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From illusion to reality – a messy affair!

While there is a wide recognition of the rural poverty and problems, the problems in urban areas have the potential of the damaging the entire economy. The practice of urban planning as a discipline is there in most countries in Asia for over a century. However, the sight of planned urban management is always a distant illusion.

A case in point is the recent floods in the financial capital of India, Mumbai. The incessant rains for three days put everything in city to an absolute halt, from telecom and electricity to roads and water supply. It is estimated that at least one billion dollars was the cost of this urban ‘disaster’. The situation is not very different in many other Indian cities. Three to four hours of good rain is enough to create chaos and bring enormous losses.

Another case is the city of Bangalore. It has been termed as an urban calamity by many planners and analysts. Huge infrastructure projects in the city are lying half-built due to various legal disputes while the city is choking with umpteen number of IT companies rushing in, with thousands of workforce. The urban bodies and their plans rarely show signs of an ability to cope up with the rising pressure of delivery of quality utility services. I vividly remember my visit to Beijing last year. Infrastructure development was nothing less than awesome. Development is happening at an alarming pace for projected situations 5 years hence! When I returned to Delhi, I felt that I live in conditions not far from that of a village, and I never had earlier realized it. Quality of Indian urban infrastructure can be termed to be at least two decades behind, in this respect. There are attempts being made by India to launch the urban renewal mission, which has been earmarked in the annual budget of the government and can look into the issues in a more holistic way. There is a huge urban mapping project being launched in collaboration with the leading national mapping agencies and also a large e-governance project is underway for delivery of citizen services in India. But where is the product – ‘planned development or management’? I had a first hand experience of the infamous traffic jams in Jakarta last month.

But surely, it was less worse that the traffic jams in India due the cow squatting on the middle of the road! We may not improve our roads, but we can at least remove the cows!

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