Sunday, March 13, 2016

Managing Cities : Developing Outwards is better than Developing inward

Every Indian city seem to have some common woes : transportation, water supply and solid and liquid waste management are the most common, directly affecting people and their health. Services come next with affordable access to health and education being the biggest dragging points with ever increasing population. Let us take the case of transportation for our discussion.

There are three approaches to solve or reduce the problems of commuting in a city context : (a) increase road space - by widening the roads, laying new roads and flyovers; (b) reduce the number of vehicles that hit the road - essentially through levying of special taxes or by rationing of roads. This is again, an attempt to increase the space per vehicle ratio, so that vehicles can move faster than 20 km per hour speed, below which has been the bane of city transport. The third solution is through (c) improving intelligence. This is done through intelligence based signalling, technology providers linked with transport monitoring and updating suggested route and possible time of arrival in real time etc. Basically this is technology driven. The fourth generation solutions are looking at the star wars style of working to create "flying cars" and these seem to be still far away. With fear of terror strikes even at the thought of baloons and drones flying above, the chances of creating controlled corridors for such flying cars, even if technically feasible, to use of them for regular commutation seems far fetched. This leaves us with searching for transformational solutions.

The cities need to be seen differently. The cities come with an implosive nature of attraction - which means, people, services, transport et al keep increasing through high immigration and inputs, and then implode from within as the services and infrastructure can not cope with the people and demands for mobility. So, cities need to be built differently. They should be explode externally (leap frog to) to far off smaller towns. This means, cities should not be adding up, or eating up suburbs into themselves. Instead, specific growth factors should be taken out of the city to enable them to grow faster, better and with lesser strain on the cities and its populace. For example, take the case of Mumbai. The pressure on Mumbai was reduced when the focus on Pune was increased. The Expressway added to the spread and growth of Pune and the towns along the with, with lesser pressure on Mumbai - at least it gave the benefit of moving from rapid urbanization to a slower urbanization. Such satellite cities and districts need to be built with additional incentives. For example, if West Bengal need to reduce the burden on Kolkata, quality of Universities and Colleges need to be improved in other parts of the state. Say for example, Murshidabad district can have a Special Economic Zone for crap and hardware processing, Malda can have SEZ for food processing, Puruliya or Bankura can have SEZ for Researches, Burdwan and North Dinajpur can have SEZ for health etc. These kind of spreading and special incentives can have long term impact on the overall economy of the state, short term benefits of reducing migration influxes, and overall benefit of sustainable development and economic growth. Simply, it means, build satellite townships and districts across the states, and not in major cities and metropolis alone. It comes without saying that connecting each of them would cost less than managing mammoth cities.

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