Urban Age conference gives a wake up call to Delhi!

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Over 60 experts and policy-makers from 22 cities across 10 countries gathered here to explore the links between urban governance and the future development of cities at the 13th Urban Age conference that began on Friday. The experts compared Delhi’s urban dynamics to other Urban Age cities — London, Bogota, Lagos, Tokyo, New York, Istanbul and Berlin.

They found that despite the Capital’s relatively low-rise urban landscape, it has an extremely high average density of build up area, nearly twice the levels of the New York metro area and Tokyo. As a result, Delhi only has two square metres of green space per person, significantly lower than London (36 sq metres) and Berlin (39 sq metres). This increases the challenge of tackling Delhi’s average PM10 pollution levels, which are significantly higher than other Urban Age cities.

Delhi, like other cities in rapidly growing economies, has a high level of income inequality (measured by the GINI Index — the lower the value, the greater the level of social equality; and vice versa). While London has an index of 0.36 and Berlin 0.29, Delhi has a relatively high figure of 0.6, which is lower than Lagos at 0.64 and many African and Latin American cities. However, Delhi scores well in having a very low level of violent crime measured by the murder rate (homicides per 1,00,000 people), which is lower than New York and Istanbul.

Protest against Ward Committee and Area Sabha Act and Rules-Wed,26th Nov,10.30AM-1PM, Town Hall,Bengaluru

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by CIVIC, Bengaluru

A CALL FOR PEOPLE’S GOVERNANCE IN KARNATAKA’S CITIES
Protest against the KMC (Amdt.) Act and newly gazetted rules on Ward Committees & Area Sabhas led by respected Gandhian & Freedom Fighter Sri H. S. Doreswamy
Venue: Town Hall, Bangalore
Date & Time: Wednesday, 26th November 2014, 10:30 am – 1pm

The 74th Constitutional Amendment, promising devolution of powers in urban areas, was enacted over 20 years ago. Yet ‘Nagara Swaraj’ is a far dream, with even community participation in urban affairs yet to be achieved. Karnataka’s urban citizens have no say in how government services should be provided in their ward, which roads should be repaired, how lakes should be protected or even how their garbage should be managed! The unconstitutional manner in which cities are being administered has resulted in multiple scams, mis-governance and dysfunctional cities.

It was hoped that the Karnataka Municipal Corporations (Amendment) Act of January 2011, brought in to fulfil conditionality under JNNURM, would strengthen community participation in urban areas. However, rules were framed for the Act only after the High Court Directive in December 2012 (while hearing a PIL on the garbage crisis). These rules created ward committees in name only without any real powers. Pressure from civil society led to a public meeting where the government was advised to re-draft the KMC Act itself, as is being done with the Panchayati Raj Act in Karnataka. Shri. Vinay Kumar Sorake, Hon’ble Minister for Urban Development, gave assurances at this meeting that the undemocratic aspects of the Act, such as the veto power for Corporators, would be addressed. Following this, numerous meetings were held with the Secretary, Urban Development, and recommendations were sent in from across the state to revise the rules so that the functioning of ward committees could be improved within the ambit of the Act.

Inspite of all this, the new draft rules gazetted on November 10th, 2014 have not incorporated any of the recommendations from the public and continue to define a ward committee with no powers, no meaningful responsibilities and no true representation. Ward committee members will be nominated by Corporators, are not accountable to area sabhas under them and risk having all their decisions vetoed by the Corporator.

Specific demands:

  • We demand that a committee be set up to go into the entire gamut of issues related to implementation of the 74th Constitutional Amendment in its true spirit, to devolve powers and make transparency, accountability and people’s participation effective.
  • Veto power of the corporator should be removed as it makes the concept of people’s participation meaningless. This provision does not exist in the laws of any other state.
  • The Area Sabha Representative (ASR) should be elected on a non-party basis by the area sabha.
  • The ASR should be a member of the Ward Committee and represent his/her area.
  • Ward committees should be given 40% of BBMP budget as untied funds to utilise as per their priorities
  • A periodic, time-bound and public grievance redressal system should be in place at the ward level. ________________________________________________________________________________
    Supporting organisations: Abhyudaya Foundation, BRACE, Citizens’ Action Forum (CAF), CIVIC, Environment Support Group (ESG), Eeshanya Maha Vedike (Federation of NERWA), FORWARD Hebbal, Koogu Mahila Okkuta, Namma Bengaluru Foundation (NBF), Society for People’s Action for Development (SPAD), VV Nagar Abhyudaya and several other prominent individuals.

