Shyam Ponappa / New Delhi October 05, 2006
The Randstad in the Netherlands is a group of towns and cities across some 50 km with a largely rural centre. It has excellent living, working, and leisure facilities with the requisite transport and communications. Its “Green Heart” has livestock, agriculture, floriculture, and leisure activities. It has several towns and many villages, giving it a different character from other urban agglomerations. And because it has four major cities—Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, and Utrecht -- it has no “centre”. The transformation of their subsistence use of land is an object lesson in development. It didn’t just happen.
I am not advocating blind replication here. But to paraphrase Gandhi, we can take ideas from many lands without losing our sense of who we are. We can—in fact, we must—learn from everywhere, and adapt as we apply to our context and particular condition.
Dickens’s words about the best and worst of times seem horribly apt, if you think of any of India's urban and rural locales: Cities and towns with exploding economic activity in a vast population on a scale, range, and form that defies description, but unorganised and chaotic. Traffic surging helter-skelter, scads of buildings—whole townships rising from among the green fields around Delhi, and all across the country. Within Delhi, demolitions or sealing as court orders on zoning take effect. The endless cycle of floods and drought with limited irrigation systems, the annual monsoon runoff, alarming groundwater losses because of unbridled pumping, and a precipitous decline in the water table. And the unending difficulties of inappropriate compensation for land acquisition. All the flurry epitomised in Ed Luce’s book, In Spite of the Gods.
Stop to think of what is really essential: enabling people to live well, be active and productive, by providing the necessary services and facilities. Then, if we consider the possibilities based on the real world manifest in real place/s, the need for many systems to coexist comes through. What assumes importance, after goal setting and prioritisation, is pragmatic planning and execution, driven by what is good for people (the public interest). Let’s hope that this week’s conference, 'Building Infrastructure: Challenges & Opportunities', begins to address our need for comprehensive, integrated spatial planning.
May 30, 2014
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