The Tribune - Spectrum

Sunday, June 15, 2003
Lead Article

City Beautiful as theme for a dream
Parbina Rashid

Aditya Prakash with his new people-friendly model of Chandigarh
Aditya Prakash with his new people-friendly model of Chandigarh. — Photo Manoj Mahajan

CAN you imagine a labyrinth of roads running above the existing network in City Beautiful. A far-fetched dream, one would say but one that is not impossible if you were to believe Aditya Prakash, the former Principal of the Government College of Architecture, who has come up with a new model of Chandigarh to make the city more user-friendly.

According to Aditya Prakash, the city is a living being with a voracious appetite to grow all the time. He points out the growth of population in the last few decades and what it has done to the city which was originally built to cater to a population of only 5 lakh. "Now look at the problems this city is facing today with ever-growing traffic which has led to breaking laws and accidents and, most of all, loss of orientation," he says.

It was this perception of the city as a growing being which gave birth to the model of a new Chandigarh. Though the entire plan was based on the problem of traffic control, Prakash has dealt with other problems like access to other sectors from the pedestrians’ point of view, public transport network, meeting point, shopping for daily needs, location for public utility services, assistance for tourists and visitors , reference point and transit and exchange point with equal depth.

"The present roundabout system of Chandigarh has killed all the romance of the age-old concept of the chowk which used to be meeting place for the public," says Prakash. "With the growing traffic, these roundabouts repel people more than they attract. As a result, we have wasted plenty of useful lands which otherwise could be provided to the residents as sources of recreational activity," he says.


The solution, according to Prakash is to "Raise the existing system of roads, at least those main roads surrounding a Sector to a considerable height. Thus, by this open space is created for pedestrians underneath to move freely or even to utilise it according to their needs, feels Prakash. In fact, his conceptual Sector plan consists of four mass transit points at the higher level. At the ground level, a recycling informal Sector as a focal point surrounded by plots for land uses like academic plots, commercial institutions and residential flats.

Prakash feels strongly for the pedestrians and those with unmotorised vehicles and is of the opinion that by raising roads by about 10 to 12 feet above the main road network will help the people without adding to the pressure on the motorised vehicles. "It is easy for motorised vehicles to maneuver a steep curve and by letting the pedestrians and other man-pulled vehicles to ply at the ground level, the city can bring immense relief to the later category," he says.

What about the underground subways? "We do have a few such subways but how many people have you seen using them? he asks. "People generally harbour some psychological fear where underground passages are concerned so I do not think it is a good idea to introduce them," he replies.

Though the idea sounds good, a few may raise their eyebrows about the financial viability of uplifting the entire road system of the city. But Prakash proves you wrong. He cites an example of a particular Sector in Mohali. At the rate of Rs 7500/ square metre, the cost of one raised road comes upto Rs 104.25 crore. The area underneath the road which is saleable for various commercial purposes gives a return of Rs 50,000 per square metres which comes to a grand total for the entire length of the road as Rs 505 crore. So even after deducting the cost for the ground level road which comes upto Rs 17,50,00 there remains a net profit of Rs 383.25 crore.

Coming to the central part of the Sector, which he denotes as recycling and informal sector, Prakash says that it is important for a city to be self-sustaining in terms of free air, water and the basic necessities like food. All the waste materials of the city can come to this particular area to get recycled, even excess water for that matter, he says. The informal sector can also be utilised for animal husbandry to a lesser degree.

Another major thrust area of Prakash's model is giving the city a distinct personality of its own. "There are no distinct landmarks in the city which make it difficult for the tourist to identify their locations," says Prakash. "We can build towers of different shapes and sizes in each cross-section to develop the personality of each Sector," he adds.

Working out details about making the city self-sustainable, Aditya Prakash has chalked out a detailed plan for developing the peripheral areas of Chandigarh.

Sticking to a linear city concept, he points out how a linear city along the same lines as Chandigarh can be developed on one side of the inter-city road while the space on the other side can be utilised for horticulture, animal husbandry, high-tech farming, floriculture, forestry, vegetables and agro-processing units. In his opinion, even railway tracks can be installed alongside the intercity road for proving better communication to ferry the products.

The idea of raised road and its applicability for this city came to Prakash in the year 1965 when he was serving in Ludhiana. The actual model was made a couple of years ago but so far it has been lying in the confinement of his own study. "I have conducted a series of lectures on this model in places like Ahmedabad and also talked informally with my colleagues. When it comes to receiving appreciation, I have had plenty of that but unfortunately no body thought of implementing it," he says ruefully.

Ask him if it is for the want of trying hard to reach the proper authorities and he gives a philosophical answer: "Human beings always choose the path of least resistance and to implement a plan of such a magnitude would need a lot of planning and hard work which might topple the apple cart for many higher authorities in the administration . This is the reason, that despite my model being a workable one, nobody is interested in implementing it".