City Observer- Volume 4 Issue 2- December 2018

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Volume 4 | Issue 2| December 2018

CITY OBSERVER A BIANNUAL JOURNAL ON CITIES PUBLISHED BY URBAN DESIGN COLLECTIVE

INSIDE

DELHI INSITES

WHAT ARE WE MISSING IN THE ECLECTIC AQUEOUS NEW MOBILITY CONVERSATION? PERIPHERIES


CITY OBSERVER

Volume 4 | Issue 2 | December 2018 Free Publication City Observer is a biannual journal which aims to create a conversation on cities and to collaboratively interrogate our urban world. City Observer is published by the Urban Design Collective. Urban Design Collective (UDC) is a collaborative platform for architects, urban designers and planners to create livable cities through participatory planning. www.urbandesigncollective.org info@urbandesigncollective.org

EDITORIAL TEAM Devangi Ramakrishnan Neha Krishnan Shruti Shankar Sunjana Thirumala Sridhar Vidhya Mohankumar

EDITORIAL SUPPORT Katheeja Talha

COVER ILLUSTRATION Aishwarya Soni

LAYOUT DESIGN Shruti Shankar Vidhya Mohankumar Copyrights of images lie with the person/party mentioned in the image caption. The opinions expressed in this journal are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of UDC or its members. This magazine cannot be republished or reproduced without the permission of the publisher.


TO CITIES AND PEOPLE


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CONTENTS 6 Editorial Shruti Shankar

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Feature Article DELHI INSITES

City Trails CYCLING INTO THE WONDERLAND OF THE LOIRE VALLEY IN FRANCE

Divya Chand, Divleena Singh, G. Lakshmi Chaitanya Reddy, Preeyambika Bagha & Suprima Joshi

Apurwa Kumbhar

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Feature Article BOLSTERING SOCIO-ECOLOGICAL RESILIENCE IN GREATER CAIRO REGION’S PERI-URBAN AGRICULTURE LANDS

Mobility and the City WHAT ARE WE MISSING IN THE NEW MOBILITY CONVERSATION?

Feature Article CONTEXTUALIZING WATER SCARCITY IN URBAN MOUNTAIN TOWNS: THE CASE OF DARJEELING

Dorothy Estrada

Vishal Ramprasad, Harshita Jamba & Joyant Taandon

Rinan Shah


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Learning from Cities 10 URBAN DESIGN LESSONS FROM JAMAICA, QUEENS - NEW YORK CITY

Motion Captured ECLECTIC AQUEOUS PERIPHERIES

On Location MADRID’S MAGNIFICENT MANZANARES

Shail Joshi

Vidhya Mohankumar

Teaching Urban Design PLAY METHODOLOGIES STUDIO Sebastian Trujillo & Kruti Shah

Jahnavi Aluri

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Feature Article Art in the City DYNAMIC SYSTEMS ART FOR ‘ALL’ AND PLURAL Faizan Khatri PERSPECTIVES: CHALLENGES FOR COMMUNITYBASED WASTE MANAGEMENT Kripa Ramachandran

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Community Engagement SCOTTISH CEMETERY: A LIVING HERITAGE IN KOLKATA

Closing Scene

Debayan Chatterjee & Atanu Das

Abinaya Rajavelu


CITY OBSERVER

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EDITORIAL

Welcome to our concluding issue of 2018 –

from all countries to mobilize efforts to tackle

this has been another tumultuous, eventful

climate change while fighting all forms of

year. As we write this piece, the overarching

inequalities, ensuring that no one is left behind.

challenge for nations across the world is

They are broad and overarching, covering

arguably still the adverse environmental effects

everything from climate action to responsible

of global warming, and cities and communities

consumption, reduced inequalities, gender

continue to battle several issues resulting from

equality, and ending hunger and poverty. They

unsustainable growth. We started publishing

might seem utopian to the point of being

City Observer in 2015, and the four years

naive, but they hit upon the fundamental

since then have been the warmest years in

tenet of sustainable development – that we

history since weather records began in the

cannot achieve our environmental goals in

1850s. 2018 was the warmest of the four

a socio-economic vacuum. To achieve long-

and the effects of that were visible in the

term, systemic goals for the environment, the

several extreme weather events that occurred

motivation for change will have to trickle down

throughout the year. From destructive forest

and influence the everyday decisions and short-

fires that burnt down entire communities in

term actions of individuals and communities

California to devastating floods across several

that are (almost) always inspired by the

districts in Kerala, the human and economic

question ‘how can I preserve or improve my/my

losses sustained from these disasters have

community’s current quality of life’?

been substantial. A gloomy note to start on, if there ever was one.

Several articles and essays in this issue touch upon these nuances that become knotty

And yet, while these are decidedly difficult,

challenges for urban practitioners working

systemic environmental challenges that we

on the ground. How do we reduce waste and

continue to experience on a global scale, we

pollution in our cities, when people living

have collectively formulated a comprehensive

farther away from the local garbage dump

framework to address these issues and

are less invested in finding solutions than

attempt to overcome them, through the

those immediately affected by it? How can we

United Nations’ Sustainable Development

achieve scale in the adoption of alternative

Goals (UN SDGs). The SDGs were adopted in

modes of transportation to reduce greenhouse

2015 with set targets for global development

gas emissions, when women don’t feel safe

to be achieved by 2030. They call for action

using these alternatives? What should be the

CITY OBSERVER | December 2018


responsibility of contractors and developers on ambitious urban projects, to ensure that labourers on the site and local communities are not adversely impacted by a poor site environment and local ecology during several years of construction activity? Projects that address these kinds of challenges are not always ‘sexy’, lucrative or instantly gratifying. They are complex, contextual efforts that attempt to resolve the difficult questions steadily and incrementally, along the path to a more environmentally responsible society and

ultimately, a healthier planet to support human life. Will we get there by 2030? Only time will tell. Meanwhile, we are encouraged to see the multitude of efforts taking place right now world-wide to create a better future for all of us. Here’s to a brave new year in 2019. Happy reading! Shruti Shankar On behalf of the Editorial Team

Mr. Bean supports the Sustainable Development Goals. Image source: Youtube

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FEATURE ARTICLE

BOLSTERING SOCIO-ECOLOGICAL RESILIENCE IN GREATER CAIRO REGION’S PERI-URBAN AGRICULTURE LANDS Strategies for Local Development and Improved Food Security DOROTHY ESTRADA

CITY OBSERVER | December 2018


This research focuses on the causes and consequences of encroaching development onto agricultural lands in Cairo’s peri-urban fringe in Giza. It examines strategies for resilient periurban agriculture that can be applied to the Greater Cairo Region (GCR). Empirical data was collected through formal interviews with local experts, local surveys, and informal interviews in the district of Saft al-Laban (one of the fringe informal settlements of Giza). Results indicate a low level of community resilience in this district, and data collected was utilized to steer policy and design recommendations. The final output critically examines prevailing conditions and advocates for improved participatory planning at the local and institutional levels to conserve peri-urban agriculture systems in the GCR.

Informal buildings in Saft al Laban. Image source: Estrada, 2017

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INTRODUCTION Rapid growth in urban areas worldwide has created a global alarm about how to make cities more food-secure. Periurban areas (where agriculture has traditionally taken place) are being pressured for development to suit housing and settlement needs. However, urban development in such areas can have negative environmental impacts and push food production centres further to the urban periphery. Negative consequences include the loss of income for farmers, the loss of fertile soil and potential erosion, biodiversity loss, and habitat fragmentation. Academic discussions link this phenomenon to that of socio-ecological resilience, which examines the web of dynamics between humans as a species and their interactions with the environment [6]. This includes the management of natural resources, or in many cases, the current mismanagement. Peri-urban agricultural lands are but one example of precious resources that are being squandered, and as arable land worldwide shrinks, so does our capacity as a species to feed ourselves. In the Greater Cairo

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Region (GCR) this issue is critical, since economic desperation among farmers and the working class, coupled with poor government management of peri-urban agricultural (PUA) lands, has led to their depletion. This loss has occurred at such a rapid rate in the last few decades, that if no intervention is made, the extremely fertile lands of the GCR may disappear altogether, bringing Egypt to the verge of an extreme food security crisis.

RESEARCH QUESTION AND OBJECTIVES This research touches upon a rich body of knowledge exploring the importance of peri-urban food production and the socio-ecological and economical value of agriculture. Studies published in the last decade indicate that depleting PUA is a major topic of concern, yet little research has been produced to examine regional peri-urban strategies to combat food insecurity and improve conditions in informal areas. Several typologies exist when speaking about urban agriculture and its related subtopics, but the scope of this research examines the issue on a larger regional scale, linking it with the broader fields of community resilience and food security.


The key research question examined is ‘How does peri-urban agriculture support socio-ecological resilience in an urban area?’ This key question grounded in the context of the GCR, has been explored in order to reach a comprehensive understanding of the reasons for the existing phenomena of rapid loss of PUA lands in Cairo and what solutions could curb this trend. LITERATURE REVIEW A. Defining Cairo’s Peri-Urban Areas UN HABITAT refers to Greater Cairo Region (GCR) as ‘a vast agglomeration that comprises the urbanised area of the Governorates of Cairo, Giza, Qalyobiya, Helwan, Sixth October and the eight new urban communities that surround’ [22]. As of 2010, the population estimate of Greater Cairo Region was 20 million inhabitants [22]. The research focus area is the peri-urban agricultural lands in the Giza district, on the western edge of Cairo, where the phenomenon of rapid loss of PUA lands is concentrated. The Giza Governorate also represents some of the most prominent and rapid population growth,

consisting of both Cairene residents who have left the urban core (a trend occurring since the mid 1960s due to deterioration of older housing stock and the commercialisation of downtown) and migrants from rural areas, though this is to a lesser extent [20]. b. Loss of Agriculture Land in Cairo 3.3% of Egypt’s total land area is arable [10]. Of this, 99% of cultivated lands are in the Nile Valley and Delta region [7]. Egypt’s Delta region has very rich soils and some of the highest yields per unit of land in the world [9], yet the area is rapidly depleting. The loss of agricultural land in GCR traces a history spanning several decades. Beginning with the Egyptian Land Reform law established

Peri-urban settlement areas on the western fringe of Cairo. Image Source: Sims, 2010

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in 1952 (and amended again 1958, 1961 and 1969), President Gamal Abdel Nasser sought to limit individual land ownership to 50 feddan (21 hectares). Subsequently, the decree has been revised to now allow for a maximum property of only 5 feddan (2.1 hectares) [8].

opportunities in the growing city. As crowded city conditions caused a shortage of housing, people soon began to move to the fringes of the city to set up their own makeshift housing, both to the east of Cairo (near the desert), and west, close to Giza (on agriculture land) [20].

In the early 1960s, regulations for building housing in rural areas were

The Land Reform laws soon caused problems for farmers, since the limited

lacking. Infringements started to multiply at a time when the focus was on industrialisation and largescale building projects in Cairo’s City centre [8]. The rural to urban migration to Cairo was also rampant in the 1960s, as farmers sought better work

area of 5 feddan inhibited large-scale mechanised agriculture. Farmer-owners of small plots in rural areas soon began to realise that to build on the land was more economically viable than farming, especially given the population increase at Cairo’s fringes [9].

A farmer during the Nasser era. Image source: Hopkins and Saad, 2007

CITY OBSERVER | December 2018


After small informal settlements began appearing the late 1960s, another series of dramatic Land Reforms were decreed in the 1970s and 1980s, issued by the government to prohibit construction on arable lands, and Law Number 116 issued in 1983 spelt out steep fines for doing so [8]. During this same time, Cairo’s Ring Road was being developed with the intention to stop

the growth of Greater Cairo. The Ring Road was originally planned to include a greenbelt and a buffer of 500 meters on either side, should roadway expansions be necessary in the future [16]. Neither planning tactic was fully realised, and the informal settlements in the west of Greater Cairo extended right up the Ring Road and beyond.

Informal expansion along the north and south axes of the Ring Road. Image source: Gouda, et al., 2016

Informal expansion has expanded beyond the Ring Road. Image source: Piffero, 2010

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Despite the decrees, informal building and agricultural land infringements continued. Aerial footage from 1977 seems to suggest that fringe plots were continually subdivided and sold during the period, with significant expansion resulting in some of the core villages of Giza, such as Saft al Laban.

Agricultural work still remained one of the main sectors of Egypt’s economy in the 1970s and 1980s but as work in rural areas began to dwindle, more migrants from local core villages moved to Cairo’s fringe in search of better economic opportunities [13]. However, even greater was the migration from the urban core of Cairo to its fringes. CITY OBSERVER | December 2018

This was partly due to the increased commercialisation of downtown, where housing costs were rising and older buildings deteriorating. Families sought better accommodation and new lives in the informal fringe, where prices were lower and housing options more varied, all still within reach and connected through transport lines to the city centre [20]. In the 1990s, infilling of agricultural pockets between informal buildings and small additions to existing settlements could be observed through satellite imagery [20]. This remained the case into the 2000s, though these patterns of development continued to creep onto agricultural plains in a “critical mass” fashion [20]. The next major spurt in informal construction occurred during the Egyptian Revolution of 2011. During this time, many decided to take advantage of the government’s preoccupation with the protests, and arable land infringements increased by up to 630 square kilometres in Greater Cairo Region alone [8] (Figure 6). Informal housing development on arable land in Giza has steadily continued since that time [13].


Figure 6. Infringements on agricultural land increased during the 2011 Revolution. Image Source: Estrada, 2017.

C. Socio-Ecological Resilience To frame this problem in the context of socio-ecological resilience, it is first necessary to define it. There exist a plethora of definitions to define the word ‘resilience’ [11]. Folke defines socio-ecological resilience as “a complex, adaptive system concerning the integrated concept of humans in nature,” which examines the web of dynamics between humans as a species and their interactions with the environment [6]. Arguably, the phrase has become as overused as ‘sustainability’ in academic circles, but arguments suggest that resilience and sustainability differ because

sustainability does not focus on testing a system’s capacity or its adaptive capabilities [25]. With this thought, researchers are now beginning to understand resilience as a key to achieving sustainability in large, complex systems. Fluxes in peri-urban agricultural systems, such as soil disturbance, flood, drought, or extreme weather are likely to affect urban food production areas, and require adaptive or transformational changes [4]. Urban landscapes can be thought of as complex systems that are regulated and transformed by nature [14]. Urban ecology has encouraged 14 15


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both scientists and designers alike to consider such feedback loops and selforganisation, and incorporate urban designs to fit naturally into each other. Such considerations encourage a wider, systems-thinking approach, that includes humans as a part of the whole system, and emphasises resistance, change, and unpredictability [25]. D. Food Security in Egypt It was also deemed necessary in this research to frame GCR’s peri-urban land loss in the context of food security. Annually, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (UNFAO) produces a list of Low-Income, FoodDeficit Countries (LIFDC) in order to pinpoint where to best target their efforts. While Egypt is currently not on this list, Greater Cairo Region (GCR) has one of the highest population densities globally with 397 persons per hectare, and the country is reported to be the world’s largest importer of wheat [7]. In 2010, the nation’s oil minister stated that Egypt imports 40% of its food, and 60% of its wheat [24]. Research suggests that even if Egypt is not in a food security crisis now, it may CITY OBSERVER | December 2018

be heading towards one. According to a 2014 report from the International Food Policy Research Institute, Egypt’s food security has been fluctuating greatly in


Egypt’s food security has been affected by a number of crisis events. Image source: Bush, 2014

the past few years. From 2005 to 2012 factors such as the steady increase of urban poverty may have affected food security (Figure 7). Astoundingly,

between 2009 and 2011, 15.2% of the population (12.2 million people) fell into poverty [3].

