About 18 months ago, it was observed that a road that passes close to my colony was packed with bumper-to-bumper traffic every day. What had been thus far practically a lay-by, had, in a short span of time, become an arterial road of sorts, with an ever-increasing number of vehicles using it. To solve this problem, the civic authorities decided that the road had to be widened. In the process of widening it, it was decided to axe about forty beautiful, old trees lining the road. Those of us who live in the area protested this move vehemently, but to no avail. The trees ultimately came down, along with a few buildings along the periphery of the road. The road was widened. And traffic started flowing smoothly again.
But only for a year or so.
In recent months, the traffic jams have returned with a vengeance. The stretch of road actually looks more like a large parking lot, because at any time of the day, you’d find a long line of vehicles which are unable to move! And guess what, the authorities are now talking of widening the road again! Needless to say, more trees may get the axe and more charming, old buildings will have to go.
As the citizens of my area gird their loins for yet another wrangle with the authorities, I can’t help wishing that this short-sighted approach to ‘development’ would stop. What’s happening in my locality is eerily similar to the way cities across India have been ‘developed’ for several years now. Reactive responses like this treat just the visible symptoms, but not the real issues that lie beneath.
While such responses seem to bring some relief in the immediate-term, they don’t weed out the real problem at all! In fact, they end up causing enormous damage to the city in the medium and long-term. This is something our Governments and Government agencies should appreciate with immediate effect.
If we are to address our burgeoning urban challenges, we need to break away from the current mindset and embrace a holistic, systemic approach. In this issue of Urban Canvas, the lead story takes a closer look at the City-Systems framework developed by Janaagraha over years of trying to improve the quality of life in our cities. The framework breaks down urban governance into four dimensions and explains how each of these can help Governments take far-sighted policy decisions that can help transform our cities. Read the story here.
Apart from this, we bring you interesting updates from our different programmes and regular features like ‘Stories from the Landscape’.
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Janaagraha Centre for Citizenship and Democracy
Stories from the Landscape
A selection of articles on one or more of these issues, culled from different publications across the world: urban governance, quality of life, civic participation and civic learning.
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