Author Archives: terraurban

How smart is the Smart City Idea !! A Thought on World Town Planning Day

Indian Towns sans planning!

by Ananta Prasad

The main challenges of urbanization in India are shortage of housing which is 18.78 million according to the 2011 census which Mr Venkeya Naidu, also stressed at the Plenary Session of Asia Pacific Ministerial Conference of Housing and Urban Development (APMCHUD) in Seoul recently.

The official statement of Minister emphasized stating that though accommodating slightly less than one third of the total population, the urban centres in India contribute a substantial part of the Gross Domestic Product already with 63 per cent in 2007 and the same is expected to increase to 75 per cent in 2021. However, the new Modi govt has their vision of Houses for all by end of 2012.

It is expected that by 2050, almost 50 percent of Indian population will constitute the urban areas and the Government of India is charged up with comprehensive urban up-liftment through improving quality of public transport, providing drainage, sanitation, waste management, water recycling and wi-fi facilities for public and commercial areas, added in the official note.

It is noted that World Town Planning Day is being celebrated in 30 countries of four continents on 8th November. It is a special day to recognize and promote the role of planning in creating livable urban communities. For fast growing countries like India the scenario of Town Planning is a myth. Sadly the town planners are yet to bring inclusive city planning. It has been a major issue in Indian cities that the urban planners have continuously ignored urban slums and the children in specific. Children and adolescents living in slums have been ignored as active stakeholder of urban renewal policies and programmes.

 According to HUPA, in India, 70.6% of urban population is covered by individual water connections while in china this is 91%, in South Africa 86% and in Brazil 80%.  Duration of water supply in India cities is between one to six hours. According to 2011 census, 13% of urban population defecate in the open, 37% are connected by open drains and 18% are not connected at all. 7.6 million young children living in urban poverty in Indian sufferer due to improper town planning in the country.The air quality has also deteriorated sharply carrying with it concomitant health costs. It has impacted directly to the children causing several diseases.

 Strategy to integrate networking of slums to city infrastructure and developing investment plans for slum infrastructure should be given priority as facts shows that slums have 20-25% of population but use less than 3 percent of land. The poor especially the children do not have any formal stake over land and hence are not a part of the planning process indicates the gap between the planners and the reality. Time has come for the planners to visioning the world class cities with proper inclusion of urban poor and young children living in it.

  It is noted that the central government has two major policies such as JnNURM and RAY for urban development where there has been plans to redevelop slums and to make India free from slums. But civil society members across India are now advocating for an inclusive development for all where women and children have equal share in the planning process and ensure a safe living condition for all.

 Keeping in mind the above statistics and information, if we analyse the statement by Naidu at Seoul things are very much superficial. The government has plans to adopt modern scientific methods of town and country planning practices based on Geographical Information System (GIS) in urban development. It is worth mentioning here that many programmes such as RAY and BSUP is facing issues like ownership of land as many slums in India are in forest lands or having such dispute. Any such relocation of people from existing set up to a farer place is simply not solving the issue of achieving Slum free India.

Again plans of extension of metro services to important and major urban centres, development of twin cities and creating infrastructure in satellite cities are other priority areas where now the new government is focusing on which is in other way ignoring the middle class which constitutes more than 40 percent in any urban settlement.

While the last budget it was announced for 100 new smart cities, now many civil society organisations have been questioning on the smartness of this smart city idea. However, every single day poor living condition is forcing most inhabitants of urban India to a unhealthy and unsafe well-being. Despite strengthening the existing plans in terms of hassle free execution of Urban Developmental plans, the new idea of smart cities seems very unreal in terms of implementation as the budgetary allocation is not sufficient.

The existing issues  that every urban set up in India is facing is going to be doubled of these smart city plans execute because of the obvious reason of non inclusiveness of such an idea.

(The writer is a Bangalore based development journalist and researcher on Urban Planing and Slum Development in India)

‘Re-education’ campaigns teach China’s new ghost city-dwellers how to behave

Yuan Xiaomei, a community supervisor in Kangbashi, China, tears open a cardboard box and hands out brochures and promotional fans to crowd of locals. The fans are emblazoned: “To build a civilised city, we need you. Thank you for your participation.” The residents fan themselves and flip through the brochures. One woman explains to her friend who can’t read: “It’s telling you how you should act in the city. Don’t spit, don’t throw rubbish on the streets, don’t play loud music, don’t drive on the pavement.”