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According to the UNFAO Regional Cairo office, food insecurity is an important issue for Egypt, and one that has been partly compounded through overpopulation in some areas, as well as other aspects of food like water and other natural resources needed to produce it [26]. The strategic crops the FAO considers are those that address food security: wheat, maize, and rice, and as one researcher at the American University in Cairo indicated, “Food security is planned at the national level” [13]. E. Resilient Design for PUA Previous studies suggest that PUA lands provide a plethora of ecosystem services that have a powerful impact on socio-ecological resilience. Ecosystem services are defined as “the stock of natural ecosystems that yields a flow of valuable ecosystem goods or services to the future society” [17]. A review of other urban ecology studies indicates that sustainable planning and urban design for PUA should take two important factors into consideration. First, landscape functions as nested scales. This means that when determining the boundaries of landscapes in an urban ecological design, it is helpful to CITY OBSERVER | December 2018

always think up one scale [15]. Second, sustainable urban design “should create holistic solutions to existing social and ecological problems while anticipating future challenges and striving to create a better future” [15]. This means that such planning should be place-based and built on aspects that already exist. It involves working with cultural and natural systems in order to guide planning and design decisions [15].

METHODOLOGY The research was designed to examine the impact of Cairo’s peri-urban agriculture on its socio-ecological resilience and its relationship to food security. Field data was collected in the Saft al Laban area, a district of Giza, as part of a comprehensive study. A. Site Selection Saft al Laban is a district on the western fringe of Giza, with the Ring Road to its west, and Kafr Tuhurmis, Bolouq ad Dakrour, and Zinayn to its south, east, and north respectively. Al Dokki in the formal part of Giza can be easily reached by car in about 15 minutes using the Saft al Laban Corridor elevated


highway. Looking at satellite imagery, the green space to the western part of Saft al Laban appears being “eaten up” by development on both east and west, further confirmed by viewing satellite imagery of the area dating back to the 1970s. This rapid rate of change, makes Saft al Laban a dominant representative of the general regional phenomena of a fringe area undergoing informal urban expansion. The neighbouring Ring Road in close proximity to formal areas of Giza, coupled with the fact that very little

research has been done in the area are also added elements of interest worthy of further analysis. In order to undertake concentrated study of the fringe, a neighbourhood area within the district was selected for asset mapping and informal interview sampling. This area includes a cross section of Saft al Laban’s most western wedge, where urban fabric meets the Ring Road and is currently expanding beyond, and the bordering farmlands at the edge. This area (Figure 9) represents a true fringe; a stark contrast between open green and densely urban land, surrounded by major urban infrastructure.

The pockets surrounding Saft al Laban. Image source: Google Earth, 2017

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The neighbourhood focus area. Image source: Google Earth, 2017

B. Background Little to no urban research has been done on Saft al Laban. Data such as population is calculated roughly, and is in constant flux due to urban expansion. Estimates range from 180,000 inhabitants according to a 2012 estimate [20] to 500,000 according to local residents themselves [5]. Satellite imagery suggests the district area to be around 180 hectares, but this is also difficult to pinpoint, since its fringe is constantly expanding. According to CITY OBSERVER | December 2018

some local residents, Saft al Laban has been steadily urbanising for the past 15-25 years, and was previously occupied by only 7-8 large families [23]. Now, due to high demand for housing and relatively cheap land and rental prices, many outsiders have moved into the area, contributing to its rapid urbanisation. To address the key research questions, a multi-stage field survey was devised consisting of the following: Informal interviews, informal conversation, first-hand observations,


and a formal focus group discussion. The field survey was conducted on a research trip to Cairo in April 2017. C. Field Survey In order to reach an understanding of the key research question, the field survey was conducted in the selected neighbourhood area over the course of two consecutive weeks and structured with specific questions related to land ownership, economic status, local assets, relationship to agriculture, and food security. Totally 39 residents selected by random sampling participated in the survey. It was determined that such a number was sufficient to observe patterns in responses and reach a saturation point. Interview participants answered a standardised 40-question survey translated from English into Arabic, and conducted in the field with the help of a male interpreter versed in Egyptian Arabic dialect. The process consisted of the interpreter reading survey questions one by one and the participant responding orally. The interpreter would then translate the response into English which was transcribed, with additional notes made as needed.

D. Informal Conversations and Observations On several instances during the field survey in Saft al Laban, though residents did not want to participate in a full survey they were eager to engage in conversation. When this occurred, the researcher took notes and answered questions posed by residents about the interest in their area. During each visit, the researcher took the opportunity to take pictures of the surroundings and make notes about observed activities and behaviours in the neighbourhood, in order to compare how they varied at different times of day. E. Focus Group Discussion On April 9, 2017, a focus group discussion was held with 9 residents to discuss community assets and resilience, with the purpose of gaining a better understanding about Saft al Laban’s socio-ecological resilience status as a community. This event was structured in loose accordance with recommendations made in a 2009 publication ‘The Community Resilience Toolkit’ [2]. Particular activities from the toolkit were chosen by the facilitator to best gain the information needed

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within a realistic time frame and based on the capacity of the group to respond. The focus group discussion was divided into four parts: Asset Mapping for local infrastructure and services; Open Discussion about assets and resilience; Evaluation of the community by sector; and a Closing Thoughts dialogue. The discussion was held at the office of Mish Madrasa, a local education-focused NGO, and lasted for a duration of 1.5 hours. RESULTS In the general survey, majority interviewees were male between ages 36-45. Most interviewees had lived in Saft al Laban for much of their lives and were therefore able to provide historical perspectives of the place before rapid settlement began. Do you expect to have more neighbours in the future?

CITY OBSERVER | December 2018

A. Land Ownership The survey found that home ownership in Saft al Laban is high with a diverse split in how people acquired their properties. A small minority builds their homes themselves. However, most others answered that their parcel of land was either inherited from a deceased family member or purchased. Residents claimed new homes could be built quickly, in about 1-3 months and a very low percentage of people chose to use any part of their land for agricultural purposes. Site observations indicated that the only farmed areas were those at the fringes of the district and one rooftop farm at the Mish Madrasa building. Findings also indicated that most residents expected that both they and their neighbours would expand their homes in the future. Do you or your neighbours plan to expand your homes in the future?


Is any part of your property still used for agricultural purposes?

How long did it take you to build your home?

Do you have access to the following services?

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B. Neighbourhood Assets and Services During the focus group discussion, several neighbourhood assets were identified, including local business streets, several mosques, and one ministry office. The most prominently lacking institutional asset was a waste management service. According to survey participants and was confirmed by site visits, waste was mostly dumped in a tunnel close to the Ring Road. In terms of other services, there was fairly consistent access to landline phones, gas lines, sewage and waste disposal. The most widely available service was electricity, with 100% respondents claiming to have access. Interestingly, while no survey respondent claimed to lack access to water, only 23 out of 39 confirmed access (Figure 12). However, it may be that water is a more controversial service, with some residents suggesting the presence of illegal tapping from agricultural lands. C. Agriculture Prevalence and Food Security In the survey, a split occurred in people’s opinion about their farms. While majority respondents remarked

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“they are good,” others commented that they were either “not useful” or did not exist. Most people claimed to know a farmer personally from whom they bought their food products, but around 31% responded that they did not have a personal connection to any local farmers (Figure 13). Opinions about local agriculture were varied. Most survey participants claimed that people worked in agriculture outside of the Saft al Laban area. This was confirmed by an informal interview with a group of local farmers. Majority participants did not answer when asked if they felt local agriculture was beneficial for the community, though 31% responded “yes”. Amongst those interviewees carrying out agricultural activities, there was an even split in whether their produce was for home consumption or for sale, and estimated their earnings at between EGP 500-1000 per month. During the Asset Mapping activity, farms were identified as predominantly located to the west of the Ring Road and field visit observations also identified an important water resource in the area. Regarding food security, nearly every


Do you know any of the local farmers personally?

What is your opinion about the farms that border this region?

Do any of the farmers sell their products here and do you buy from them?

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Does all of the food you buy seem safe to eat?

If you had options to buy food from local farms, would this change anything about where you shop?

interviewee claimed to buy food from local markets, and that they had no difficulty in accessing these markets. In terms of quality, 13 out of 39 believed the produce was of good quality and affordable, claiming that the food they bought was “good quality” while a few responded “it’s good” or “it’s excellent.” This statistic was in contrast to the almost 46% of respondents who felt the food was unsafe to eat. Most respondents claimed that if they had options to buy more from local farmers, they would.

dealing with Ownership, Sustainability, Quality, and Equity associated with the following sectors in their community: Social Services and Civic Preparedness, Local Jobs and Economy, Local Food Systems, Local Water Systems, Local Energy Systems, and Local Transportation and Housing. In the first part of the exercise, participants were asked to rank the current status of their neighbourhood on a scale of 0 to 4, specifying how well they felt the Saft al Laban community met the resilience criteria listed. The scale consisted of:

D. Community Resilience Assessment

4 = Very well (close to 100% of the time); 3 = Fairly well (most of the time); 2 = Sometimes (about half of the time); 1 = Poorly (only part of the time); and 0 = Hardly ever (almost 0% of the time).

As part of Community Resilience Assessment, participants were asked to rate resilience in a variety of sectors. Participants were read statements CITY OBSERVER | December 2018


Community Resilience Evaluation ranked low to high.

Participants were asked to provide their best estimates based on the information they had at hand, their own opinion, and by considering all members of the community when rating. Results indicated that no participant felt Saft al Laban was doing “very well” in any of the sectors. However, for the ‘Equity’ criteria in ‘Social Service and Civic Preparedness’ and ‘Local Jobs and Economy,’ the participants felt their community was doing “fairly well.” In the second part of the assessment, participants were asked to carry out the same type of ranking while considering their community 10 years into the

future. Overall, results showed a future outlook with improvements in virtually every sector. DISCUSSION The intention of the Cairo-based case study was to gain insight into what PUA land loss meant to people in the Greater Cairo Region. The results of the field survey confirmed that building development on agricultural lands was expanding rapidly, and there appeared to be common consensus among residents that Saft al Laban would further urbanise. Field observations of physical local assets on the fringes of 26 27


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the district revealed a striking contrast in the lifestyle of people in Saft al Laban living on opposite sides of the tunnel under the Ring Road. Those living on the west considered their farmland an asset. Some interviewees remarked that they knew they could not farm their lands forever, but anticipating an increase in real estate prices, would hold on to them as long as possible. People in the main district of Saft al Laban tended to be less communal, and vocally less tolerant of farming practices. Overall, while the presence of agriculture in the district was visibly shrinking, a number of people still believed the agricultural lands to be beneficial for local livelihoods. Survey responses indicated that local residents of Saft al Laban felt food secure, but generally believed that the quality of their food could be improved. All told, residents seemed open to improving their access to healthy, fresh food, but seemed hesitant that their own lands could be a part of this development. Drawing from these inferences, recommendations were made on how existing assets could be used to support PUA in informal fringe settlements.

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Though all efforts were made to organise data collection with as little error as possible, some circumstances occurred that may have affected results. These occurred mainly in the informal interview and focus group discussion stages of the field survey. During the informal interviews, all of the data collection was done via interpretation, so it is probable elements were lost in translation. Additionally, survey respondents were mainly those people who were out in the open streets or in front of their homes, excluding those residents tending to stay indoors. In the focus group discussion, flaws included participants being predominantly male and from the same 16-25 years old age bracket, which narrowed the scope of the community’s opinion. As with the survey and informal interviews, all statements were being translated from Arabic to English, and it is likely that some content was lost in the oversimplification of participants’ statements. RECOMMENDATIONS The case of Saft al Laban may be considered a mirror to the wider GCR, and patterns of its behaviours and


assets as a community as discussed provide a solid foundation upon which to consider strategies that may be needed in other fringe settlements to prevent the further loss of agricultural lands. One specific recommendation for this district is to conduct an ecosystem services assessment. Calculating the value of ecosystem services provided by agricultural lands is difficult due to their multi-faceted nature. However, one study of green spaces in the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania found that a cost savings from environmental services such as storm water mitigation, air pollution mitigation, reduced social problems, and reduced medical costs was over 1 billion USD [14]. Perhaps such a cost-savings estimate may help shed light on the unseen value of these lands and serve as a catalyst for the governing authorities to act on the issue. Further recommendations for policy intervention include establishing an advocacy network for PUA on the local level, and more investment and partnerships related to agricultural development. Farmers in Saft al Laban see no alternatives to their livelihoods other than selling their land, yet Egypt spent $410 million on agriculture research and development in 2012, with

29 agencies conducting agricultural research [21]. Clearly a large and wasteful gap exists concerning these natural resources, which could be bridged by actors at the research and institutional levels. CONCLUSION This research explored the ways in which peri-urban agriculture supports socio-ecological resilience in an urban area, as well as its related impact on food security. A comprehensive understanding of the historical circumstances that led to the land loss phenomena, the urgent problem of food security for urban areas, and the pillars for socio-ecological design were established through literature review. After collecting research findings in the Cairo district of Saft al Laban, several recommendations were made to bridge the gaps afflicting PUA lands in informal fringe settlements. Findings showed that residents do envision a more resilient, inclusive future for themselves, and with proper interventions across multiple scales, the PUA lands can be utilized as an important asset of urban development.

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The research explored important questions related to tangible strategies to improve resilience, but had to do so from the lens of but one local settlement and make several assumptions in the process. It would be extremely valuable if future studies focused on 1) the economic profitability aspects of periurban food security and local economic development in urban areas and 2) the agri-economic linkage between development in peri-urban areas and regional stability. In other words, it is of interest for cities to understand what it costs to be food-insecure. Looking to lessons learned through this research, informal settlements can guide developing urban regions to realise more resilient, sustainable, and food-secure cities of the future. REFERENCES [1] Babar, Zahra and Mirgani, Suzi. Food security in the Middle East. (eds.) (2014) Oxford: Oxford University Press USA. [2] “Community Resilience Toolkit.” Bay Localize. 2009. Oakland, California. http://www. baylocalize.org/toolkit. [3] Bush, Ray. “How to build resilience to conflict: The Role of Food Security: Food Security and Food Sovereignty in Egypt.” Food Policy Report. (2014) Washington, D.C. http://www.ifpri.org/sites/default/files/ CITY OBSERVER | December 2018

publications/pr28.pdf. [4] De La Salle, Janine and Holland, Mark. Agricultural Urbanism: Handbook for Building Sustainable Food & Agriculture Systems in 21st Century Cities. 2010. Winnipeg, Manitoba: Green Frigate. [5] Estrada, Dorothy. “General observation notes about Saft al Laban.” Field notes. (2017). [6] Folke, Carl et al. “Adaptive Governance of Social-Ecological Systems.” Annual Review of Environment and Resources, 30, 1. (2005). Pp. 441–473. doi: 10.1146/annurev. energy.30.050504.144511 [7] Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (UNFAO) “Food Security Statistics.” 2015. http://www.fao.org/ economic/ess/ess-fs/en/. [8] Gouda, Amr; Hosseini, Maryam; and Masoumi, Houshman. “The Status of Urban and Suburban Sprawl in Egypt and Iran.” GeoScape 10, 1. (2016). Pp 1-15. [9] Hopkins, Nicholas and Saad, Reem. Upper Egypt: Identity and Change. 2004. The American University in Cairo Press. [10] Kruseman, Gideon and Vullings, L.A.E. “Rural development policy in Egypt towards 2025 : targeted conditional income support: a suitable option?.” Egyptian Ministry of Agriculture and Land Reclamation and Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality. (2007). https://www.wur.nl/en/Publicationdetails.htm?publicationId=publicationway-333538373733 [11] Meerow, Sara; Newell, Joshua P; and Stults, Melissa. “Defining urban resilience: A review.” Landscape and Urban Planning


147 (2016). Pp. 38–49. doi: 10.1016/j. landurbplan.2015.11.011

of Agriculture and Land Reclamation. http:// extwprlegs1.fao.org/docs/pdf/egy141040E.pdf

[12] Ministry of Agriculture and Land Reclamation. “The Strategy of Agricultural Development in Egypt until 2017.” (2003). Cairo.

