India has to strengthen her basic urban city infrastructure and discipline


India has to strengthen her basic urban city infrastructure and discipline

The burning of paddy fields after the harvest, or stubble burning, is a major seasonal contributor to air pollution in north India just prior to winter. In the northern belt metros, already polluted with many activities, this additional pollution load from stubble burning tipped the scales heavily towards hazardous air quality index exceeding 400 and even reaching 1,000 in some places for some days, when the acceptable norm is 120 as per the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) (Times of India). The resulting air pollution is now responsible for the ill health of millions and deaths of lakhs of people, and dominates headlines of newspapers in the entire northern belt.In Delhi as well as in other cities and metros there is another type of urban mess.

The waste management system is still far from satisfactory. While there are some good waste collection centers spread across the city there are many others which are not . One can see the garbage and waste collected openly out on the street. Besides the small vehicles that come to collect the waste and garbage arrive in day time creating further mess. If one observes any developed country or even semi developed countries the best practice is to collect the waste early morning and not when the city is bustling with activities. 

Urban infrastructure planning is a very advanced subject these days with good innovative practices being adopted. We have been raising awareness on these issues through our Samanvaya blog . In many advanced cities like Toronto, New York, Barcelona, Johannesburg, Jerusalem, Paris etc urban planners have come up in big ways. Recently Paris has launched  the  15-minute city program. 

“The 15-minute city represents the possibility of a decentralized city,” says Carlos Moreno, a scientific director and professor specialising in complex systems and innovation at University of Paris 1. “At its heart is the concept of mixing urban social functions to create a vibrant vicinity”—replicated, like fractals, across an entire urban expanse. Everything is available nearby with focus on sustainable development and clean air. We can make city life more accessible, sustainable & enjoyable by creating “15-minute cities.” Ensuring that residents can meet all their needs within a short walk or bike ride will accelerate a green & just recovery.

Paris city Mayor, Anne Hidalgo is the  special envoy for smart cities, Moreno has become a kind of deputy philosopher at City Hall as it endeavors to turn the French capital into what he calls a “city of proximities.” His 15-minute concept was developed primarily to reduce urban carbon emissions, reimagining our towns not as divided into discrete zones for living, working, and entertainment, but as mosaics of neighborhoods in which almost all residents’ needs can be met within 15 minutes of their homes on foot, by bike, or on public transit. As workplaces, stores, and homes are brought into closer proximity, street space previously dedicated to cars is freed up, eliminating pollution and making way for gardens, bike lanes, and sports and leisure facilities. All of this allows residents to bring their daily activities out of their homes (which in Paris tend to be small) and into welcoming, safe streets and squares.

Paris is far from alone in attempting this sort of transformation. London’s new “Mini-Hollands” import Dutch planning ideas that seek to reduce or block car access to neighbourhood shopping hubs. Barcelona has been turning 400-by-400-meter chunks of road in areas dominated by apartment towers into mostly car-free “superblocks.” Madrid has declared plans to copy that approach, in keeping with its goal to be a “city of 15 minutes” as it recovers from the pandemic. Milan has said the same, with hopes to turn Covid-19 bike lanes and sidewalks permanent as its economy restabilizes. But turning the 15-minute city into a truly global movement will require a big battle over a core urban tension: the primacy of the car.[Bloomsberg]. U.S. cities holding similarly optimistic blueprints are also struggling to strike a balance between vision and reality. In 2016, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan laid out a plan to turn high-density corridors outside the central business district in his sprawling, 140-square-mile city into 20-minute neighborhoods.


India also has to start working on similar ideas while keeping in mind the carbon emission, traffic and other things in mind. The 15 minute program has been adopted by various cities and countries in different ways like 20 minutes or 3 mile etc . BUt the essence remains the same. To free congested city space into small blocks one has to create blocks of happiness. The post Covid scenario and the work from home culture is a distinct shift from the past and can be utilized successfully. Already many Indian companies have shown an inclination towards Work from Home. With climate change, Covid-19, and political upheaval all challenging the ideals of globalism, the hope is to refashion cities as places primarily for people to walk, bike, and linger in, rather than commute to. The 15-minute city calls for a return to a more local and somewhat slower way of life, where commuting time is instead invested in richer relationships with what’s nearby.We need such innovative best practices to be adopted  not only for our metros but also for smaller cities. Niti Aayoga has to take BIG ROLE in initiating such ideas along with the ministry of Urban affairs and housing.

Dr  Asheesh Shah

Asheesh Shah
Author: Asheesh Shah

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