Higher, higher we will climb

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by Swathi Subramaniam, PRIA

It is an uncommon sight to find a youth living in a high-rise building mingling and interacting with youth living in slums. On 13 November 2014, an attempt was made in B5 Bandhu Camp of VasantKunj, to bring together youth of community and youth of slum to talk to each other.

The Enact us society from SRCC, Delhi University works on social projects through implementation of sustainable livelihood solutions for slums and marginalized, http://www.enactusindia.org/index.php.

This was the very first time where a visit was made by undergraduate students studying in SRCC made an effort to meet the youth in Bandhu Camp B-5 slum. This interaction gave a first time exposure to youths living in the community to share their problems with the youth of their own age from a premier college of Delhi.
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The interaction focused on understanding the issues and limitations faced by youths in slums and possible direction for their future. Two groups were formed of boys and girls. The groups included youth from college and slum. The reason for forming separate groups was so that the girls in slums open up and express themselves without any hesitation. These discussions were held with the intention to understand the youth, their problems in the slum, their education background and their future aspirations.
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Educational level of the youth was good. Every child whether boy or girl went to school. They however struggled while pursuing higher education because of the level of difficulty and lack of guidance in their neighborhood. Tuition helped the students in performing better but the group felt that the fees are very expensive. Whenever the household expenses become high they are forced to discontinue their tuition.
The mobile toilets which were implemented with the help of SIC members in the B5 slum has been violated and has failed to serve the intended purpose. The slum dwellers have to now pay Rs. 2 per visit for using the toilets. As a result none of them are using it.

Another major problem identified by the youth of the community is solid waste management. The slum generates a lot of waste and there is no proper facility of waste disposal. All the waste is gathered and dumped in the forest area which is behind the slum. The area behind the slum is as well used for defecation, where the males have lot of space for defecation in the forest and due to safety issues women defecate near the slum itself. The waste of the slum dumped behind the slum gets cleaned once a year. The rag pickers from nearby Bengali basti collect the rags and sell it. The youth are not looking at collecting rags as a livelihood and aspire for better employment opportunities.

The youth identified alcohol as another major problem in their slums.

The youth of slums have been living in neighborhood of educated colonies and almost all the children have attended schools and some are pursuing higher studies. This has impacted the aspiration level of youth in the slum and they want to be in more dignified and respectable professions. They donot want to be rag pickers or daily wage earners. Their aspiration needs to be nurtured through regular counseling and access to appropriate skills. What our Prime Minister has quoted skill development is the need of the hour and youth of the slum is a perfect candidate to be benefited.

Terra Urban Monthly Digest

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Here is your quick snapshot of all activities on Terraurban for the month of October!!!
You can also download a pdf version of the same through the following link:Terraurban- oct digest

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Investing thoroughly in early childhood is investing in the nation’s development

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by Dharitri Patnaik, India Representative, Bernard van Leer Foundation

Young children are rarely heard. This is mostly because of the attitude we have towards children. Children are not vote banks. They do not raise their voices against injustice nor do they have unions. In order to thrive, the youngest citizens depend on the rest of us, adults to pay attention and we as a society hardly pay them the attention they deserve.

In the early years of a child’s life, 700 new neural connections are formed every second.  These connections build brain architecture – the foundation upon which all later learning, behaviour and health depend.  These neural connections shape the contours of nearly a billion young children’s futures every year.  Collectively, they represent our best opportunity to live together in a prosperous and peaceful society. So, while a happy childhood can bring the best in a person at the stage of adulthood, a stressed one can make the person vulnerable by increasing risk of stress related problems including diseases.

There are close linkages between the living conditions and wellbeing of children. Housing, water, sanitation, traffic, transportation, soil, air, quality of preschools, social network and parenting have a bearing on the child’s physical, social and emotional development. While it has been established that physical environment, including home and the neighbourhoods are one of the most important determinants of health, yet the issue of child mortality and morbidity due to living conditions are hardly on the agenda of the governments or agencies working with children.

7.8 million children live in slums in India where basic services and quality of housing is completely inadequate. But slums are not the only problem.  So why do we ignore living conditions? Why do we not include the interests of children in the design and planning process? One reason is that unlike health or education, there is no established sector that covers living conditions.  It is a mixture of planners, construction companies, urban development and housing and poverty alleviation ministries, etc. who mostly operate independent of each other.  The second, more critical issue is the lack of awareness about the issues related to physical environments and how they impact children.