[20] Sims, David. Understanding Cairo: The Logic of a City Out of Control. 2010. Pp 31-129. Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press.

[13] Moneim, Abdullhaliem. “Interview with Independent Researcher at ASU.” Interview by Dorothy Estrada, 4 April. (2017).

[21] Stads, Gert-Jan. “Agricultural R&D in West Asia and North Africa: Recent Investment and Capacity Trends.” (2015). https://www.asti. cgiar.org/publications/WANA-Report2015.

[14] Niemelä, Jari. Urban Ecology: Patterns, Processes, and Applications. 2010. Oxford University Press. [15] Pickett, Steward; Candenasso, M.L.; and McGrath, Brian. Resilience in Ecology and Urban Design: Linking Theory and Practice for Sustainable Cities. 2013. New York: Springer. [16] Piffero, Elena. “Best Practices” In Practice: Critical Reflections on International Cooperation and Participatory Urban Development in Cairo’s Informal Areas (Egypt).” Universitas Forum, 2(1). (2010). Pp. 1–11. [17] Richter, Matthias. Applied Urban Ecology: A Global Framework. 2011. Pp. 157. Wiley & Sons. [18] Saft Al Laban Residents. ”Focus Group Discussion.” Interview by Dorothy Estrada, 9 April. (2017). [19] Salem, Sameh. Agricultural Sustainable Development Strategy 2030. (2017). Ministry

[22] UN Habitat. “Strategic Urban Development Plan for Greater Cairo Region.” (2010). http://mirror.unhabitat.org/content. asp?cid=7120&catid=192&typeid=13 [23] Wafa, Mostafa. ‘Informal Interview at Mish Madrasa.” Interview by Dorothy Estrada, 31 March. (2017). [24] Weisenthal, Joe. “Egypt’s Food Problem In A Nutshell.” Business Insider. (2011). http://www. businessinsider.com/egypts-food-problem-in-anutshell-2011-1?IR=T [25] Wu, Jianguo and Wu, Tong. “Resilience in Ecology and Urban Design: Chapter 10.” Ecological Resilience as a Foundation for Urban Design and Sustainability. 2013. Springer. [26] Yacoub, Mohamed. “United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, Regional Office.” Interview by Dorothy Estrada, 7 April. (2017).

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Dorothy Estrada achieved her B.S. in Environmental Science from the University of Tampa in 2013. After graduating, she worked as a Project Coordinator with an environmental non-profit organization in Tampa, Florida for two years. In 2015, she received the DAAD scholarship from Germany and completed a dual Master of Science in Sustainable Urbanism and Sustainable Design through both the University of Stuttgart and Ain Shams University in Cairo in 2017. Dory is an experienced proposal/grant writer, project coordinator, and has a certificate in Permaculture Design. She currently works as a freelance urban development expert and resides in Mannheim, Germany

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FEATURE ARTICLE

DELHI INSITES An inquiry into ‘interim-design’ and the quality of urban construction site environments

DIVYA CHAND, DIVLEENA SINGH, G. LAKSHMI CHAITANYA REDDY, PREEYAMBIKA BAGHA & SUPRIMA JOSHI

CITY OBSERVER | December 2018


Delhi is a site of frantic urbanisation and extensive construction activity. Urban-dwellers interact directly or indirectly with construction sites on a daily basis. The plenitude and protracted periods of construction inspire the discussion in this research – viewing construction sites as interim environments, complex micro-urbanities created and sustained by stakeholders and their interactions. As the City adjusts and makes way for development, these interim spaces of destruction, disruption, and creation act as a stage for everyday democracies to play out. Through the help of case studies around Delhi, this paper explores the potential of a site (during construction) affecting the conditions inside and outside its boundaries. In the process, it questions the common practice of considering construction sites, especially large-scale ones, as transient given their deep and prolonged effects on the surroundings, the environment, and the people in contact. There is an attempt to understand where site environment falls in the priorities of the many stakeholders, and what kind of incentives and efforts work in favour of maintaining better sites. The text deliberates the role and potency of various actors in creating healthier and more nurturing site environments.

Facing page - India on the Road - Women at Construction Site, New Delhi. Image Credit: R Barraez D’Lucca on Flickr used with a CC-BY 2.0 license; https://www.flickr.com/photos/ rahul3/2245305563

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INTRODUCTION The vision of Delhi as a “world-class” city has led to the conception of ambitious projects. Multiple Metro lines and redensification projects in Central areas have been started. Five zones have been identified to create “Smart SubCities”. On the peripheries, large-scale commercial and residential projects are transforming the skyline. A major part of the urban landscape, at a given

The conversation around construction processes has conventionally focussed on making them faster, less intrusive, and more efficient, while the shifting interstitial construction phase gets ignored. Construction work is accompanied by much disruption – to traffic, land, and communities. Sometimes temporal facilities account for these but in their absence organic

point of time, is formed by buildings and infrastructure in production.

processes emerge to allow life to proceed smoothly. There is a need to analyse how acceptable such spontaneous measures are in the sensitive, precarious space of heavy production. The role of interim design in governing the quality of urban construction site environments needs to be addressed.

While it is apparent that the final product affects its users and context in physical, environmental, social, and political ways, the site in the stage of production needs to be recognized as an equally important part of the Cityscape. Construction sites with prolonged lifespans develop an interim system of spaces and communities in and around, with repercussions on the surroundings as well as in the lives of those involved. The process of producing itself becomes a product of architecture. However, there is a disjunction between what the final product aspires to and the processes involved in its production. Various formal and informal practices intertwine to conceive the urban landscape. CITY OBSERVER | December 2018

Here, Site Environment refers to both tangible and intangible conditions on the site and its surroundings. Interim Design includes design and management practices that enhance site environments, physical interventions on site, and the communication strategy of a project. These aspects are understood through a study of the Delhi metro sites, Kidwai Nagar re-densification project, and IREO City development in Gurgaon.


Range of stakeholders. Image Credit: Authors, 2016.

PEOPLE, PLACE, AND TIME The people most affected by a construction site are its primary users - workers who are in continued immediate contact, along with the managers and engineers. Sites also affect and are affected by the client or developer, architect, builders and contractors, and the urban governing authorities, with varying degrees of influence. The residents and commerce of connected areas, regular commuters, traffic, and local environment are all

influenced. Visitors to the neighbourhood perceive these sites and associate them with their memory of the city. Spatially, sites are dynamic areas with shifting machinery and equipment, material inflow and outflow, and a continuously evolving physical form, leading to constantly changing layouts. The edge conditions tend to support new informal commerce, adjusting pedestrian patterns and new parking areas. 34 35


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For seven years, Red Fort metro station’s construction on the edge of Chandni Chowk consumed the bus bay and market parking, despite which the market continued to thrive. The main road’s edge was chaotic, the hawkers market was relocated, and the interior pedestrian path was reduced to a dingy serpentine stretch flanked by tin sheets. Temporary site offices, material dropoffs, first aid room, canteen and toilets occupied part of the site, while most of it was covered in materials, debris and waste. While the façade of the final product was to reflect the Lal Quila sandstone and jalis, the construction site remained a wound, a dismal picture opposite the magnificent Red Fort. Even the upscale South Ex. market in Delhi had been characterized by metro construction for years. A foot bridge constructed by the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) eased pedestrian crossing across the Ring Road, but no pedestrian walkway was designated along the road’s edge. Navigating the market became tedious due to compromised physical and visual access. With Kidwai Nagar redevelopment, a 3,00,000 sq.m brownfield project by NBCC, and the CITY OBSERVER | December 2018


Map of the area around Red Fort metro site. Image Credit: Authors, 2016.

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Edge condition at Red Fort metro site. Image Credit: Authors, 2016.

Inside the Red Fort metro site. Image Credit: Authors, 2016.

CITY OBSERVER | December 2018


View of the ring road at South Ex. Image Credit: Authors, 2016.

South Ex. metro station construction happening simultaneously, the ring road and subsidiary roads were perpetually jammed. Emergency access to major hospitals in the area was severely hampered. On the fringes, in Gurgaon, the construction site of IREO City, a private greenfield development initiated by a multinational company on accumulated farm lands, is much more orderly. IREO in collaboration with the local government landscaped

the surroundings, introduced sewers and lamp posts, and developed the adjoining road. This increased the value of the real estate and helped attract potential clients. The site also housed air-conditioned offices for engineers and contractors. Although there are hardly any neighbours to be affected by the chaos of construction, on completion and occupation of Phase I, numerous other active constructions sites in the area are bound to bother the residents.

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CONFLICTING GEOGRAPHIES The agencies involved in IREO have prioritized efficiency and branding. Enlisted protocols are followed to achieve international building ratings. A logistics plan, formulated by architects, is used for locating temporary structures on site. Hoardings with 3D renders line the edges of the site. A viewing deck allows visitors to observe site work from a safe distance. Signs of informality become evident outside, with hawkers catering to the large labour-force. Lack of workers’ housing on or around the site leads to people travelling across the city every morning. As international firms subcontract work at various levels, local contractors are usually responsible for housing and transportation. These amenities do not satisfy nominal standards, and the arrangement offers no job security either. However, once on site, the very same workers are signed in and given appropriate safety equipment before being put to work. In Kidwai Nagar, the site is a complex spatial network of buildings under construction, an existent jhuggi-jhopdi CITY OBSERVER | December 2018

settlement, ad-hoc workers’ housing, and public roads cutting across active construction zones. Barricades covered in instructive posters explain safe practices to workers, while isolating the site from the roads outside. However, the site does not follow the precautions mentioned by law, and seriously compromises the safety of the users. The apparent lack of security allows the site to support residential and commercial functions. Many migrant workers reside on site, in half-completed buildings or makeshift shelters, to access the resources and opportunities available in the City’s core. Most interventions on site are an attempt to follow the guidelines in the National Building Code (NBC), Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment (GRIHA) or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). These act as suggestions or incentives but are token and inadequate. For instance, GRIHA’s recommendation of covering the superstructure during construction to control air pollution is redundant in the face of the fact that excavation activity, storage, and transportation of debris are the primary


Public facilities developed by IREO. Image Credit: Authors, 2016.

Viewing deck in the IREO construction site. Image Credit: Authors, 2016.

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Edge conditions at Kidwai Nagar redevelopment site. Image Credit: Authors, 2016.

Inside Kidwai Nagar redevelopment site. Image Credit: Authors, 2016.

CITY OBSERVER | December 2018


sources of pollution. Moreover, they discount a socio-political perspective in considering workers’ issues or effects on the neighbourhood. As these organizations proceed to incentivise smartness and efficiency, construction sites will become more monitored and secure. Unless this shift is accompanied by parallel reforms for people and activities surviving informally, it may adversely affect their lives. PERCEPTION The construction phase of a building, although loud and disruptive, is one of promise. Mass media tends to glorify technological advancements and the final product; while effectively distracting the public from the process itself. Buildings covered in their to-scale rendered versions are a common site in the Global North, and a developing trend in Delhi. The viewing deck in IREO City and the big blue tin sheets covering Kidwai Nagar redevelopment serve a similar function. These measures distance the observer from the happenings inside a construction site, thus protecting her/ his indifference. Contrastingly, walking across the footbridge spanning the South Ex. metro construction allows

a clear view of the ongoing activity. Minimal security permits one to easily walk into the Kidwai Nagar site. Although safety norms are violated, these situations allow construction sites to remain open to public scrutiny. Recent protests related to Kidwai Nagar redevelopment were in part fuelled by the site’s proximity to residential areas, obvious evidence of mismanagement, and pollution in the locality. This brought into focus the project’s environmental implications and social repercussions, despite restricted access to the plans and lack of transparency. The questions addressed in this paper are very much a result of the experiences allowed by these poorly disguised sites. The loose and permeable nature of the site’s edges makes them more susceptible to democratic discourse and processes. In the pretence of imitating global efficiency standards, the informalities and precariousness of the site environment are hidden from the public. CONCERNS To understand where site environment falls in the priorities of the stakeholders, they are broadly classified into two categories: those who wield most power with respect their influence on site 42 43


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Navigating Kidwai Nagar construction site. Image Credit: Authors, 2016

CITY OBSERVER | December 2018


and those who are most vulnerable due to their immediacy to site. The former, including the client, developer, contractor, urban governing authorities, managers/engineers, and the architect, prioritize cost and efficiency of construction. Contrary to this, the latter, i.e. workers on-site, residents and commerce around site, and onsite managers and engineers, are most concerned by site environment. OPPORTUNITIES It is an essential tenet of modern urbanism to constantly grow. The city is in a continuous cycle of repair and disrepair. It is important to acknowledge the transient permanence of construction. Production is a time where the roots of a project are established. This phase provides the opportunity to foster familiarity and ownership among the public with regards to the upcoming project. International initiatives like Construction for a Livable City (CLC) in New York, Considerate Contractors scheme in UK, and UnSITEly Colloquium in Montreal have attempted to explore the many possibilities while encouraging best practices.

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FEATURE ARTICLE Priorities of the influential : Developer, Client and Contractor

Priorities of the vulnerable: Workers on-site, Residents and Commerce around the site

Priorities of stakeholders. Image credit: Authors, 2016.

WAY FORWARD An ideal solution would be effective state policy, that allows and mandates migrant labourers a safe environment at work and at home. However, among those wielding more power in a project, site environment only seems gain importance with respect to marketing and increased efficiency. Further impetus to better sites is given, to a certain extent, by building codes, green building certifications, and awards. Better results can be achieved by aligning the major concerns of the influential stakeholders (cost, time, and quality) with better site environment. For instance, ambitious clients and cooperating contractors would be willing to exploit a well-maintained site’s potential in branding or attracting business. However, the risk with interventions like these is that sociopolitical issues tend to remain obscure. CITY OBSERVER | December 2018

Another important aspect is the need for better representation and communication about the production phase of a building. Spatial design, visual design, media, and literature can all contribute to the interim design of the site. But the argument being made is a far cry from mere decoration of hoardings. The objective is to focus on the people in the process. There are several possibilities of misunderstandings, in the context of work sites. While the space is of temporary absence, it activates everyone’s imaginations, desires, and assumptions. Transparency about the project and its processes nurture an informed and responsive public. Juxtaposing and balancing this openness with safer environments is then a design problem.


