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(ARCHIVE) Vol. XIX No. 17, december 16-31, 2009
Urban renewal must look decades ahead
(By A Special Correspondent)

Urban renewal does not figure in our national policies though, meanwhile, urban population is burgeoning at an alarming pace. It is estimated that by 2050 there would be parity in the urban-rural population figures. How will India manage the tremendous pressures of this development that is already beginning to unfold, without these factors figuring in Government policies? This is the real challenge facing the planners today. Instead of merely planning for five years, urban renewal must take the long-term perspective of planning in terms of decades ahead. This was the opening statement at the workshop on Heritage Conservation and Urban Development organised recently in Hyderabad by the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH).

Speaker after speaker at the workshop stressed the critical link between urban and rural renewal. They pointed out that the increment in migration from rural to urban areas will grow year by year in numbers and impact urban areas with unmanageable pressures. If overdue attention is not paid to this, a point might be reached when it would be difficult to know whether garbage is being taken out of the city or the city is being built on the garbage.

Robert Toscano, Ambassador of Italy, in his keynote address, observed that his country has been addressing these problems for years. Italy managed to add economic value to heritage that goes beyond successful tourism. Italy has, in fact, succeeded in creating the requisite synergy between urban renewal and cultural preservation through effective re-usage of heritage properties, he said. There is a great deal to learn from the Italian experience.

In other words, we should not allow the intrinsic strength of a city to deteriorate. Inappropriate construction in the guise of development and progress, with open drains, overflowing sewage, garbage dumps, crowded lanes and traffic jams (obliterating the charm of traditional markets, bastis, baolis, holy places, and a way of life, etc.) are inevitable if urban renewal does not get the attention that is needed. Urgently!

The External Affairs Minister of State, Perneet Kaur of Patiala, the Chief Guest at the Valedictory, said that heritage is under severe stress, and “in danger of becoming a museum variety due to cultural globalisation.” There is need to rethink our city strategies and overcome lethargic business-as-usual approach in governance. Education is the best way of empowering citizens, of securing their partnership. She also said, “We must first decide what is to be saved and what is it that we want to build and develop. A society can be left rootless unless we know what legacy we want to preserve while engaging with development.” She was of the view that the present state of Indian cities does not reflect India’s stature and its growing importance in the world. Urban and rural renewal is, thus, not only a matter of national survival but also one of identity and our international image.


In this issue

Will the City waterways see better days?
Urban renewal must look decades ahead
Heritage legislation is essential
Calming traffic in recreational areas,
like the Marina
Historic Residences of Chennai - 32
Other stories

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