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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Vibrant metropolis needs citizens’ help

Mumbai: If history has taught us one thing, it's that great cities go beyond inspiring architecture and overwhelming skyscrapers. A wellnetworked transport system, green space and above all a planned township that provides its inhabitants that seemingly elusive quality of life are the hallmarks of a vibrant metropolis. All this and much more can only become reality if citizens are involved 

in the planning of their home. 
    And as citizens' groups and infrastructure experts debate any city's upcoming development plan with municipal authorities, they argue that a long-term proposal for a city can hardly succeed unless it involves local participation at each level. In other words, it's the people whose active participation defines the pulse of 
a city, not just urban planners and government bodies. 
    Going one step ahead, private players who are in the business of infrastructure and real estate across Maharashtra and beyond say that public-private partnership also works best for urban planning and making a city "liveable''. 
    In a bid to encourage such initiatives, The Times of In
dia and Lavasa have launched the Lavasa Future Cities Campaign, an extensive programme that intends to kickstart a journey towards developing "future cities'' in India. A future city would be one whose transportation, water supply, drainage and governance would not crumble under the weight of ever-increasing urbanisation. Planners would focus on development without losing sight of well-being and prosperity and include space for residents of all economic backgrounds, perhaps looking to India's first planned city of Mohenjo Daro for artistic inspiration. 
    Emphasising the need for such a project, industrialist Ajit Gulabchand, promoter of Lavasa and the chairman and managing director of Hindustan Construction Company (HCC), sounds a note of alarm when he estimates that 400 million Indians will migrate from rural to urban areas over the next 40 years. "The move towards urbanisation that Europe saw over a period of 1,000 years will occur in India in just four decades,'' he says. "Given that our existing cities will hardly be able to cope with such an influx, it is necessary for government and private enterprise to expand existing cities and build new neighbourhoods.'' 
    Adding another statistic to his argument, he feels that no less than 500 new cities will be required to absorb the force of 
such mass migration. "However, in order to make these new cities sustainable, we must overcome the typical urban malaise of leaving all responsibility to the state government. Taking the onus of governance onto themselves, citizens should set up their own civic body, that will be accountable to the people.'' 
    Some of that opinion was reflected in Mumbai in the immediate aftermath of the 26/11 attacks when the citizenry felt the state machinery was not proving adequate. "The common man must become involved in planning and execution. We ourselves have set up a new integrated system by publicprivate partnership in Lavasa with active help from the government of Maharashtra,'' Gulabchand adds. 
    Holding up the Singapore model and referring to the odd Indian example like Chandigarh and Gandhinagar, he says a little more time spent by planners at the drawing table could make life easier for urban India.

HOMING IN: An estimated 400 million Indians will migrate from rural to urban areas over the next 40 years


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