Ordos broke ground in 2005, and made headlines in 2010 for being China’s largest ‘ghost city’. But in 2011 the government started to move large numbers of farmers off their land, under the guise that small-scale agriculture was failing in Ordos, and into the city, with the hope their lives would improve. As for the farmland, it is to be consolidated in areas for industrial agriculture, or converted back into grassland and forest in an effort to curb the sandstorms that have been known to blight the region.

Urban Ordos is eager for new residents to occupy the thousands of empty apartments, offices, and commercial spaces, of which more are built every day.

Read more at: http://www.theguardian.com/cities/2014/nov/06/-sp-china-ghost-city-kangbashi-ordos-re-education-campaign?CMP=share_btn_fb

LogoLink calls for making citizen participation substantive

Source: http://www.pria.org/blogs.php?action=view&blog_id=2901

LogoLink – Learning Network on Citizen Participation and Local Governance held the Partners’ Meeting on 22-25 September 2014 in New York City. In 2013, LogoLink undertook a review and analysis of policies and practices of citizen participation in local democratic governance as evolved in the past decade. This analysis suggested the need for a renewed discourse on citizen participation in different regions of the world in the changing context of democratic governance. Over the last year more than 500 organisations of civil society, academic institutions, local governments and their networks have been consulted in Asia, Africa and Latin America which resulted in the Global Charter on Right to Citizen Participation in Local Governance. A central message emerged from these consultations as the existing institutional spaces and mechanisms for citizen participation are inadequate to make participation meaningful and substantive. The decision making with regard to mobilisation and utilisation of public resources for common public good is still dominated by the elite groups in the society and polity across the world. The Global Charter, therefore, proposes a set of concrete actions for civil society, governments and donors. The Partners’ Meeting was an opportunity to deliberate on the emerging lessons on opportunities and challenges faced by civil society organisations across the world in promoting citizen participation in local governance institutions.The updates from various regions highlighted some common trends.

  • Societies and economies across the globe are experiencing profound economic and demographic dynamics, characterised by increasing inequalities and concentration of wealth and power with handful people and corporations; the developing world is experiencing an increased urbanisation, often in an unplanned and unsustainable manner coupled with a tremendous bulge of young people with different aspirations.
  • Despite decades of existence, the decentralisation of governance has remained uneven and incompletein many countries of the global south. Many observed that there is in fact a deeper tendency for recentralisationof governance and increased influence of corporate power over public policies.
  • Despite significant progress in the past century, democratic models under stress. There is increased concentration of power and control in the state and political parties, undermining the practice of participatory citizenship; there seems to be a deeper crisis of representation, as citizens are losing trust in the political system.
  • These trends of increasing centralisation, concentration of power, wealth and control and increasing inequalities are also being contested by citizens from the below as evidenced througheruptions of mass protests across developed and developing societies.
  • Emergence of digital technology is impacting the society in a profound way. Societies and people are getting connected with common interests and issues. There are opportunities to relate to the state directly, but often these engagements are individualised and isolated which undermine the values and strengths of collective engagement. On the other hand state is also exerting a new form of control over the citizens through technology.
  • The ‘deep-democracy’discourse is now equated with transparency and accountability. A major focus is on anti-corruption and making governments open. Many a times the global efforts (e.g. Open Government Partnership) are disconnected from the local civil society networks.

What do all these mean for citizen participation? The Partners’ Meeting explored this question vis-à-vis each major trend.

Uneven and incomplete decentralisation: In the last decade there have been proliferation of institutionalised spaces for citizen participation, however the question is how substantive are these spaces for substantive and meaningful changes, particularly that for the most marginalised and poor. As more often these spaces do not satisfy citizens’ needs and aspirations there is disillusion and disengagement from a large number of citizens. A new set of strategies must be in place to make these spaces inclusive and substantive and to transform the local governance institutions as schools for practicing participatory citizenship.

Stressed democratic models: The role of political parties and the nature of political system shape the nature of citizen participation and therefore cannot be ignored. In many contexts the local patronage networks determine the outcome of citizen participation. As the representative democratic institutions often fail to nurture citizen aspirations there have been a surge of mass protests by the citizens some of which also embrace violent expressions. However, such display of discontents also provides opportunities for harnessing greater assertion of rights and political expression by the citizens.

Digital technology: Technology holds great potential for re-engaging citizens and activating state response by linking locality and interest as basis for collective action. In recent times a lot of online civic engagement initiatives are enthusiastically being practiced; however there is also a hype associated with this technology at this moment. It must be acknowledged that apart from the uneven access to technology, the civic technology initiatives are also disconnected from one another. In addition, there is also limitation to enable ‘thick’ and collective engagement beyond ‘thin’ and individualized participation. However, with a thoughtful strategy, technology can create opportunities for linking these apparently unconnected initiatives for learning citizenship.