Construction site at Les Halles, Paris shares information and progress. Image Source: Unsitely Colloquium, <http://www. parisleshalles.fr/diaporama>

ABOUT THE AUTHORS Divya Chand is a student of master’s in Urban Studies in Brussels, Belgium. She was an Urban Fellow with the Indian Institute for Human Settlements, Bengaluru, India (2017-18). She has worked on multiple research projects studying urban environments, stakeholders and practices across India. Her dissertation was focussed on the image of the city and travel writing about Delhi. Her practice and research work in the past and architectural thesis focus on the use of sustainable bamboo construction technologies viable in the Indian context. Divleena Singh is a master’s student in Product Design at National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad. As a former competitive cyclist, her thesis focused on linking the public realm of cycling with the competitive one. She envisions inclusive transport in Indian cities. Her dissertation was on ‘beauty and frugality in architecture’ which arose from observing the mud architecture of Spiti Valley in India during a settlement study. Her interests are architecture, craft, making, materials, upcycling, bicycles, and making links across disciplines. G. Lakshmi Chaitanya Reddy is an Anant Fellow, from the founding cohort of the fellowship focused on sustainable built environments at Anant National University, Ahmedabad, India (2017-18). She has volunteered for organizations, including billionBricks and Panah Foundation, which deal with the concerns of informal populations in cities, especially Delhi and Ahmedabad. Her research projects focus on urban issues, mainly that of housing, identity, and gender, in the context of Indian cities. Preeyambika Bagha is an architect from Mauritius. She currently works at Morphos Architects and previously interned at Visio Architecture in Mauritius. She worked on research for development of Port Louis city. As part of the revitalization of coastal villages in Mauritius, she worked closely with the locals through participatory planning. Her current projects are institutional, hotels and property development. Her dissertation was on the pedagogy of architecture and built environment with respect to the social entity. Her undergraduate thesis spoke about architecture and culture celebration in Mauritius. Suprima Joshi is from the city of Patan in Nepal. Currently she is studying master’s in urban design at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, USA. She worked for Bagmati Riverfront Basin Improvement Project, Kathmandu, Nepal with the Asian Development Bank Team. She is very keen in the development works of the cities of Nepal. She worked shortly at the firm VastuNidhi, Noida and did her internship in Parikshit Dalal Design + Architects, Bangalore. Urbanism, design, development and place-making are her core interests. All the authors share the same alma mater- School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi.

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WHAT ARE WE MISSING IN THE NEW MOBILITY CONVERSATION? VISHAL RAMPRASAD, HARSHITA JAMBA & JOYANT TAANDON

CITY OBSERVER | December 2018


Urban transport has been traditionally seen as a service delivered by public institutions or private vehicles. The intersection of technology has mostly been focused on making operations of transport supply more efficient. The use of technology in responding to specific commuter demands and advanced telephony has ushered in a phenomenon called new mobility. This constitutes business models that are anchored around smart phone applications and has changed how urban commuters access and engage with transport machinery in cities. These models allow commuters to use their smart phones to book cabs, scan a QR code to unlock a cycle, plan intra city trips more efficiently, book seats on a private bus, share rides and make seamless payments through cashless interfaces.

and endless waits for buses/trains. Tech driven interventions have addressed these issues partially, if not fully, thus improving commuter experience.

Commuters in many Indian cities have been battling with problems like nego-

However, many models have been criticized for operating in the regulatory grey. Some have questioned the sustainability of these business models, safety of women commuters is an increasing concern. While these issues are legitimate and call for more debate and subsequent action, there is little focus on the type of commuters that these models cater to by design and the lack of access to some. Since new mobility as an urban phenomenon has exploded and has led to large shifts in modal preferences, it becomes important to assess if these services are being extended equally to all sections of society. This piece looks at different commuter groups that some new enterprises have unwittingly excluded and explores models that adopt inclu-

tiating fares with IPT services, refusals

sive innovation.

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PEOPLE WITHOUT SMART PHONES

LOWER INCOME GROUPS

The success of new mobility models is a function of smart phone ownership and the use of the internet on them. India is among the most promising markets for smart phones, which is potentially why new mobility has witnessed a massive uptake in Indian cities. However, a research reveals that only 29% of urban Indians own a smart phone. Further, smart phone ownership is sensitive to

A study3 in New York State University revealed that car sharing services disproportionality benefit the poor given that asset ownership is a significant barrier to consumption for people with low incomes. A closer look at the Indian ecosystem indicates otherwise because of the following reasons:

social, economic and gender roles. 38% with a secondary education or higher own a smart phone as opposed to a 9% ownership among less educated Indians. Men are more likely to own a smart phone than women in the country. The graphs2 on the facing page demonstrate linkages of falling smart phone ownership with increasing age and falling income. The numbers shrink further when we plot internet usage on these devices. 62% of urban smart phone users access the internet on their phones.

1

Although a significant portion of urban commuters have benefited from new ways of engaging with transport, the digital divide excludes a large part of urban commuters who are deprived of these services. CITY OBSERVER | December 2018

Pricing The pricing of some new mobility services is designed to cater to the more affluent with a higher propensity to pay. A new breed of taxi services, commonly referred to as taxi aggregators in India, use intelligent routing algorithms to assess and connect supply to demand. Aggregators operate on a dynamic pricing mechanism to manage supplydemand variations where prices surge if demand exceeds supply. Aggregators justify this process by indicating that drivers intimated about a surge flock to areas where the demand is high thus increasing the supply and bringing back price equilibrium. Price rationing4 is a popular economic concept that is typically used to distribute goods that are scarce. Economic theory suggests that price rationing can be used as a close proxy to assess the urgency/


importance of goods to consumers. However, in an unequal society where wealth disparities are wide, a higher price is not a reflection of the importance of the service to a commuter as much as an indication of the means

to pay for it. Lower income groups will almost always reject aggregator services in the event of a surge, even if it is more urgent than for a relatively wealthier commuter.

Graph 1. Income Bracket Vs Smart Phone Ownership

Graph 2. Age Groups Vs Smart Phone Ownership

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Geographical Spread Parts of the city predominantly inhibited by low income groups might exhibit lower demand for aggregators services5 mostly because of low smart phone ownership and scarce supply of cabs. Other new mobility models offer services that cater to commuter patterns of middle and higher income groups. Bus aggregators, a model that allows commuters to book seats in a private bus, have become very popular in cities. These models operate on corridors that connect residential areas to commercial areas in the city. Operators of such services usually cater to a targeted set of commuters, in more profitable routes where demand is high. This limited coverage restricts a large section of society whose commute requirements are as severe, if not more. VULNERABLE COMMUTER GROUPS Differently-abled and elderly commuters are often challenged by inadequate infrastructure, driver apathy and the inability to cope with technology. However, the law protects the interests of these groups though the Persons With Disabilities Act6 where transport vehicles and boarding stations are required

CITY OBSERVER | December 2018

to conform to disability provisions. New mobility models are not bound by a legal obligation to cater to the differently-abled and elderly. However, a few popular services have recognized the need to pay special attention and have been proactive in accommodating their needs. In May 2016, Meru Cabs launched Meru Enable7 – a special type of vehicle designed for wheelchair ridden commuters and the elderly. In December 2015, Uber launched its UberASSIST8 in Delhi and trained a batch of drivers to be more sensitive to needs of the differently-abled. Although such initiatives are commendable, they are in pockets and lack a comprehensive approach to the problem. Exclusion is even more severe among commuters with sensory and cognitive disabilities. Smart phone applications as designed today, are far from usable by people with these problems. This is a debate that is not confined to India alone. Aggregators (also called Transport Network Companies in the west) have been criticized for halting accessibility progress9 in the United States. Uber was battling a litigation10 against National Federation for the Blind for adopting a discriminatory approach by excluding blind commuters.


GENDER EQUITY

Women-specific barriers13 to transit exist

While it is unfair to state that Transport Network Companies, as a matter of careful consideration exclude women to use their services, it is not completely unrealistic to suggest that the access to these services have no barriers/ limitations.

in the form of safe access and egress and a fear of experiencing harassment, both physical and verbal. As per research published in the International Journal for Public Health14, any form of harassment whether sexual or verbal has the potential to cause a permanent psychological impact.

An article by ITDP suggests that investments and innovations in urban transport in India are mostly “gender blind�11, with limited thought given to the relationship between gender and transport. Women in India account for nearly 48%12 of the total population and therefore being agnostic to gender differences in travel needs essentially neglects a large section of society. The mobility needs of women differ considerably from those of men.

However, the pace of innovation needed to overcome this concern has been stagnant. Safety for women commuters in transit has always been a concern and with the entry of some new mobility models, safe commute continues to be a challenge. According to WRI research, the first four months of 2018 saw up to 10 cases where women passengers were subjected to harassment while availing the services of cab aggregators. REGULATORS AS FACILITATORS While there is a need for tech-led enterprises to make their models inclusive to ensure equity of access, an important stakeholder to drive this change is the regulator. Regulators can act as facilitators of the service delivery of new mobility models, while steering clear of their negative externalities.

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Dockless Bikeshare in Seattle. Image credit: Brianc33a on Wikimedia Commons used under CC-BY 3.0 license. Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Amazon_Go_store_Seattle.jpg

With guidelines/ policies in place, the quick uptake of these services clocking in millions15 of rides daily can be leveraged to advance the access of transport to varied commuter groups.

CITY OBSERVER | December 2018

Regulation therefore, plays a key role in ensuring the balance of fostering innovation, while enabling safe and equitable access to all.


vendors to explain how their services will be accessible to people in the city, especially communities of colour, low income communities, immigrant and refugee communities, people with disabilities, people experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity, people with limited English-language proficiency, LGBTQ people, women and girls, youth, and seniors. INNOVATION TO IMPROVE ACCESS There have been interventions from other geographies that new enterprises in India can borrow from. In California, GoGoGrandparent17 - a simple automated phone system - allows the elderly users to access rides on Lyft – an aggregator company in the United States. There have also been successful interventions in non-mobility sectors to address challenges of low income groups that can inspire mobility based interventions. M-Pesa18 is a telecom

The Seattle free floating bike share policy is an example of how regulation can ensure equity of access while experimenting with a new tech enabled model in the city. The permit16 requires

service that is used extensively by many unbanked individuals in Africa and India to transact safely using text messages (SMS) on feature phones. The service eliminated inefficiencies and safety concerns of a dominant cash economy by allowing people to transfer

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manageable amounts conveniently and safely over a network. New mobility services are characterized by innovative use of technology to improve accessibility to legacy services. These new companies must adopt an approach of inclusive innovation to ensure that their services are extended to all commuter groups. REFERENCES 1 Poushter, Jacob. 2018. “China Outpaces India In Internet Access, Smartphone Ownership”. Pew Research Center. http://www. pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/03/16/chinaoutpaces-india-in-internet-access-smartphoneownership/. 2 Singh, Abhishek. 2018. “Smartphone Ownership In India Depends Upon Income Level And Age: [Report]”. Dazeinfo. https://dazeinfo. com/2013/02/07/smartphone-ownership-inindia-depends-income/. 3 Business for Social Responsibility. 2016. “An Inclusive Sharing Economy”. BUSINESS LEADERSHIP FOR AN INCLUSIVE ECONOMY. BSR. https://www.bsr.org/reports/BSR_An_ Inclusive_Sharing_Economy.pdf 4 Business for Social Responsibility. 2018. “An Inclusive Sharing Economy”. BUSINESS LEADERSHIP FOR AN INCLUSIVE ECONOMY. BSR. https://www.bsr.org/reports/BSR_An_ Inclusive_Sharing_Economy.pdf. 5 Daus, Matthew. 2017. “Adverse Impacts On CITY OBSERVER | December 2018

Passengers With Disabilities, Underserved Communities, The Environment & The On-Demand Workforce”. The Expanding Transportation Network Company “Equity Gap”. New York City: Cornell University. http://www.whosdrivingyou.org/wpcontent/uploads/2016/08/Equity-ReportFINAL-11232642.pdf. 6 MINISTRY OF LAW AND JUSTICE. 2016. “THE RIGHTS OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES ACT, 2016”. New Delhi: Government Of India. 7 “Meru Cabs - Reliable, Safe & Transparent Ride At An Affordable Price | Authorised Airport Taxi Service”. 2016. Meru.In. https:// www.merucabs.com/media-centre/pressreleases/2016/Launch-of-Meru-Enable.php. 8”Introducing Uberassist | Uber Blog”. 2017. Uber Blog. https://www.uber.com/en-IN/blog/ new-delhi/assistdel/. 9 Daus, Matthew. 2017. “Adverse Impacts On Passengers With Disabilities, Underserved Communities, The Environment & The On-Demand Workforce”. The Expanding Transportation Network Company “Equity Gap”. New York City: Cornell University. http://www.whosdrivingyou.org/wpcontent/uploads/2016/08/Equity-ReportFINAL-11232642.pdf. 10 Sen, Daniel. 2016. “Groundbreaking Settlement To End Discrimination Against Blind Uber Riders Who Use Guide Dogs”. National Federation Of The Blind. https://nfb.org/ groundbreaking-settlement-end-discriminationagainst-blind-uber-riders-who-use-guide-dogs. 11 Shah, Sonal. 2018. “#Womenonthemove: Women And Transport In Indian Cities - Institute For Transportation And Development Policy”.


