Monthly Archives: November 2014

Congress launches 24-hour helpline for slumdwellers

The Delhi Congress has decided to follow the do-or-die mantra of party vice-president Rahul Gandhi after he said on Thursday that he will stand in front of bulldozers if anyone tries to demolish slums without giving the slumdwellers their due.
The party has launched a helpline for the slumdwellers who have been removed illegally or have received notices to vacate their huts. The 24-hour helpline will help the party in tackling the issue. People who need help on the matter can contact +91 8595595595.

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Smart Cities – Convergence of design and governance

Renowned architect Rem Koolhaas recently spoke about Smart Cities and reflected on how more than ever do we need to converge the field of design with good governance! He argued against smart cites at a High Level Group meeting on Smart Cities, Brussels, on September 24, 2014. Summed up, Koolhaas argues that “by calling it smart, our city is condemned to being stupid.”

Highlights of the transcript of a talk given at the High Level Group meeting on Smart Cities, Brussels, 24 September 2014 is below. Read the full article at: https://ec.europa.eu/commission_2010-2014/kroes/en/content/my-thoughts-smart-city-rem-koolhaas Continue reading

Urban Age conference gives a wake up call to Delhi!

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

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. Continue reading

Higher, higher we will climb

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. Continue reading

Terra Urban Monthly Digest

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

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.