From democracy to transparency and accountability: In recent years there have been dramatic expansion and growth of social accountability practices. It offers useful tools for citizen engagement and institutionalises rights to information and participation to a great extent. However, many social accountability initiatives also promote a narrow focus on the use tools and not on politics which transforms power relationships. Its focus on monitoring of state performance to a large extent undermines the co-construction of development solutions by the state and citizens. Strategies must be in place to complement social accountability practices with other methods and practices of citizen participation.

The Partners’ Meeting calls for a renewed collective global action for promoting substantive citizen participation and identified three thematic areas, namely institutionalising spaces for citizen participation, urban governance and planning, and participatory development.

In the next phase of LogoLink, PRIA will assume the Global Coordination role with the help of an Executive Committee. LogoLink aspires to develop a new programme involving new actors and regions and invites like-minded civil society organisations, academic, local government officials, elected representatives and policy makers in this endeavour as partners and supporters.

Participatory design is not trying to ask people to validate the ‘right’ answer!

ELEMENTAL SA led by prominent Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena was presented with a Global Holcim Awards Finalist 2012 certificate for the Sustainable post-tsunami reconstruction master plan, of Constitución.

The master plan was developed after the 2010 earthquake and tsunami that struck Constitución, a city of 46,000 people located on the shore of the Pacific Ocean and 300km southwest of Chile’s capital, Santiago. 8.8 Earthquake Chile – Sustainable reconstruction master plan proposes a public-private strategy to respond with “geographical answers” to the “geographical threats” of the earthquake and tsunami risk.

Instead of considering a construction ban or a massive barrier along the risk zones, the project proposes to plant the flood-prone areas in order to break the waves. Located behind this first line of defense are facilities that have specific restrictions on the use and layout of ground floor areas. These two interventions are accompanied by an evacuation plan as the third protection element. The aim is a long-term preservation of the city at its historical position next to the estuary mouth – a strategic location for the city’s economy. The complimentary concept is to create public open spaces along the banks of the river that alleviate the lack of inner-city recreation areas as well as support the dissipation of rainwater runoff in order to avoid further flooding.

Half a good house is better than one small one

“Participatory design is not trying to ask people to validate the right answer – but starts by understanding what is the right question,” says Alejandro Aravena.

Supplemented by empirical evidence from the most recent tsunami, the architects relied on mathematical models and laboratory trials. Implementing their master plan proved very challenging both politically and socially, because it required the city to expropriate private land along the riverbank. Elemental’s successful approach was to rely on participatory design to define the citizens’ needs and engage them in the planning process. Today, four years after the earthquake, the individual projects from the master plan are being implemented.

In Constitución, the population has managed to apply the necessary innovation to ensure its protection against future flooding. By adopting a bottom-up approach, in a very constructive way a joint decision has been reached regarding what the city should look like in the future. This exemplary concept is not restricted to Constitución, but could also apply in many geographies around the world that have been destroyed by natural disasters.
elemental Elemental proposed combining the funds available for temporary emergency shelters and social housing to provide better-quality shelters with a higher initial cost that could then be dismantled and reused in an incremental social-housing scheme. The architects designed the social housing units as half of a good house instead of a complete, but small one: building-in the possibility for residents to double the floor area of the house to 80 square meters. Next to each built section of the row house is an open space of the same size into which residents can expand their house. Higher quality social housing eventually increases in value and provides families with capital growth where the collateral can be used to guarantee a loan for a small business, or pay for higher education for children.

Innovation in the built environment in this project did not come from new materials, new techniques or new systems: it came from having the courage to follow common sense ideas, to understand the needs of the people of Constitución, and by viewing the problem in terms of both the micro- and macro-environments.

source: http://www.holcimfoundation.org/

Out of Fashion

by Rajesh Tandon, President -PRIA

During the height of the Emergency, the government of then Prime Minister late Mrs Indira Gandhi passed an ordinance on October 25, 1975 to abolish bonded labour; the ‘suspended’ parliament four months later ‘enacted’ the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act 1976. The newly formed National Labour Institute (under the leadership of Labour Minister late Shri Raghunath Reddy) began its operations from the rented premises in Safdarjang Development Area, New Delhi.It focused on the plight of rural and bonded labour by organising popular education ‘rural labour camps’; the late Prof Nitish De was brought in from IIM, Calcutta as its first Dean. These rural labour camps began to popularise several ‘revolutionary measures’ taken through the Ordinance route by the government during the Emergency to ameliorate the plight of rural and unorganised sector labour.