Institute For Transportation And Development Policy. https://www.itdp.org/2018/02/09/ women-and-transport-indian-cities/. 12 Ministry of Home Affairs, Government Of India. 2011. New Delhi: Office of the Registrar General & Census Commissioner, India. 13 Bhatt, Amit, Ranjana Menon, and Azra Khan. 2018. “WOMEN’s SAFETY IN PUBLIC TRANSPORT A Pilot Initiative In Bhopal”. The WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities. https:// wrirosscities.org/sites/default/files/Final_ Report_30072015.pdf. 14 Ducherme, Jamie. 2017. “Any Type Of Sexual Harassment Can Cause Psychological Harm, Study Says”. You.Com USA, LLC, D/B/A TIME, , 2017. http://time.com/5017072/sexualharassment-psychological-damage/. 15 The Indian Express. 2017. “Uber Recorded 1 Million Rides A Day In India During 2017, Delhi Rider Took 5 Trips Daily”, , 2017. https://

indianexpress.com/article/technology/technews-technology/uber-recorded-1-million-ridesa-day-in-india-in-2017-delhi-rider-took-5-tripsdaily-4979437/. 16 Seattle Department of Transportation (2018). Free-Floating Bike Share Program Permit Requirements. Seattle: SDOT. https:// www.seattle.gov/transportation/projects-andprograms/programs/bike-program/bike-share 17 Business for Social Responsibility. 2016. “An Inclusive Sharing Economy”. BUSINESS LEADERSHIP FOR AN INCLUSIVE ECONOMY. BSR. https://www.bsr.org/reports/BSR_An_ Inclusive_Sharing_Economy.pdf 18 Mas, Ignasio, and Dan Radcliffe. 2010. “Mobile Payments Go Viral: M‐PESA In Kenya”. Siteresources.Worldbank.Org. http:// siteresources.worldbank.org/AFRICAEXT/ Resources/258643-1271798012256/M-PESA_ Kenya.pdf.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS Vishal Ramprasad works with the Urban Innovation program at WRI Ross Centre for Sustainable Cities. He leads the open data effort and works at the nexus of transit agencies, entrepreneurs and investors. He studies how relevant and methodical access to information can increase transport efficiencies and improve mobility experiences in urban centres. Harshita Jamba works with the New Sustainable Mobility practice at WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities. She works on analysing the impact of tech-led- mobility services disrupting cities globally; studying regulations and policies to understand how cities are responding to innovation in mobility, working with new mobility entrepreneurs, and towards bridging the gap between government and enterprises through experiments and dialogues. Joyant Taandon works with the Urban Innovation Team, at WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities. He assists the team with new mobility related research and has been actively studying developments in the entrepreneurial ecosystem in India. He also works on evaluating the interaction of these models with the city through a regulatory lens, with a focus on equity of the service to the city as a whole. His prior work in an infrastructure construct firm involved activities related to business development including government coordination, tendering, bidding, human resources development and site management.

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CYCLING INTO THE WONDERLAND OF THE LOIRE VALLEY IN FRANCE APURWA KUMBHAR

CITY OBSERVER | December 2018


It is often said that ‘the journey is more important than its destination’ but to experience a journey as beautiful as its destinations one must travel by bicycle in the Loire Valley in Central France. The Loire valley is a region well-travelled by cycling enthusiasts, famous for its easy and enjoyable cycling experience on special tracks and quiet roads. The interregional cycling network is designed as self-guided bicycle trails connecting historic towns, villages, forests, castles/ châteaux a, and vineyards around the region of the Loire River. It offers ideal conditions for bicycle trips, whether they be weekend outings or week-long adventures.

Picturesque cycle trails along Loire River on the way to Villandry from Tours. Image Credit: Author

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LAND OF CASTLES The region is in the middle stretch of the Loire River in central France, 280 kilometres long and about 800 square kilometres in area. The Loire Valley is a UNESCO world heritage site. This region is significant for the quality of its architectural heritage, historic towns such as Blois, Chinon, Orléans, Saumur,

and Tours and particularly for its worldfamous châteaux. It is an outstanding example of a cultural landscape along a major river. The landscape of the Loire valley and its many cultural monuments illustrate exceptional examples of the Renaissance and the Age of Enlightenment in Western European thought and design.1

Map of Loire Valley according to UNESCO’s inscription. Image credit: Kmusser via CC-BY 3.0, Source: https:// commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Loire_river_tribs_map.png CITY OBSERVER | December 2018


THE DELIGHT OF HERITAGE AND THE JOY OF CYCLING The gigantic ‘Loire á Vélo’ project has created a network of cycling infrastructure across the Loire Valley region, with well-planned cycle tracks and signposts along the whole route. The Loire à Vélo bike paths are routes guaranteed to delight cyclists keen on seeing the Loire Valley’s finest châteaux, from world-famous Chenonceau and Chambord to smaller castles like Azayle-Rideau and Saumur, the Jardins Renaissance in Villandry, and Le Château du Clos Lucé - Parc Leonardo da Vinci in the city of Amboise. The trails also pass through some of the Loire Valley’s most prestigious vineyards: Vouvray, Chinon, Montlouis and the Saumur region. Visitors can travel on a variety of bike tour itineraries featuring a combination of culture, nature, and fine French cuisine. THE TRAIL AROUND AMBOISE, BLOIS, AND TOURS My experience as a cyclist was for a very small portion of this huge region. I opted

to visit three major towns Amboise, Tours and Blois. I chose to stay in Amboise, centrally located among the three, and explore places around for the next three days. Being an amateur cyclist, rather than travelling long distances I decided to cycle about 20 km one-way to a châteaux and return to the starting location for stay. Starting from the Château of Clos Lucé - Leonardo da Vinci Park in Amboise, I cycled through a dense forest area to Château of Chenonceau, which is 18 km away from the town of Amboise. The next day, I took my rented bicycle on a train to Blois from Amboise and cycled 16 km to the Château of Chambord, returning to Amboise again for the night. The last day of my journey was from Amboise to Tours on the train and then cycling around 19 km one-way to the Château and Gardens of Villandry. The experience of cycling along the river in the rains was magical and peaceful. I passed through forests, fields and tiny villages enjoying the true essence of nature, and the distances I had covered by bicycle never felt too long or tiresome.

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Amboise city on the edge of the Loire River. Image credit: Author

Cycle tracks totally segregated from traffic roads near Tours. Image credit: Author CITY OBSERVER | December 2018


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Château of Chenonceau, Built-in 1513, the elegant outline of its stone arches spanning the river that make the Château so original. Image credit: Author

Château of Clos Lucé - Leonardo da Vinci Park. Image credit: Author

CITY OBSERVER | December 2018


Château of Chambord, is emblematic of the French Renaissance across the globe. The chateau is inextricably linked with its natural forest surroundings. With its 5440 hectares, the Domaine is the largest walled estate in Europe. Image credit: Author

Château and gardens of Villandry, Floral variations on the theme of love, water and musical gardens, decorative vegetable gardens in perfect harmony with the architecture of the château. Image credit: Author

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NETWORK OF INFRASTRUCTURE - A SUSTAINABLE TRANSPORT CONNECTING CITIES Loire à Vélo alternates between quiet roads with little traffic (37%), greenways (27%), no-thoroughfare roads (24%), and cycle tracks and lanes (12%). Two-thirds of the itinerary runs along the Loire River. There are almost 300 stopping places for cycling tourists.2

The main objective of the efficient planning of infrastructure and services is to support tourism as well as the day-to-day activities of people staying in the river valley, and to ultimately develop the Loire region as a unique sustainable tourism destination.

CITY OBSERVER | December 2018

Cycling Routes There are four different types of routes developed as per specific site conditions with minimum disruption to nature. A. Greenways: Greenways are exclusively created on abandoned former railway lines, the bank of the Loire River, forest tracks, existing small country trails etc. for non-motorised vehicular traffic, pedestrians and horseback riders. These are accessible to everyone for recreation, tourism or daily travel. B. Low-traffic roads: These are the roads with a traffic volume of under 500 vehicles/day, and accessible to local inhabitants and cyclists but not to through traffic. There are devices installed on these quiet routes to prevent through traffic. C. Cycle lanes: These are 1.5m wide lanes exclusively reserved for cyclists on each direction of travel, as per the Highway Code Official guidelines. This helps cyclists ride on the major roads of the town and experience the beautiful settlements, cafés, and street life of historic towns without worrying about vehicular traffic hindrances.


D. Cycle Paths: They are defined by the French Highway Code as one-way or two-way lanes that are separate from the roadway and are reserved exclusively for cyclists. Depending on the signage adopted, it may or may not be mandatory for cyclists to use them. These paths are mostly on the fringes of the town connecting to forest routes or leading to a picturesque trail along the river. Signage Legibility is an important feature of this cycle trail, and good signage

enables cyclists to move freely without getting lost and is encouragement to pedal harder as it shows how many more kilometres remain, to reach the next destination. The cycle route is signposted in both directions, enabling the attractions to be visited in the order one prefers. There are detailed information boards at certain locations to provide guidance on itineraries to explore the maximum number of places. Useful and emergency information gives a sense of security and makes the journey more enjoyable.

Cycle trails through forest area near Villandry. Image credit: Author

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Cycle tracks totally segregated from traffic roads near Tours. Image credit: Author

Cycle Rental and Information Kiosks Cycle rental kiosks are available at almost every important town and these are at a convenient location from train stations and other modes of transport. Cycles are available on rent for a single day as well as week-long rides and cyclists can return them to different CITY OBSERVER | December 2018

locations so that there is no need to have a circular route. Supporting Modes of Transportation Trains connect the Loire valley to places all over Europe. The coaches are specially designed to accommodate bicycles. This facility helps tourists


Information board to guide cyclist at a pause point having picnic benches and other facilities. Image credit: Author

utilize trains as a faster alternative to cycling between towns when speed is of the essence, and bring their cycles on board to continue the journey on cycling routes.3 CREATING SUSTAINABLE CITIES CONNECTING EUROPE THROUGH A CYCLING NETWORK Establishing a network of cycling routes all over Europe seems like a utopian idea but the project EuroVelo managed by European Cyclists Federation (ECF) b is working to turn this dream into reality. Loire à Vélo is a part of EuroVelo Route No. 6, a very small portion of this huge

project. EuroVelo incorporates existing and planned national and regional cycle routes into a single European network. It currently consists of well over 45,000 km of bike paths and thousands of kilometres more are planned – when completed it will total over 70,000 km. EuroVelo signposting can now be found in Austria, France, Germany, Hungary, Serbia, Slovakia, Switzerland and the UK.4 Projects like these will encourage large numbers of citizens to give cycling a try, and so to promote a shift to healthy and sustainable travel – for day trips and 68 69


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Map showing various EuroVelo and uniting the whole European continent EuroVelo currently comprises of 15 routes and it is envisaged that the network will be substantially complete by 2020. Image courtesy: European Cyclists’ Federation, http://www.eurovelo.com/en/eurovelos

CITY OBSERVER | December 2018


as cycling tourism. The experience of cycling into this wonderland will inspire many people from all over the world to realise the dream of sustainable cities which are happier and healthier.

REFERENCES

NOTES

3. La Loire à Vélo, 2016, La Loire à Vélo, a unique cycling experience, Press Kit, La Loire à Vélo, http://de.media.france.fr/sites/default/ files/document/press_kit

a. French word “château”, (plural châteaux) denotes buildings as diverse as a medieval fortress/ castle, a Renaissance palace and a 19th-century country house. b. The European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF) has been the voice of European cyclists for 30 years. Representing organisations in 40 countries with over 500,000 active members, the ECF is pledged to ensure that bicycle use achieves its fullest potential so as to bring about sustainable mobility and public well-being.

1. UNESCO/ WHC. 1992-2018. UNESCO World Heritage List. http://whc.unesco.org/en/ list/933/ 2. Cycling in France: Itineraries to Consider,2014 https://experiencefrancebybike. com/cycling-in-france-itineraries-to-consider

4. European Cyclists’ Federation ECF asbl, 2018, EuroVelo, the European Cycle Route Network, http://www.eurovelo.com/en/ eurovelos/eurovelo-6/les-etapes/nantes-nevers

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Apurwa Kumbhar is a young architect and urban designer based in Mumbai. Currently working with Ratan J Batliboi- Consultants Pvt. Ltd. as a project architect, Apurwa is also a visiting faculty in Sir J. J. College of architecture. Her professional experience and research work comprises of various areas such as urban policies, city planning, pedestrian friendly public spaces, cultural heritage and tourism. As an urban enthusiast, she records her holidays through a researcher’s and photographer’s eye. This article is also an outcome of her pre- and post-travel research regarding cycle tourism in France and most importantly the first-hand experience of an amateur cycle traveller.

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FEATURE ARTICLE

CONTEXTUALIZING WATER SCARCITY IN URBAN MOUNTAIN TOWNS: THE CASE OF DARJEELING RINAN SHAH

CITY OBSERVER | December 2018


The Eastern Himalayan Region (EHR) of India receives one of the highest rainfalls in the country. This region, however, has been facing water scarcity for decades – a scarcity that is unique to mountain towns because of their biophysical and social characteristics. The seasonality of the monsoon demands that rainwater is harnessed for distribution across lean months - but due to mountain towns’ topography, energy becomes a limiting and expensive factor. Another significant characteristic of mountain towns is the prevalence of springs with around 60% of Himalayan communities dependent on them. The pattern of urbanization of these mountain towns and stark seasonal water demand make them a unique case. Urbanization has spread from the centre of these towns to areas along the mountain slopes. Seasonal water demand is driven by tourism, boarding schools and colleges – the peak of these populations overlaps with the dry season here. These factors along with global trends of population growth in urban areas in the Global South, necessitate a nuanced assessment of water issues in mountain towns.

Facing Page: Waterfalls near Darjeeling. Image Credit: Aranya449 on Wikimedia Commons used with a CC-BY 3.0 license. Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/ wiki/File:Waterfalls_near_darjeeling.jpg

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GLIMPSE INTO THE BEING OF DARJEELING This article looks in detail at the case of Darjeeling, which lies in northern West Bengal. Historically, the Darjeeling hills were inhabited by Lepcha, Magar and Limbu villages and formed parts of the Himalayan Kingdoms of Sikkim and Bhutan. The colonial expansion of tea cinchona plantations alongside the function of Darjeeling as a popular recruitment centre for the British Army contributed to the growth of population in the area.

Governance in Darjeeling has several layers, including the Centre, the State of West Bengal, and an autonomous hill council known as the Gorkha Territorial Administration (GTA-2). GTA2 was created as a result of repeated calls for autonomy in the Darjeeling hills, starting as early as 1907 and becoming particularly strong in the 1980s. An autonomous hill council was first established in 1988, known as the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council. It was replaced by an autonomous development board called the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) in 2011.

