The day today is 19th July 2018. The month I decided appropriate for those thoughts, for this month we are blessed by the rain gods. A month where the phenomenon of rain is both blessing and a curse. We are reminded of our head only if we have a headache. Similarly we are reminded of planning, maintenance, development, sustainability & afforestation of the ecosystem we live in only at times when we face floods, clogging, diseases, pollution or any natural calamities that exist to cease our daily lives. Yes, I am definitely mentioning the surroundings that we live in and the importance of a well-planned city.

A Quick Peek into Past:

A well planned city never fails to wonder us. Did you know that when the Aryans had arrived for the first time in the Indus basin, they were surprised to find such finess and thought that went towards infrastructure, lanes, houses & even the drainage system build at that time. We know this from the excavations of Harappa and Mohenjo Daro on the bank of Indus. The streets show a well-planned lay out of the cities and towns. They are all straight &cross each other at a right angle, creating blocks within which were houses with lanes running criss –cross. This feature is now common in all urban sites, making it a distinctive feature of the culture. The pattern of these civilizations was also uniform that even the bricks were usually of the same size and shape from one end to another. Another striking feature was that the houses had bathrooms which had drains leading to sewers under the main streets which took the water to soak pit. Throughout the length, the sewers were covered by large brick slabs. Such a drainage and sewerage system is unparalleled in its times and would have required an efficient municipal system to maintain. Another striking discovery was a public bath in the citadel area of Mohenjo Daro. This was an oblong pool 39 by 23 feet in area and 8 feet deep, constructed of bricks and made waterproof by use of Bitumen. These wondrous things definitely deserve documentation, commemoration & to be referred for future times.

Some of the well planned cities according to UNESCO & INDIA TIMES:-

A common belief is the concept of planned cities has been the “Result of Modernization”. Well, on the contrary that would not be the case as the same concept was in use even before 1700 BC. The above mentioned Harappan and Mohejodaro are stark examples of a different reality. Archaeologists as per the findings have always argued of the fact that cities of Mesopotamia, Harappan, Dhalavira civilizations were laid in a very architectural & planned way. Now the question is where we lost our sensitivity. I guess somehow as time passed we lost this track and started to live in cities according to our personal priorities rather than those of city as a whole. The result is birth of many a cities which we witness today as unplanned and hard to live. Some of the characteristics of a planned city consists of estimation of future habitation, rate of population growth, has a lot of symmetry in laying out of its streets and buildings, Proximity of schools, hospitals, sports complex, gardens, social gathering areas for citizens, reliable and fast transport facilities, security & safety etc .  Urbanization without planning can lead to many consequences.

We the Neo Urban Indian

With India one of the less urbanized countries in the world with 27% of her population living in urban towns,does have a share of her own challenges in the coming future. With urban population of India crossing the 285 million mark by 2001, it is expected that 50 per cent of the India’s population are expected to live in urban areas. If urbanization is seen as an instrument of economic, social and political progress, the same is contrary in Indian context with unplanned growth leading to serious socio economic problems. This rapid migration has placed a heavy debt and pressure on public utilities like housing, sanitation, transport, water, electricity, health education etc. With the migration come social evils such as poverty, unemployment, underemployment, dacoits, beggary, burglaries etc.

                                               Urban sprawl” or real expansion of the cities with a weak economic base seems to be a real issue with the ever expanding geography and population. The first flow of Migration happened during the great depression, in 1930 where people migrated for jobs. The second migration happened during war time industrialisation and partition during 1941-51. During 1991-2001 more than 20 million people migrated to cities. Another consequence of inward migration is the overcrowding of the cities. A city like Mumbai has one sixth of an acre open space per thousand populations though four acre is the suggested standard by the master plan of Mumbai.  Density of population is an important factor as well. For eg: Delhi has a population density of 9340 persons per sq km, which is the highest in India. A consequence relating to high pressure on public facilities like water, electricity, employment, transport, housing etc . The consequences of overcrowding leads to shortage of houses in urban areas. An Indian sample survey in 1959 indicated that 44% of urban households occupied one room or less whereas the current requirement is about 2.5 million. The fact is that less than 15% of the requirement is been constructed. Slums , which are a natural sequel of unchecked, unplanned and rapid growth of urbanization does present a striking feature in the Indian city structure. According to Indian sensus slum dwelling population of India has risen from 27.9 million in 1981 to 61.8 million in 2018. The financial capital of India Mumbai is home to an estimated 6.5 million slum people. Delhi stands second with 1.8 million in slumps. With population rise comes the challenge of traffic congestion . It is quite interesting and disheartening to see the the reduced road length which stood at 3km per vehicle to 2 km in 1981 to 1.3 kms in 1991 to 0.68 in 1998 till 0.23 in 2018. Urban planners say that travelling in car shall take longer time than walking. Some of the immediate reliefs which has brought in was the introduction of metro that has taken some pressure on the public fazard.

Water the most essential element of the nature has seen a shortage in demand. With the increased demands the Central Public Health and Environmental Engineering organisation has fixed 125-200 litres water per head per day for cities with a population of more than 50,000. A similar arrangement has been made for the same in other cities as well. Sadly the cities recommended do not get supply from variations of 10 to 20 per cent. Sewage and trash disposal seems to be another consequence of rapid urbanisation with 30 -40 per cent of the urban population has the privilege of a proper sewage system. Huge wastes are dumped into ocean or being buried underground leading to blocking of underwater resources.

To conclude almost all the programs of urban development suffer from chronic disease of resource crunch. The fact finding is that the urban development has been low on development agenda with only 4-5 % of the total plan out lay being allocated to the urban sector. The decision was actually to dedicate an 8% of the plan outlay to urban sector. So anyone wishing to dedicate themselves towards urban planning and development has a long and a prospective way forward .

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