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Kailash Satyarthi with children. Photo credit: kailashsatyarthi.net

Two years later, the newly formed Janata government in Delhi then launched a Centrally Sponsored Scheme in 1978 for the rehabilitation of labour thus released from bondage. Several Gandhian institutions, especially the Gandhi Peace Foundation and Gandhi Peace Centre (under the leadership of late Shri S. Radhakrishnan) conducted the first nation-wide study of bonded labour (which was subsequently published by a radical woman lawyer ManjariDigwaney). A new generation of voluntary organisations emerged in the country in the late 1970s and early 1980s, taking forward such efforts at social transformation, after getting frustrated with the formal political process with the demise of the Janata coalition.
Freeing and rehabilitating bonded labourers amongst dalit and tribal communities became a major focus of such social mobilisation efforts of many of these voluntary organisations. Joe Madiath in Kerandimalsin southern Odisha, VivekPandit of SharmjiviSangathan in Thane and Swami Agnivesh in and around Delhi began campaigns to free bonded labour, as well as demand their effective rehabilitation. It is in the course of these campaigns that some social activists focused their attention on bonded and forced child labour. KailashSatyarthiwas one such early champion for the abolition of child labour, and formed the BachpanBachaoAndolan (Save Childhood Movement).

The two main industries, other than agriculture, where incidence of ‘forced’ child labour came to light in the early 1980s were the carpet weaving in eastern Uttar Pradesh and manufacture of firecrackers in Sivakasi (Tamilnadu). These early campaigns led to the enactment of the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act 1986. However, this Act was more about regulation, and much less about prohibition of child labour. Prohibition was restricted to hazardous industries like chemicals and firecrackers.

Typically, national and state governments throughout the 1990s paid scant attention to monitoring the implementation of the regulations of the Act. As a phenomenon, child labour was most widespread in the Indian sub-continent. Several international agencies joined together (and Kailash was in the forefront of this) to launch a Global March Against Child Labour in 1998, resulting in the adoption of ILO Convention 182 prohibiting such practices. Kailash and his team later joined, and provided substantial leadership to, Global Campaign for Education For All (EFA) as rehabilitation of such children needed proper educational opportunities.

In response, the government first denied the presence of forced and bonded child labour in India; it later released figures to indicate that it was a decreasing occurrence. The NSSO 2004-05 data indicates less than 9 million child labour in the whole country (Delhi having around 9000 only). A quick assessment of supply of domestic servants in the kitchens of several lakh Delhi households would establish the sheer denial of this reality by the governments, and citizens alike!
The issues surrounding child labour gradually disappeared from the attention of governments and funding agencies. The dawn of the 21st century saw emphasis on different new agendas, and India declared itself both as emerging and ‘shining’. Attention towards India’s economic might, its IT industry and its growing middle class seemed to imply that 20th century problems (like child labour) had been solved.

Despite the fact that child labour (and bonded labour) issues began to go ‘out of fashion’, BachpanBachaoAndolan continued its work single-mindedly. Gradually, new occupations of prevalence of child labour were included in the expanded definition of child labour. The most prominent amongst these were child labour in tea-shops, road-side restaurants and domestic servants. It was only in 2006 that these categories of child labour in India have been included in the legislation.
By this account, the current Prime Minister escaped being classified as child labour when he was selling tea at railway stations in his childhood.

A new law to prohibit child labour altogether, so that Article 24 of Indian Constitution can be operationalised nearly seventy years later, is in the making in the Indian parliament for the last three years. The Prime Minister’s launching of ‘a slew of labour reforms’ on 14 October 2014 did not mention reforming legislations regarding child labour; it would have acknowledged the unending practices surrounding the exploitation of our children, especially in light of the recent recognition to KailashSatyarthiby the Nobel Peace Prize Committee.

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Representational image

Likewise, those who are championing the ban against lighting of Chinese-made fire-crackers this Diwali, may well demand enforcement of the ban against use of child labour in Sivakasi and elsewhere.
At the bane of this reality is the rapidly shifting nature of India, and the world around. New generation of civil society actors, using new generation of social media tools, are campaigning on new issues as part of the global movement. New philanthropists are eager to support such ‘new causes’ with ‘new approaches’. In the meanwhile, several thousand KailashSatyarthis continue to carry on their hard work of addressing century-old societal malpractices in the country, unheard and unsung. They do so because their commitment to these causes of social transformation are not time-bound; their interventions are not limited to short-term log-frames; and they understand that such systemic transformations require generations of sustained efforts. Policy-makers and donors come-n-go, but struggles for social transformation continue!