Location of the Darjeeling Municipality town. (The Kalimpong district is included within the Darjeeling district boundaries, due to the unavailability of digitized new boundaries) . Image source: Shah and Badiger, 2018 CITY OBSERVER | December 2018


Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts fall under GTA and are the only hill districts of West Bengal which include the foothills of the Himalayas and their immediate lowlands. Despite Darjeeling being largest urban centre in the uplands of West Bengal and Sikkim, development issues in the Darjeeling region are categorized as ‘rural’ by the government of West Bengal. The urban density in the town is in fact the highest in Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Nepal, and Punjab, and it is the ‘financial, administrative and social confluence of the region.’ (Mell and Sturzaker 2014). UNIQUENESS OF WATER SCARCITY IN DARJEELING This article will explore the uniqueness of water scarcity in Darjeeling through its topography, the nature of water supply from springs, pattern of urbanization, and seasonal water demand. Water Supply in Darjeeling Darjeeling residents receive water from the municipality through their distribution network, private and public taps; springs; and a variety of private resources including self-gathered water and water tankers. This is despite the

fact that Darjeeling receives an annual average rainfall of around 3500mm, compared to the all India average of around 750mm. FACTORS CAUSING WATER SCARCITY IN DARJEELING 1. Topography of the mountains Topography plays a major role in water supply in Darjeeling. Mountainous regions often have large distances, poor infrastructure, and limited population mobility. The development of a region is affected by their proximity to services infrastructure. In the case of municipal water supply as well as water from springs, certain areas of the town are at a disadvantage compared to others. Water supply from the municipality in Darjeeling is poor, with low supply coverage, frequency, and amount of water dispensed. Municipal water supply comes from reservoirs at the Senchal Wildlife Sanctuary, and the distribution system within the town is entirely gravity based. The distribution pipelines run along the slope of the hills, and there are differences in water supply pressure at different points in the pipeline because of differences in altitude. 74 75


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There have been augmentations from rivers at a lower altitude, but this requires energy and makes these projects more expensive. They are deemed necessary however, because the ridge that holds the current water supply is unstable. Springs are a major source of water, and their presence and absence are affected by topography. A household can access water based on their position upstream or downstream, creating varied access within the same area. Communities at a disadvantaged location lag behind others, and often lack the resources for geographical mobility. The recharge and discharge areas of springs sometimes lie in different localities or administrative units (for example, different wards of a municipal town or different villages) which renders springshed management difficult. The topography of Darjeeling hence creates differences in access to water within the town.

urban communities both dependent on them. Areas in proximity to perennial springs have an advantage over those that don’t, particularly in absence of municipal supply. Harnessing this water supply however entails labour and time costs. Spring water must be harnessed in reserve storage daily especially for springs with round-the-discharge. Recently, once perennial springs have been recorded to have become seasonal with reduced water discharge and sudden changes in water quality. Some springs in the area have also been privatised. Natural groundwater discharge points are generally community-owned or managed, but private springs, the sale and purchase of spring sources, and their location on private property makes them a complicated resource to manage. While studies have been carried on the biophysical aspects of springs, the property regimes that control them have not been properly examined. 3. Pattern of Urbanization

2. Nature of Springs Supply Springs are an important source of water in Darjeeling, with rural and CITY OBSERVER | December 2018

Darjeeling town shows a clustering of water sources, and the town can be divided largely into three clusters – the


View of Darjeeling Municipality . Image Source: Google Earth, 2017

Southern cluster around Jalapahar cantonment, the town centre, and the Northern cluster. The Southern cluster is furthest from the town’s major supply tanks, but receives water

through municipal supply, springs, selfdrawn water supply (i.e. not from the municipality), private suppliers, and water tanks. The town centre has the highest number of municipal supply 76 77


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lines and have access to springs, but no access to self-drawn supplies. This cluster also relies on private water suppliers, but water tankers cannot reach some areas here. The Northern cluster has the least access to water, having to purchase from private suppliers round the year. The town centre has historically been and continues to be the administrative and economic centre of Darjeeling. As one moves away from the town centre, the density of municipal distribution pipelines decreases, pointing to the reluctance of the municipality to provide water to far-out locations. Connections are calculated to cost Rs. 17,000 each, plus labour and material cost which have to be borne by individual households. Costs thus vary greatly depending on the distance from the distribution network.

Urban mountain towns have a unique pattern of urbanization, with the households located at various altitudes along CITY OBSERVER | December 2018

ridges, on the rain side or rain shadow side, and along the slopes themselves. This leads to upstream-downstream issues and varying pressure levels in water distribution network. 4. Seasonal Water Demand Seasonal populations consisting of tourists, seasonal labourers, and students enrolled in boarding schools and colleges in Darjeeling often double or triple the fixed population during peak season. While tourism and the education sector form a major source of revenue for the town, they place stress on the local infrastructure. This is a dichotomous situation where the economy of Darjeeling thrives because of these floating populations, but basic amenities like water become scarce because of the additional demand. Hence, Darjeeling and other Himalayan towns have to handle the strong seasonal demand of water which coincides with the dry season.


Ward Map. Image Source: Boer, 2011

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Augmentation to water supply has been carried out through the addition of reservoirs and river water lifting, but the increase in demand does little to close the seasonal gap in water supply. A series of reports by NITI Aayog led to the Indian government announcing a cess for the Indian Himalayan Region, and one of these reports states water usage in Ladakh by tourists is three times that of the local residents (Gaur and Kotru 2018).

CONCLUDING REMARKS The West Bengal State Action Plan on Climate Change (Government of West Bengal 2012) places Darjeeling under ‘Water Sufficient’ category. This report calculates the per capita availability of water is using rainfall and population, and does not represent the true challenges faced in supplying water to mountain towns.

Water sources in different districts of West Bengal. Image source: Government of West Bengal, 2012 CITY OBSERVER | December 2018


Darjeeling and other mountain towns have been facing a water insufficiency for decades, not reflected in this calculation because it fails to consider the regional context that causes this scarcity. This in turn misleads the creation of policies like the Million Wells Programme.

studied in the regional context. This in conjunction with understanding the Central, State, and Regional governance, as well as urban local bodies and their interactions will help translate the physical availability of water into water access for hill communities. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

This article has contextualized water scarcity in mountain towns through four factors, which further do not exist in silos and have an effect on each other. The physical aspects of water availability and their discrepancies need to be

I would like to thank my Ph.D. supervisor, Shrinivas Badiger and my Doctoral Advisory Committee Members Veena Srinivasan, Siddartha Krishnan and Sarala Khaling for their inputs on this write-up.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Rinan Shah is a Ph.D. student at The Academy for Conservation Science and Sustainability Studies at Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment, Bangalore, affiliated to Manipal Academy of Higher Education. Her areas of interest encompass environment and development in the political economic context. She is currently studying manifestation of domestic water scarcity in urban mountain towns of the Eastern Himalayan Region. She is a Senior Research Fellow under National Mission on Himalayan Studies, and also a member of the HI-AWARE Academy for Doctoral Students. She has a Masters degree in Climate Change and Sustainability Studies from TISS, Mumbai and a Bachelors degree in Computer Science and Engineering.

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10 URBAN DESIGN LESSONS FROM JAMAICA, QUEENS NEW YORK CITY JAHNAVI ALURI

CITY OBSERVER | December 2018


Often referred to as the Gateway to America, Downtown Jamaica is a mere eight-minute AirTrain ride away from John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens, New York. Downtown Jamaica is one of the three regional business districts in Queens. It is home to a variety of civic, cultural, and transportation amenities and is a shopping enthusiast’s delight. With hundreds of stores reflecting a kaleidoscope of cultures, the main commercial corridor – Jamaica Avenue – remains one of New York City’s most vibrant shopping destinations. Set in the heart of Queens, Downtown Jamaica boasts three performing arts centres, dozens of landmarked historic gems, an 11 acre park, two colleges, a major transportation hub, hundreds of independent businesses, and numerous blue-chip department stores.

Facing page Street Scene from Jamaica, Queens. Image credit: Author

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Since 2000, Downtown Jamaica has been the focus of renewed attention. Over the past 15 years, there has been a substantial drop-off in crime, paired with significant public investment. Multiple city and state investments in the neighbourhood have drawn over $1 billion of planned or completed private investment, leading to more than 1,500 new apartments, 2,000 hotel rooms, and 200,000 square feet of commercial space completed and pending. While all these new investments are exciting and highlight the potential surrounding Downtown Jamaica, it is very easy to overlook all the things that are right about the neighbourhood and which make it what it is - Downtown Jamaica. Downtown Jamaica, and particularly the commercial corridors, Jamaica Avenue and 165th Street, have a distinct sense of place about them which is unique to Downtown Jamaica and Queens. This uniqueness manifests physically in the distinct red brick sidewalk pavers, the retail mix, the street grid, the constant music, the slew of performers and artists on the sidewalks, and also the unmistakable police presence on the streets and sidewalks. CITY OBSERVER | December 2018

All these elements, some of which are planned and some of which are the consequences of the socio-economics, demographics, and the context of the area, together leave a distinct impression on residents, shoppers, office-goers, visitors, and transients alike who happen to experience Downtown Jamaica. This planned/ unplanned lasting impression of a sense of place is the biggest urban design lesson that can be learnt from Downtown Jamaica. Ten elements that stimulate a sense of place in Downtown Jamaica –


1

SCALE

The commercial streets within Downtown Jamaica are long, wide and are lined with low, continuous, densely packed buildings. This setting offers one uninterrupted views of sky and also manages to pull one’s gaze farther down the street. The low height of the buildings and the resulting visual access to the sky helps humanize the scale of the corridors. One does not get over-

stimulated on the corridors and can take the experience in at one’s own pace as the corridors are spread out linearly and not vertically. The anticipation and excitement that arises from excellent visibility from being able to look up and down the street to see what’s next, prolongs the experience and strengthens the sense of place it fosters.

The scale of Downtown Jamaica. Image credit: Author

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2

DISTINCTIVE SIDEWALK PAVERS

Different corridors in Downtown Jamaica are paved with different materials – red bricks primarily. Both the main commercial corridors – Jamaica Avenue and 165th Street – are paved with red bricks. These bricks are markedly different from the customary concrete sidewalks and help evoke a distinct sense of place. However, these are not without their issues. Maintenance of the bricks is expensive and the transition between bricks and concrete is often jarring and not seamless.

Above and Facing Page: Image 3_1 and 3_2. Walkable Blocks. Image credit : Author

3

SHORT, WALKABLE BLOCKS

The city grid in Downtown Jamaica is not perfectly aligned and this results in short blocks with offset intersections. So, the blocks are mostly short and are easily traversable with frequent chances to cross the street. This unaligned street grid coupled with the visibility offered by the low scale, helps breaks up the monotony of place and intensifies the sense of anticipation. Pavers. Image credit : Wikimedia Commons

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Retail Mix. Image credit : Author

Land Use Mix. Image credit : Author CITY OBSERVER | December 2018


Land Use Mix. Image credit : Author

4

HEAVY RETAIL MIX

Downtown Jamaica is one-stop-shop for anything one could ever need, ranging from a paper clip to an apartment. It is not dominated by any one single type of goods or services, or a price range. This robust retail mix is what makes Downtown Jamaica a shopping destination and attracts diverse people from near and far alike.

5

LAND USE MIX

In Downtown Jamaica, not only is the retail mix strong, but it is also bolstered by a variety of other land uses, primarily cultural, civic, and residential. This helps establish Downtown Jamaica as an overall destination and not just as

a narrow or specific one like cultural destination or retail destination. Downtown Jamaica is all those destinations. This land-use mix also results in the round the clock occupancy and use of the district.

6

ARCHITECTURAL VARIATION

Downtown Jamaica is home to many landmarked buildings and also a landmarked sidewalk clock. It is home to beautiful Art Deco buildings which are juxtaposed against contemporary buildings. It is common to walk by a landmarked building - and wonder what it houses - and a mostly see-through office building - where you could wave hello the people inside - on the same block in Downtown Jamaica. 88 89


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Architectural Variation. Image credit : Author

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7

MOBILITY OPTIONS

Downtown Jamaica hosts about 20 bus lines, four subway lines, multiple highways, the Long Island Rail Road (regional Rail), AirTrain, and access to two major airports. The wide sidewalks

Mobility options. Image credit : Author

CITY OBSERVER | December 2018

within the neighbourhood are conducive to walking. This density of transportation options offers people a myriad of mobility options and also draws commuters to the area.


Continuous storefronts. Image credit : Claudio Papapietro for the Wall Street Journal

8

CONTINUOUS STOREFRONTS WITH LOW VACANCY

The commercial corridors in Downtown Jamaica exhibit low vacancy rates. The storefronts are mostly continuous and form an uninterrupted, ever-changing, and interesting “wall�. The retail mix and the architectural variations add another layer of appeal to the commercial corridors. This continuity also protects vacant storefronts from vandalism and contributes to the overall sense of security of the place.

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LEARNING FROM CITIES

9

PEOPLE

The best word to describe Downtown Jamaica is perhaps “crowded�. There are always people on the streets. Always at any time during the day or night, in any season, and in any weather. This helps foster a sense of security on some level. It may not be comfortable, but it definitely feels safe. The other important factor to consider is the people themselves - people from all ethnic backgrounds, of all ages, and of all abilities. People also appropriate spaces and one can come across a puppeteer performing next to a woman selling fruit who is next to a city agency employee carrying out a survey for one thing or another.

Street Life in Jamaica, Queens. Image credit: Author CITY OBSERVER | December 2018


Street life in Jamaica, Queens. Image credit: Author

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10

CENTRALIZATION

The availability of on-street parking in Downtown Jamaica during the day is limited and this adds to the sense of chaos, dynamism, and movement to the place. The sidewalks are raised and offer enough separation to protect pedestrians. As there is no physical barrier separating the pedestrians from

Limited on-street parking. Image credit: Author CITY OBSERVER | December 2018

the vehicles on street, one feels like they are a part of the movement on the street and vice-versa. This combined with the wide streets and low height of the buildings also makes for excellent lines of sight up and down the street and also across the street.


In conclusion, historic landmarks, community anchors, a healthy retail mix, excellent connectivity, notable diversity, and engaged residents are the backbone of Downtown Jamaica’s vitality. Intentional or unintentional

design and planning decisions have set the stage for members of the community to sustain local businesses and the nearly 300,000 people passing through the area daily to help boost the local economy.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Jahnavi Aluri is an architect, urban designer, and urban planner with a bachelor’s in architecture and a master’s in urban planning from Columbia University. She is currently working at the Jamaica Center Business Improvement District in NYC, formulating initiatives and strategies to support small businesses and promote economic development within the neighbourhood. She has worked in diverse settings, ranging from the United Nations to a start-up that explores Visual Machine Learning to measure walkability of a space and predict one’s return on investment. Jahnavi enjoys exploring cities and neighbourhoods through the culinary delights they offer.

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FEATURE ARTICLE

DYNAMIC SYSTEMS AND PLURAL PERSPECTIVES: CHALLENGES FOR COMMUNITYBASED WASTE MANAGEMENT KRIPA RAMACHANDRAN

CITY OBSERVER | December 2018


Kuppai Matters Solid Waste Management Festival. Image credit: Kuppai Matters Facebook Page

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FEATURE ARTICLE

One of the most daunting issues facing the world is the mounting waste problem, which impairs public health, pollutes the environment and threatens to drown some poor countries in toxicity. It is estimated that more than 3.5 billion or more than 52% of the Earth’s population does not have access to the most elementary Waste Management services such as sound waste collection and removal from residential areas, and at least controlled disposal. The problem is mainly urban and it is expected to further increase due to the rapid urbanisation process that is estimated to take place in the next 15 years [1]. The burgeoning growth of open dumps and leakage of over 7 million tons of waste, especially plastic waste, can be attributed to the absolute failure of centralisation of waste management around the world. There is no doubt that decentralised and community-based approaches for waste management are the future. However, this is not without challenges. If the future of waste management as it is hailed in policy and praxis is community-based, there is an urgent need to recognise the inherent dimensions of this dynamics and plurality. The aim of this article is to outline and highlight a couple of them from our practical experience in working with the actors within a ‘community’.

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DEFINING COMMUNITY

AN EXAMPLE FROM CHENNAI

Approaches to community-based natural resource management have often been premised on the assumption, implicit or explicit, that a distinct local community exists [2] (Leach, Mearns, & Scoones, 1997). While definitions vary, approaches commonly focus on “the people of a local administrative unit of a cultural or ethnic group or of a local urban or rural area, such as the

In the Greenways road slum community, located at the intersection of Buckingham canal and the Adyar River in Chennai, we have undertaken several activities over the past year to create a model zero-waste community (Citizen consumer and civic Action Group, 2018). However, much of our practical experience in community engagement for decentralised Solid

people of a neighbourhood”, or those living in a particular ‘community’. Such communities are seen as relatively homogeneous, with members’ shared characteristics distinguishing them from outsiders [3]. From this image, development practitioners and policy makers would assume that it is seen as relatively straightforward to establish a group or committee to represent community interests, and to engage in consensus building and agreement for establishing a hyper-local waste management plan [4].

