot plan, create and manage cities alone. The beneficiaries of this development have to be made responsible for its maintenance and upkeep. The learning from industrial principles of economies of scale must be creatively adapted for designing cities. The advantage of large populations should lower individual usage costs rather than increase per capita consumption based on financial means thus enhancing class divide.
The cities of tomorrow need to be diverse yet more connected with multitude of equitable, secure and interrelated opportunities. Each must fulfil the objective of providing people with equal, secure, diverse and accessible opportunities for leisure, entertainment, sports, cultural activities, benefiting education, enhancing employability, ensure healthy life, social and economical development, increasing plant and species diversity and eventually creating a high-quality live, play and work environment. This will be a small but significant step for creating a truly democratic society in India.
This pro bono initiative, evolved by Metro Valley's concerned global team is a research based strategy for a new kind developmental urban planning model for emerging cities that is relevant for India. It is not only based on identification of opportunities in areas of ecology, economics, and behavioral patterns of Indians alone, but also takes into accounts its responsibility in creating identity, engagement and equity across different work and life patterns, advancing human health and community well being, employment generation and poverty reduction while being relevant in sociological, psycho-cognitive, behavioral, and sociocultural terms, for current and projected users of Gurgaon.