Terraurban- Monthly Digest

Catch all the action at Terraurban in the last month below or save a pdf from the following link: Terraurban- Sep digest

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URBAN POOR LIVE LIKE PHEONIX

by Shivani Singh, PRIA

In Greek mythology, a phoenix is a long-lived bird that is cyclically regenerated or reborn. A phoenix obtains new life by arising from the ashes of its predecessor.(wikipedia, 2014).Urban poor represent phoenix birdas their houses, livelihood, belongings,relationships and networks, rather their whole existence gets burnt either by residing in an unsafe place or due to powerful forces that surrounds them. Power can be of all kinds’ money, muscle, governmental orders or vested private interest. But still they continue to live and struggle.

Patna grapples with many social and economic issues. Urbanization is happening but at snail’s pace. The urban poor and urban slums of Patna are no different than other urban poor and slums of Kolkata, Jaipur, and Bhubaneswar which I got to visit this year. The problem of land, water, sanitation, education, health, and security remains common phenomenon everywhere.

I met the newly formed Slum Improvement Committee (SIC) Federation’s core committee members who will work for the development of their respective slums and engage in demanding various rights from the government. The core committee is democratically elected body by the SIC members in the PRIA intervened slums. The SIC members narrated the problems encompassing their slums and how SIC formation led to bringing in improvement in their community.

Ram Dheeraj Prasad, 62
“My basti was set on fire four times. Where should I go? I do not have any house. When I go to meet the government officials they call me ‘ganda aadmi’ and say, ‘kaun bulaya tumko, chal bhag yaha se’.
Despite of being rejected ad humiliated many times by the authority he still has the willingness to fight for basic rights for the slum he lives in with his grandchildren.

Bacchi Devi, 27
“There is a sewage treatment plant near our ‘basti’ when there is power cut the sewage plant overflows and our basti gets filled with filth. We can’t enter our slums. Our house gets flooded with filth and the livestock, our belongings flows away with it. It’s a regular phenomenon. Again we build our houses and live there. No other place to go.”

Munna Kumar, Sandalpur, age 27
I don’t have much earnings. My basti has been set on fire many times. It costs Rs. 10,000 to construct a kuccha house in slum. It’s difficult for us to every time build a new house. Government should resettle us in same place we live.
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Sagar Ram, Dhobi Ghat, age 65
Our slum doesn’t have basic amenities. Eviction is our greatest fear. I legally own the land, yet it was encroach by few powerful people. Being powerless I tried to mobilize the community and together with their help and contribution we built a primary school. But as the school land is near a pond which get over flooded during winter seasons this hampers the studies.

Sharda Devi, Adalat Gunj, age 55
“There is no water facility in basti. A hand pump was installed with the help of an NGO (Water Aid). There is no school or crèche for children in slum.”

Rita Devi, Vetinari Campus, age 30
“My basti doesn’t have proper waste disposal system. There is no water, no electricity. The only insecurity is getting evicted from the place we have been living since long.”

Sanjay Kumar, Hima Nagar Ward 34, age 40
“I have been living in ward 34 for past 30-40 years. There is no water, no toilet, no drainage in our basti. There are many governmental schemes but they are least accessed by the poor.
We are associated with Dalit Vikas Samiti and PRIA and have formed a SIC that works for the betterment of community. We collected Rs. 25000/- from the community by taking a donation of Rs. 100 from each household and installed a 400 feet pipeline and a motor. This collective effort helped us in bringing in water in our basti. It’s because we collectivized we were able to think about how to solve the problem. The SIC also played an important role in putting pressure on the municipal commissioner to install a handpump in their basti.”

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Ajay Kumar Malik, 34, Kankarbagh
“I also belong to basti that doesn’t have any basic amenities. I do manual scavenging and earn Rs 4000/-. The government claims that scavenging is abolished hence doesn’t exist but the same is false as in my basti itself there are 200 youths that are involved in manual scavenging. We get Rs 100 as wage for cleaning the gutter whole day! I worked in municipality for 3-4 years. Now that the work of sewage cleaning is contracted out I work on private basis.”

The above narrations of problems faced by the urban poor who are now part of SIC federation showcases a known picture of any slum. Eviction is the biggest insecurity with which the urban poor grapple. When asked from the SIC members what is the first thing you demand? They all answered unanimously that “we want land rights rest all can only come after we assume land rights. ‘Jaha hum rahe rahe hai hume vahi basaya jaaye’(rehabilitate us where we are living now).

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