Waste Management (SWM) now defies this imagery, showing it to be a gross misrepresentation of social ‘realities on the ground’. This, and several other interactions with organised communities like Resident Welfare Associations (RWAs) and SWM committees of organisation have showed us that communities are not bounded, homogeneous entities, but socially differentiated with diverse socio-economic and power structures. Gender, caste, affiliations, occupation, interests and other aspects of socio-

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economic identity divide and cross-cut so-called community boundaries. These differences within communities can be linked to sharp differences in which larger agendas are valued, and why. In the Greenways community, for instance, we are working towards incentivising behaviour change for zero

waste. Due to inadequate and irregular municipal services for waste collection, most residents use an open area on the river bank to dump their unsegregated household waste. Despite the collective consensus on the negative impacts of the dump on people’s health and hygiene, people continue to use this site for dumping their waste. While all of them value this area as a source of

Snake and Ladder game recreated by Kuppai Matters to educate public on waste management. Image source: https://www.dtnext.in/News/City/2017/11/28215752/1053752/Time-to-take-garbage-seriously.vpf

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water, since this is where the community collection tank (Sintex) is placed, they still feel that open dumping is the only way out of irregular collection by the Greater Chennai Corporation.

Within this purportedly homogeneous group, differences emerge between some people living in the houses closer to the dumping area and residents who live a few yards away, on who values this ‘space’ and ‘how much’ because of the geographic proximity to the dump. This causes frequent tensions between members and obstructs the smooth working of this community.

THE PROCESS OF ENGAGEMENT At the beginning of our engagement with this community, we mapped the different actors, potential leaders and key-decision makers in the area. Gender divisions of labour and responsibility frequently put the onus on women, for handling and discarding the household waste. Hence, when our partner organisation organised a group of women to work with, we were excited since we assumed that the women would have greater bargaining power, at least in matters of SWM and come together as a homogeneous group. However, we were mistaken since, even amongst these women, organisational affiliations and occupational interests influenced compliance and resistance to the schemes we introduced. For instance, it was possible for us to influence and on-board home-makers, who were ready to dedicate their time and energy. With working women, it was still difficult but not impossible; as we have observed compliance on days and times when they were home. While we expected great initiative and leadership from the affiliate members of the Community Based Organisation (CBO) we are partnering with, they were often interested in furthering their own 102 103


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agenda, which is fighting evictions. Even this institutional dynamism has made some members of the community more vulnerable than the others, thereby debunking the commonality of the agenda. This, therefore, has an overarching consequence on all community-based activities and is an overriding priority for some of some of the members. In addition to this institutional dynamics, informal dynamics such as neighbourhood skirmishes between certain women have also created factions and informal leadership that often challenges the notion of a ‘community’.

ecologically differentiated and dynamic than is often assumed [6]. The need of the hour for policy-makers and development practitioners, as we see from this example and many such similar experiences, is to design and develop robust processes that can respond to the socially diverse interests and dynamics existing among the actors in the ecosystem. In that, there is an urgent need to bust the myth of a homogeneous ‘community’ and to recognise and address the pluralism that exists, rather than necessarily attempting to achieve or reconcile consensus, and to appreciate the ‘livedexperiences’ of communities.

IN CONCLUSION Community-based approaches for resource management have frequently failed to fulfil their promise and have generated unexpected conflicts. This is partly because their settings are more socially, institutionally and

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Our biggest take-away has been that, community-based waste management efforts should seek to be adaptive rather than designed as modular templates with the underlying assumption of addressing a homogeneous community.


REFERENCES [1] International Solid Waste Association. (2012). Globalization and Waste Management. [2]Leach, M., Mearns, R., & Scoones, I. (1997). Challenges to community-based Sustainable Development-Dynamics, Entitlements, Institutions. Brighton. [3] IUCNIWWF/UNE. (1991). Caring for the Earth: a Strategy for Sustainable Living. [4] Leach, M., & Fairhead, J. (2001). Plural perspectives and institutional dynamics: Challenges for local forest management.

International Journal of Agricultural Resources, Governance and Ecology. [5] Citizen consumer and civic Action Group. (2018). Incentivising zero waste in a low-income community in Chennai. Chennai. Retrieved from https://www.cag.org.in/database/incentivisingzero-waste-low-income-community-chennai [6] Leach, M., & Fairhead, J. (2001). Plural perspectives and institutional dynamics: Challenges for local forest management. International Journal of Agricultural Resources, Governance and Ecology.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Kripa Ramachandran is strongly motivated by issues of rights and social justice, and believes that policy and regulatory frameworks must be strengthened to mitigate adverse environmental, social and economic impacts. She brings all this to bear in her current role as a researcher in the Urban Governance team at the Citizen Consumer and Civic Action Group (CAG), where she explores the interplay between corporate accountability, consumer behaviour and governance through the lens of waste. She also manages ‘Kuppai Matters’, a participatory platform that is committed to finding ‘bottom-up’ solutions for a sustainable waste management policy. Previously, Kripa worked with Ignite Chennai, a learning programme at Tata Consultancy Services, where she led the group’s research on effects of automation on 21st century livelihoods and policies on skills. Kripa is a lawyer by training and holds a master’s degree in development studies from the Institute of Development Studies, UK.

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MOTION CAPTURED

ECLECTIC AQUEOUS PERIPHERIES SHAIL JOSHI

CITY OBSERVER | December 2018


Sassoon Docks, located in Colaba, is one of the oldest fishing docks in the city of Mumbai. This photo essay attempts to capture the demographics, gender dynamics, patterns, activities and colours in the form of textures offered by this fragment of the city. The photographs also showcase the spatial significance of this historic fishing port that faces sterilized upgrading owing to the myopic urban visions of the State.

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MOTION CAPTURED

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MOTION CAPTURED

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MOTION CAPTURED

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MOTION CAPTURED

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MOTION CAPTURED

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ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER Shail Joshi is an architect and photographer. He is currently pursuing a planning degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, USA. For Shail, photography has been a means to learn and engage since his time as an undergraduate architecture student. This approach has led to explorations of new cultures and landscapes in Bhutan, China and various cities in India. His photography mainly draws on the theme ‘City around Humans’ and serves as a springboard for his architectural designs.

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ART AND THE CITY

ART FOR ‘ALL’ FAIZAN KHATRI

CITY OBSERVER | December 2018


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ART AND THE CITY

Mumbai. It is the city I was born and nurtured in, while leading an urban life and keeping oneself limited to the bubble of human interaction. This being a reality most city-dwellers thrive within. One day, I was witness to a gambolling puppy that had wandered onto the road and was run over by a passing car. This drastically altered the relevance of life and what it meant to me - hearing the yelps gradually fade while the mother helplessly licked her pups remains. Would one go back to their own routine at a time like this when empathizing or worse, sympathizing? Or would one change routine and try to help? Having no clue whatsoever (being inherently paranoid of species which weren’t human), I chose to step in to see what I could do to assist here, which was a rather unsuccessful attempt. The pup had lost his life but this is probably the point where my journey of dabbling with animal welfare and repeated attempts at infusing it with collective art began and has continued till date. This city houses (or rather, witnesses) a stray or street dog population of close to one lakh. Out of which the population of street dogs in Suburban Mumbai district is eight times larger. [1] Compare this to the 220 lakh human population of Mumbai, out of which the number of humans populating the slums/streets is close to an astonishing 60%. That’s 132 lakh in numbers. [2]

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Street animals in existing city conditions.

Interestingly, street dwellers (both humans and animals) share a strong interdependence with regard to their psychological well-being and security. The animals in this interdependency are often treated like a close family member, often resulting in an inseparable bond for life. Street animals are often found taking shelter under vehicles and other unsafe areas and are at constant risk of physical harm by

being run over and/or painful deaths. Their existence has come to be easily ignored, something that is simply a part of the city’s backdrop. Ironically, shutting off their presence from the spectrum of vision for the remaining 88 lakh urban dwellers of the city equipped with a shelter above their heads is a nobrainer. Therein lies the germination of the problem identification, and hence an attempt at a solution.

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LETS REVISIT THE TERM ‘ART FOR ALL’. Art, when infused into a city, specifically that with the complex dynamics Mumbai offers, stands at a threshold of challenging boundaries of the artist and the spectator, of individual thought and the public domain. Thus, expanding the lens through which one would view art and maybe critique it alongside the geographical, social, political and perhaps professional parameters.

One would then question how art influences the city, and importantly, does it hold a specific role in the city? Responding to the strata that Mumbai provides, does art

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hold the capability of generating a language that is subliminal, yet identifiable to its citizens? Do we rely on what has been culturally identified as public art, much like the historic structures? Or do we redefine the existential meaning and symbolism that the individual is then able to perceive and understand, thus localizing it to its core. If one succeeds at addressing this, the attempt at art can then begin to


evolve as an anchor point, or a point of engagement with the city and its residents, be it permanent or temporary in nature. This then gives a sense of social integration and creating a dialogue across the strata of audience. In this context, the ‘Quadruped Animal Shelter Initiative’ is an ongoing project with an intent of studying in detail and illustrating the interesting lives of the stray animals and their habitat in

Moti, a blind street dog in Navi Mumbai’s Nerul neighbourhood is a victim of an acid attack.

different given cultural and physical conditions in the city of Mumbai. This further culminates into building animal shelter pods as art installations in different areas by deconstructing a typical street and its usage in a given city in India. These pods would begin to act as a safe haven for animals, eventually reducing the hindrance of both animals and humans in each other’s lives while acting as non-intrusive art inserts for street dwellers and passers-by alike.

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Documenting Moti’s path, precinct and space in the city.

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Drawing parallels between urban mankind and their co-existence with other species like dogs and cats, we observe how humans tend to create filth, both physically and psychologically and continue to laugh about it. Stepping outside the realm of what art and architecture notionally stands for in its literal sense, a logical take on the emotional dependence of the urban animals with humans emerge. Through animals we begin to understand humans and their behavioural traits. Humans emerge ill equipped even in today’s times to create and implement effective intervention - in this case, through design - in our environment, the city.

Animal shelter pods reimagined as urban art inserts.

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Animal shelter pods - Design prototypes and sketches.

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The Pissing Dog installation from St+art India Mumbai Festival’s showcase at Sassoon Dock.

Drawing from this, the ‘Sassoon Dog’ was an experimental installation designed for the Sassoon Dock Art Project, an initiative by St+art India which brought together 24 artists from across the world into a single ‘free for all’ venue located at a fishing dock situated at the southern tip of Mumbai. The Sassoon Dog worked along with undertones of the condition of animals caught up in a typical contemporary urban scenario.

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Perceived through the lens of the many stray dogs, those that ‘We see when we want to, and don’t when we don’t‘. The installations driven by this simplicity would occur at different areas of the venue. Spaces untouched, corners, behind objects, at the edge of - in an analogy to the same spatial conditions that occur in our day-to-day experiences of the urbanity of a typical cityscape.


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The act itself is posed as a question negotiating this complex situation; Can you look away? Can you smell it? Can you be uncomfortable? Are you comfortable being uncomfortable?

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One would be guided through a larger context laid out with recurring elements, constantly reminding the viewer of this act. Culminating into the last installation; a two storey high giant urinating dog, provoking the thought:

‘human’ values as the masses navigate it through their own personal lives and somewhere, making a difference, a tiny one nevertheless, to those whose lives matter just as much. This, would then truly begin to be Art for ‘All’

Are we desecrating ‘Our Collective Urban’ - a beautiful world inherited equally by us all?

REFERENCES

Looking toward tomorrow, if we begin to envision art (or functional art as one may choose to call it) in a uniquely layered city such as Mumbai - thus offering opportunity for the artist to dab into the tangible and intangibles; while exploring the overlaps between various paradigms like culture, emotions and

[1] As per survey carried out by the Mumbai Municipal Corporation in Oct 2017. Sources: the Asian Age, the Indian Express [2] As per survey carried out by the Mumbai Municipal Corporation. Source: the Indian Express IMAGE CREDITS All images courtesy of the author.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Faizan Khatri is an architect and educator. His work reflects his love for animals, design, teaching and space creation through critical questioning. An advocate for animal welfare and rescue, he likes to construct an intriguing commentary on the world around him, often seen through the eyes of the animals that co-exist within it. He has allied with film directors as a concept story board artist for international and Bollywood movies, and also teamed up with NGOs as an artist, creating wall art for orphanages and schools for the under privileged. He is one of the three principal architects at studio eight twenty three, an award winning collaborative design practice based in Mumbai. The studio’s diverse work varies from installation art to spatial design and from visual arts to architecture, achieving a broad perspective of various design streams, through a unique mix of perceptions and influences. Faizan has been honoured with commemoration from MASA and the Indian Council of Architecture in 2016 for valuable contribution towards architectural education and design. To know more about Faizan’s work, visit https://www.studioeighttwentythree.com

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ON LOCATION

MADRID’S MAGNIFICENT MANZANARES

VIDHYA MOHANKUMAR

CITY OBSERVER | December 2018


Image credit: Burgos & Garrido; Porras La Casta; Rubio & A-Sala; West 8 [GinĂŠs Garrido, team director]

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In 2015, a serendipitous turn of events led to a trip to Madrid. I always imagined that if I visited Spain, it would be for Barcelona but Madrid became my gateway to Spain. Not just that... it also made it into my top 10 favourite cities in the world. Walking through the streets of Madrid felt particularly exhilarating‌ mostly it felt like walking through a Pedro Almodovar film. But a city is more than a place in space, it is a drama in time, said Patrick Geddes. Madrid truly gave off this vibe. It was a city that was beginning to embrace the tourism economy but had not yet been engulfed by it. I recollected a YouTube video that I had seen a few years ago about a project to revitalise the river that flowed through this city. That river is the Manzanares and that project, the Madrid Rio project. I had to see it. The Manzanares River flows through Madrid on the western end of its central core area and has been the city’s source of fresh water since the Moors founded it here in the 9th century. Unlike Paris or London though, Madrid as a city did not treat its river as the centre of its development. In fact, up until the early 2000s, the river was nondescript with shallow waters and flanked by the western section of the M30 beltway which eliminated access to the river. The noise pollution from the beltway and the occasional emptying out of the sewage and storm water lines running parallel to the M30 into the river further elevated the negative image of the Manzanares for the 30,000 residents who lived in close proximity.

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Facing page- Map showing the extents of the Madrid Rio projectthe city’s largest initiative to regain an environmental balance through an urban renewal project along a 7.6 kilometre section of the Manzanares.


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In 2003, this section of the beltway was moved underground thereby freeing up a large parcel of land and leading to the inception of the Madrid Rio projectthe city’s largest initiative to regain an environmental balance through an urban renewal project along a 7.6 kilometre section of the Manzanares. The project set for itself the following goals• Integration of Manzanares River into the new urbanscape of Madrid • Creation of various typologies of green spaces at the city scale • Establishment of a new mobility and accessibility system

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• Strengthening and expansion of the facilities network promoting urban activity • Increasing the quality of life in the neighbourhoods adjoining the river and integrating them within the development • Promoting conditions for a better environmental quality in the area • Protection and value addition to various heritage assets within the project area • Identifying opportunity areas that complement and complete the development of the project area


Madrid Rio master plan. Image credit: Burgos & Garrido; Porras La Casta; Rubio & A-Sala; West 8 [GinĂŠs Garrido, team director]

Walking and cycling paths through the Jardines de Puente de Toledo, a landscaped park that has been designed around the historic Toledo Bridge spanning the Manzanarers river. Creating linkages between old and new infrastructures as well as between various parts of the city of Madrid is an integral feature of the Madrid Rio project.

