Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Posted at: Apr 12, 2018, 1:52 AM; last updated: Apr 12, 2018, 1:52 AM (IST)

Inclusive urbanism can help prevent hydra-city growth

Inclusive urbanism can help prevent hydra-city growth
Chandigarh provides us places for human activities, which help citizens to live a harmonious life.

MG Devasahayam

This is the Edict of Chandigarh as set by Le Corbusier at the foundation of the city in 1950: “The city of Chandigarh is planned to human scale. It puts us in touch with the infinite cosmos and nature. It provides us places and buildings for all human activities, which can help citizens live a harmonious life. Here, the radiance of nature and heart are within our reach.”

The edict was meant to enlighten the present and future citizens of Chandigarh about the basic concepts of planning of the city so that they become its guardians and save it from individualistic ideas.

The last thing Le Corbusier wanted for Chandigarh was to become a metropolis. This is what he said: “People say that life must come in the city from other source or activity, especially industry. An industrial city is not the same as an administrative city. One must not mix the two...We must take care that any temptations do not kill the goal, which was foreseen at the moment of the foundation of the city.”

To retain the natural character and ambience of the city, the Punjab New Capital (Periphery) Control Act, 1952, was enacted to declare a 10 mile (16 km) periphery around Chandigarh as controlled area. But then the construction spree took over with two civilian — Mohali and Panchkula — and one military — Chandimandir — townships coming up right on the periphery.

From ‘City Beautiful’, Chandigarh became the ‘Tricity’. There were serious protests, some led by late MN Sharma, Corbusier’s pupil and Union Territory’s first chief architect. He launched a campaign against gross violation of the Periphery Control Act, which posed a threat to the original character of Chandigarh.

What is worse is that the Tricity itself is fast morphing into a ‘hydra-city’ that may turn into an embodiment of chaos and anarchy. This is the message that comes across in the Punjab Government’s decision to create another township on 5,350 acres in Mohali called Aerotropolis in the vicinity of the international airport by acquiring agricultural land in 14 villages through a pooling policy.

Besides Mohali, this will be the eighth independent township being developed by Punjab around ‘City Beautiful’ after Knowledge City, Aerocity, IT City, EcoCity, EduCity, MediCity and New Chandigarh. Farmers are being offered lucrative offers as is evident from the statement of the Additional Chief Secretary, Housing and Urban Development, Vini Mahajan. Vini Mahajan said, “Following detailed deliberations with farmers and other stakeholders, the proportion of commercial area has been enhanced and commercial sites have been clubbed in the Land Pooling Scheme approved for the Aerotropolis project…. Also, the demand of a small percentage of farmers for cash compensation to purchase land for cultivation in other areas has been met.”

Urbanisation is basically the movement of population from rural to urban areas and the resulting increasing proportion of a population that resides in urban places.

What we need is inclusive ‘urbanism’ wherein the rural and urban ecosystems would converge and complement each other. Integrating farming into urban design is an urgent imperative so that the predatory practice of destroying farms and forests to build cement andconcrete structures is put an end to.

It is in this context, the concept of ‘Natural City’ becomes relevant. ‘Natural City’ that integrates farming into the urban design can effectively respond to the massive food security and climate-change challenges that rapid urbanisation throws up.

By populating them with farmers, milkmen, food-processors, gardeners and other green entrepreneurs, such cities become diverse and inclusive. Time and distance of commuting are cut to less than half and so is the transportation cost.

The idea of ‘Natural City’ came up in the minds of a small group of naturalists, urban designers and administrators as a counter to Amaravati in Andhra Pradesh where an ‘ultra mega world-class-city’ is being rushed through by destroying prime farm and forest land.

Defying the Chandigarh edict, Punjab is making it a Metropolis. Can this top-most agrarian state at least facilitate this Metropolis to co-exist with nature?

(The writer is a former DC-cum-Estate Officer, Chandigarh, and Chief Administrator, HUDA)


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