Urban Challenges


Urban Challenges: Miles to Go . When will we wake up ? Policy makers and politicians have to take more initiatives
If our readers have observed we have been writing mainly on strategic issues concerning the country besides science and technology. We are taking a new subject – Urban Challenges – henceforth to provide information and create awareness in this important field.
Readers would not have missed two catastrophic events that have happened recently. One was of course the wildfire in California whose smoke could be seen as far as San Francisco and other cities far off from the actual fire sites in the dense forests of California.
The other news is about the floods that have engulfed South France near the cities of Nice and surrounding regions creating big havoc never seen before. But these are climate changes that we all are already aware of.
Another aspect of the environment is the Urban cities management where we live day in and day out never thinking of the increasing challenges ranging from waste management, water crisis, traffic, pollution, haphazard infrastructure and city growth etc. To be fair this is a global problem and not limited to India . But we have been doing worse than others. We still don’t have proper waste management shelters in our capitals and other metros and can see the waste spread across the road by dogs and humans while the scavengers rag picking from the dust bins in an environment where you and me can’t even breathe.
Therefore the first thing that we would like to bring to the kind attention of our policy makers, Politicians and citizens to make this hygienic and clean. We don’t want to put the data here on the kind of waste and dirt that we create every day. We are humans and can do much better. One does not need a degree from Harvard or MIT to do such basic things. Its common sense and willingness to live in a clean environment. We wonder why we ( including ourselves) are so tolerant about such issues and are unable to do something concrete.
As we go through the best practices around the world we have seen that all major cities have gone through such periods of despair. However the citizens and aware groups led by Mayors of the city have come up and have contributed to make the cities better. Toronto is a city which has a high number of immigrants coming from all over the world. But the city came up with innovative ideas and solutions to solve these issues. El raval and Barcelona in Spain were once a dying city without proper infrastructure and or means of employment. El Raval was an industrial tenement area with slaughterhouses , Tanneries , textile mills etc ( just like our Kanpur) 30 years ago. However the city was transformed by city councillor Itziar Gonzalez who made all the difference to the city that now attracts thousands of tourists from the world (https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Itziar_Gonz%C3%A1lez ) ( Use translator if the page opens in spanish) .
This particular transformation of spanish cities and the theme behind it is called as ‘Espai Public” meaning public spaces. Espai public does not have an exact english word for it and does not mean public zones separate from the private city. It is the third category of streets and squares where private interests and public uses are vitally interwoven. Much of this transformation was also implemented through Barcelona’s Urban Ecology Agency Salvador Rueda and her head Ramon Garcia Bragado in another city district Gracia.
India also needs such agencies , leaders and political will and proactive policy makers to transform and rebuild our fast degrading cities and urban infrastructures. We have seen this happening. The Sulabh Shauchalaya is a great concept and has helped the country. The Swachta Mission of PM Modi is another big initiative. BUt unless the municipal councillors, policy makers and ordinary citizens connect to such ideas we will not be able to move fast.
The ministry of Urban affairs and NIti Aaayog has to inspire people if not do such tasks. Niti aayog must call a meeting of councillors and conduct a webinar of Best Urban practices. Most of these councillors simply waste public money and time. There is simply no awareness and it’s all about a don’t care attitude. The Ministry of HuPa must also take a serious shot at it. Involving the public and making them initiate such work can do magic for the cities and the country.
We hope that our post and message will be taken with due consideration and someone might be prompted to take the much needed plunge.

Asheesh Shah
Author: Asheesh Shah

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