Sights of children playing in extremely hazardous situations, on garbage has become common in almost all the slums in India. It is not just children living in urban poverty but also children from other socio-economic backgrounds who lack access to safe play spaces. Lack of the basic amenities such as well-ventilated houses, safe water, drainage, play space etc can lead to stress and violence. Most often we see this as violence against women and children. Tensions and fights for water in slums, lack of street lights or even lighting at home lead to further harassment and abuse of children. Cramped lanes, too tight to meet the space needs of people living in tiny shacks, shared water taps and toilets, a lack of waste collection, high noise levels, violation of perceived boundaries, can all lead to hostility and endanger the safety of children.  (Bartlett, 2013).

India’s flagship programmes such as Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JnNURM), Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY) or Basic Services to the Urban Poor (BSUP) have not been successful in addressing the housing or the living conditions of the urban poor nor are they “child friendly”. The barriers to children’s development are closely associated with these amenities and environment which we often term as ‘basic’ and also most often ignore them. While the buzz on ‘Smart Cities’ and ‘ Swaach Bharat Abhiyaan’ is getting louder, I urge upon our policymakers, urban planners, child rights activists, parents, communities and children themselves to ensure that we have the ‘basics’ in place and that these basics (housing that can accommodate a family of five, water and sanitation, well managed waste management system, electricity, play spaces etc) has to be child friendly and developed in consultation with children.

A strong foundation in early childhood lays the groundwork for responsible citizenship, economic prosperity, healthy communities, and successful parenting of the next generation. A weak foundation can seriously undermine the social and economic vitality of the nation.” Prof. Jack P. Shonkoff, Harvard University.

Bernard van Leer is an international private philanthropy focussed on early childhood development among disadvantaged children.

Swachh Bharat Abhiyan -drive could well go down the drain!

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by Nitya Jacob, The Hindustan Times

The pendulum has swung towards the sanitation extreme under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. Water is the forgotten piece of the sanitation puzzle, one without which the great Indian leap into the toilet can possibly come undone. Indians wash up after defecating and most also wash their hands with ash, mud or soap. At a conservative estimate open defecation needs about a litre of water for ablutions. Toilet defecation raises that to at least three litres.
Defecating in the open may not entail an additional burden on water providers, ie, women, using toilets will. They have to fetch water from the nearest source. In rural India, with the exception of the privileged 14% who get water in their houses, the rest have to fetch it from distances varying from 25m to 250m. These 86% are officially considered to have access to water have the availability, at 40 litres per capita per day, within a distance of 100m.
The access, yield and quality of a source decline rapidly after installation, creating a category of habitations called partly covered (33.9% of the total). According to a World Bank study indicated for handpumps, the difference between design and output of water from handpumps was about 10%. In the case of piped water schemes 30% households do not get water daily. Piped water schemes are most prone to breakdowns on account of high running costs, a lack of trained people to run them, a lack of a revenue model, lack of electricity, drying up of sources and poor planning.
To use a toilet daily, a family of five will need an additional 15 litres of water daily. In addition to mode of supply, water sources are under pressure. About 80% of water for human use comes from underground. Over the past three decades, groundwater has become increasingly scarce with the rapid expansion of groundwater-fed agriculture. Dug wells and handpumps that use shallow aquifers are the first to go, followed by tubewells for drinking water. Of the 7,928 blocks in the country, the Central Groundwater Board has classified about 14% as over-exploited or dark zones.
Added to the scarcity is the quality aspect. Natural and anthropogenic pollutants affect a significant percentage of groundwater. Add to this the problem of unregulated toilet construction. Norms require a minimum distance of 10m between a toilet and water source but this is never followed.
One is to build toilets that do not need water for flushing but safely separate excreta from human beings. These also separate the solids from the liquids and converts them into manure. These toilets can now be made for around Rs. 12,000, the amount of subsidy the government provides under the new sanitation campaign. The second is to ensure faecal containment that is the bare minimum that can be done to remove open defecation.
To succeed, the sanitation campaign has to be executed as part of a larger water cycle. The purpose is to improve health but without ensuring adequacy of water for ablutions, and safety of water from pollution, the cycle will not be complete. The toilets may well be constructed but Swachh Bharat will become another failed mission.

Nitya Jacob is head of policy, WaterAid India
The views expressed by the author are personal

- See more at: http://www.hindustantimes.com/comment/analysis/this-drive-could-well-go-down-the-drain/article1-1283708.aspx#sthash.B75iXQG1.dpuf