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In 2005, an invited international competition was announced and West8, a Dutch urban design and landscape architecture firm were chosen winners. Their proposal won on the merit that it was the only submission to utilize a landscape design approach to the site. The design is founded on the idea »3+30« – a concept which proposes dividing the development area into a trilogy of initial strategic projects that

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establish a basic structure which will then serve as a solid foundation for a number of other projects to follow initiated in part by the municipality as well as by private investors and residents. The Madrid Rio project is spread across a surface area of close to 7 square kilometres out of which nearly 2 square kilometres is comprised of parks and


open spaces. To put this in perspective, this project area makes up 1/10th of the total city area of Madrid. Through its length and breadth, it traverses six city districts - Centro, Moncloa-Aravaca, La Latina, Usera, Carabanchel and Arganzuela – and connects several already existing green spaces in the city namely the North Manzanares, the Casa de Campo park, the Oeste park, the Matadero park, the Campo del Moro

Park, the Arganzuela park, the San Isidro park and the La Latina green area. The water quality of the river has been improved through newly constructed collectors and storm tanks. It may not be ready for swimming yet but the plan is to get there. A total of 47 sub-projects have been developed, the most important of which include the Salón de Pinos, Avenida

Madrid Rio – Before and After visualizations. Image source: urbanistdispatch.com

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de Portugal, Huerta de la Partida, Jardines de Puente de Segovia, Jardines de Puente de Toledo, Jardines de la Virgen del Puerto and the Parque de la Arganzuela. Programmatically, the Madrid Rio project includes parks, squares, play areas, boulevards, cultural hubs, sports facilities, entertainment hubs and 11 new bridges to improve the connections between the city’s central and south western districts especially for pedestrians and cyclists. The Arganzuela park which has a dominant theme of water also incorporates 3 elliptical shallow ponds with pop jet fountains to provide respite from the summer heat for adults and kids alike. This particular design element can be attributed to the 3525 children who participated in the Madrid Rio drawing competition and drew imageries of a beach in an otherwise landlocked Madrid. The project also involved the restoration of historical monuments such as the El Rey bridge, the Segovia bridge and the Toledo bridge all of which now stand highlighted in the midst of landscaped surroundings. A former slaughterhouse, Matadero, has also been restored and converted to an arts and cultural centre with an area of nearly 150,000 square metres.

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PROJECT SPECIFICATIONS Location: Invited competition: Design & realization: Client: Project team:

Project management: Programme:

Site surface: Construction cost:

Madrid, Spain 2005 2006- 2011 Madrid City Government West 8 Urban Design & Landscape Architecture and MRIO arquitectos (a consortium of 3 Madrid-based firms namely Burgos & Garrido Arquitectos Asociados, Porras La Casta Arquitectos and Rubio & ÁlvarezSala) Ginés Garrido Colomero Parks, squares, boulevards, cultural hubs, sports facilities, entertainment hubs and bridges 7 square kilometres ~ 420 million Euro


17 play areas have been created within the project area of Madrid Rio.

A former slaughterhouse, Matadero, has also been restored and converted to an arts and cultural centre with an area of nearly 150,000 square metres.

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Salón de Pinos, designed as a linear green space to link existing and newly designed urban spaces along the Manzanares River. Salón de Pinos is located almost entirely on top of the M30 beltway tunnel and features a “choreography” of 8000 pine trees and a repertoire of cuts.

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Arganzuela footbridge, designed by Paris-based architect Dominique Perrault.

A corridor of pine forests stretch along the west bank of the river for six kilometres starting from across the Vicente Calderรณn Stadium.

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WHAT’S THE CATCH?

were to add to this research based on a

When it comes to understanding the

reading of urban development since the

processes that shape a city’s urban

1990s, infrastructure-based economic

form, Spiro Kostof’s chapter on urban

development or infrastructure-driven

processes in his seminal book ‘The City

development would feature heavily.

Assembled’ published in the 1990s is an

This model of urban development

excellent place to start. Today, if we

holds that cities must systematically

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The Arganzuela Park’s main attraction is its 3 elliptical water zones thanks to a ‘city beach’ proposed by over 3000 children who participated in the Madrid Río Children and Young People contest held in 2005. Each of the three ponds has different uses; one has a shallow pool of water, another features jets of water rising to different heights and the third has a pool with clouds of spray. All three water zones have lawns for people to sunbathe and lounge around them.

direct a substantial proportion of

lagging regions and foster continued

resources towards long term assets

growth in cities that are on an upward

such as transportation, energy and

swing. In other words, it is urban

social infrastructure in the name of

renewal but with an agenda for the

social equity and long term economic

comprehensive economic upliftment of

efficiency. Doing so is expected to

cities or city regions.

stimulate growth in economically 150 151


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The Madrid Rio project would fit within this bracket - a project conceptualized and executed in the wake of a speculative economic boom. But as history has shown time and again, urban renewal projects, no matter what their agenda, always have a flip side. So what’s the catch with the Madrid Rio project? Initiated by Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon, Madrid’s ambitious mayor who came to power with a vision of reinventing Madrid by turning it into a global city; the revitalization project, along with an airport expansion, new sports arenas, and underground parking lots, were part of a larger strategy to make a winning bid for the Olympics. Since coming to power in 2003, Gallardon initiated more than 70 major construction projects. Having decided against the phased execution of the project, the excavation area for the project spanned aroun 120 hectares. Temporary bridges and roadways had to be constructed and diversions and closures were implemented to ensure uninterrupted traffic flow during the construction period. However, poor management caused the Madrid Rio

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project to be delayed and escalated the cost to twice its original estimate. In the end, the project came to be seen as overly ambitious and leading the city into bankruptcy. So, despite the success of the project as is evident from the numbers that throng to use the many amenities it provides (after enduring the inconveniences of living in the Europe’s largest construction site), Madrid’s residents now pay for all this with increased taxes over the next few decades. Additionally and ironically, a number of environmental groups have raised objections over the absence of an environmental impact assessment report as well as the extensive use of concrete edges to define the river channel as opposed to a softer treatment for its remediation. In conclusion, there are many learnings from this project. The Madrid Rio project is a magnificent addition to the city and its public realm in terms of its holistic design and superior quality of execution. It is a rap on the knuckles of pessimistic city governments because it shows what CAN be done if there is a will. In these


aspects, it is easily a beacon of light for cities with ailing rivers flowing through them. But the unfortunate truth is that the triumph of public projects depends not only on design but also on financing and incentivising mechanisms. The allure of instant transformation of cities, especially when such a transformation is entwined with the political timeline and legacy of an individual or party, is problematic. And the Madrid Rio project is guilty of this tenet - one man’s quest for legacy cannot be a lifelong burden on the citizens. Urban renewal is indeed a double edged sword. It can yield positive outcomes in the long term if approached through incremental and negotiated planning coupled with the mutual agreement of all stakeholders.

REFERENCES 1. Di Foggia, Giacomo. (2016). InfrastructureDriven Development Policies: An Empirical Impact Analysis. Journal of Applied Economic Sciences. 9. 1642-1649. [Accessed Dec 31 2018]. 2. http://www.west8.com/projects/madrid_rio 3. http://www.landezine.com/index. php/2011/04/madrid-rio-by-west8-urbandesign-landscape-architecture/ 4. “Madrid Río” project: know how Madrid has regained the banks of the Manzanares River - https://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=aOgo4o_afnU 5. Franchini, T. Arana, J. The Mega-Blue-Green Network: Madrid River Project 47th ISOCARP Congress 2011 All images courtesy of the author unless otherwise mentioned.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Vidhya Mohankumar is an architect and urban designer with 15 years of work experience in India, Ireland and the United States. Her work is focused on creating cities that are peopleoriented and centred around transit as part of a sustainable development agenda that she is passionate about. Her approach is driven by research that is grounded and intersectional as a way to understand the everyday urbanism of cities. With clientele ranging from state governments, ULBs, county/town councils, real estate developers, private sector firms and NGOs, her urban design projects exhibit a wide variety with master plans for cities, towns, station areas, harbour areas and their environs as well as redevelopment plans for town centres, city public spaces and brownfield sites. She has also been involved in several strategic planning projects, regional plans, local area plans, campus master plans and urban design studies for existing developments in various cities around the world. In addition, she has been advocating sustainable development practices as a guest faculty at various universities in India for the past 10 years. Vidhya received a masters degree in urban design with distinction from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA and a bachelors degree in architecture from the National Institute of Technology, Tiruchirapalli, India.

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SCOTTISH CEMETERY: A LIVING HERITAGE IN KOLKATA DEBAYAN CHATTERJEE & ATANU DAS

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NEED FOR CONSERVATION Urban conservation has become an integral part of development for cities like Kolkata which boast a rich history and heritage. Conservation is considered to be a process by which the material, historical, and design integrity of humanity’s built heritage is prolonged through carefully planned interventions. But how should we conserve? Does conservation just mean reconstructing ruined built heritage and recommending its restrictive use? Our answer is ‘no.’ This ideology has evolved to the understanding that the success of urban conservation lies in its ability to engage local communities and make people aware and proud of their heritage. Since 2014, Untitled Research Studio (URS) has been promoting these concepts through a public space preservation programme called ‘Places for Hope’ which was triggered by a community-led urban renewal initiative in and around the Scottish Cemetery in Kolkata. This article showcases how the participatory planning concepts and strategies adopted by all project partners (Team-URS, Neeta Shubhrajit Das Associates, Banipur Sahayog and KolkataScottish Heritage Trust) helped in the successful restoration of the abandoned cemetery.

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PROJECT CONTEXT AND HISTORY The Scottish Cemetery in Kolkata lies at the eastern end of the famous Park Street. Established in 1820, it catered to the specific needs of the large Scottish population in the Kolkata area. These Scots, including soldiers, missionaries, jute traders and businessmen were

attached to numerous enterprises in the area such as the headquarters of the East India Company, and the administration of the British Raj. The cemetery has over 1600 headstones and monuments, some of Aberdeen granite, but many of brick and lime with marble tablets.

Detailed physical survey, 2014.

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After independence, the Scottish Cemetery soon fell into disuse, the last recorded burial dating from the 1970s. Simultaneously the urban area surrounding the cemetery began to

Project vision, 2015. Image courtesy: KSHT

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attract migrants, mostly belonging to the Muslim community, from the neighbouring states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. They had little option other than to accept accommodation in


overcrowded, substandard housing available in the area. Most found work in the informal sector as daily labourers. Soon the area became densely populated, developing into an

unregistered urban ‘slum’. These new communities were responsible for the exploitation of the cemetery ground, the only available open space.

Social survey, 2014.

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In 2008 the Kolkata-Scottish Heritage Trust (KSHT) was set up as a Scottish Charity to commemorate and build upon the historic links between Scotland and India. Though restoration of this cemetery was identified as KSHT’s first priority, the programme failed to make significant headway due to theft, vandalism and the illegal dumping of rubbish. KSHT had two options: to

accept the status quo or reimagine their approach towards conserving Scottish heritage in Kolkata. Luckily for the Scottish Cemetery, KSHT decided to incorporate community-led urban regeneration aimed at improving the lives of the people residing around the cemetery as an integral part of their conservation program.

Skill-building workshop for Women, 2016. Image courtesy: NSDA

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Drawing classes for community children, 2016. Image courtesy: KSHT

Annual Sports Day Event held in the cemetery, 2016. Image courtesy: NSDA

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MODEL FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT The urban renewal programme at Scottish Cemetery was inaugurated in 2014 by the NGO Banipur Sahayog, under the guidance of the project

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architects Neeta Shubhrajit Das Associates (NSDAr), and with the help of urban designers Untitled Research Studio (URS). The program started with a baseline survey to assess the needs and aspirations of the community.


Two major issues impacting future growth of the area emerged in the survey report: 1. Environment: Local residents lived in highly polluted and congested conditions.

2. Care and development, especially for children and women: There was evidence of early school dropout among children, child employment in unregulated places of work, and early marriage for girls.

Detailed physical analysis, 2014.

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The project envisioned “Creating a safe and hygienic green urban space for the city and the community around Scottish Cemetery,” and to achieve it the project consultants have been following a unique three-pronged approach: promotion of childhood development, women empowerment, and open space development.

Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC), Department of Culture. 2. To assure safety - KMC’s Light Department will install street lights around the cemetery area, while the Police Department will help with regular patrolling and CCTV monitoring. 3. Construction of community toilets for men and women will be facilitated by the KMC’s Drainage Department.

This initiative prefers to work in close association with government agencies, 4. KMC’s Park and Square Department civil society organisations, and urban will help develop a linear park in front professionals to converge appropriate of the cemetery. KMC will also help services in the area. Over the last four with the garbage disposal process on years, a community engagement plan a daily basis. has encouraged 2,000 disadvantaged 5. Value-education sessions with people to become involved in the project. children will include activities such More than 200 skill-building workshops as drawing classes, story-telling and value-education sessions have been sessions, and book club activities. conducted, especially amongst children Women empowerment (skill-building) and women, who now champion the sessions will include activities such development of the area with a sense of as home-made art and crafts classes ownership. The action plan priorities the and beautician training courses. following strategies: 6. A comprehensive tourism master 1. To increase awareness/visibility plan will be prepared outlining of the cemetery area - Grade-1 revenue models, development heritage notification boards will be guidelines, and infrastructure needed installed at strategic locations by in and around the cemetery area.

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Reusing the cemetery as a community space, 2015.

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Proposed neighbourhood lighting, 2015.

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Proposed garbage disposal system, 2015.

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Proposed drainage improvement, 2015.

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Proposed heritage signage, 2015.

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Proposal for active edges, 2015.

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WAY FORWARD Access to public space is an important reason why people opt to stay in cities and it is our common responsibility to prevent them from being violated, abandoned or ignored. A city’s streets, parks, plazas, squares, and other shared spaces nurture urban public life. Under the immense pressure of urbanisation in countries like India, the importance of these “everyday spaces” is often neglected or downplayed. In this context, how can Indian cities successfully reclaim their public spaces? Restoring a clean and healthy environment in and around Scottish Cemetery was never an easy task. But with time and effort, the project has succeeded in motivating local residents to work alongside service providers such as the Kolkata Municipal Corporation and the local police authority to make the area clean, green, and safe for all, providing a paradigm for urban conservation in the Indian context. REFERENCE: Chatterjee, Debayan. 2015. Scottish Cemetery: Community-led urban renewal initiative (Combined Report). Kolkata: KSHT. Proposed edge condition treatment for improved visibility, 2016.

All images courtesy the authors unless otherwise mentioned.

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TEACHING URBAN DESIGN

PLAY METHODOLOGIES STUDIO

SEBASTIAN TRUJILLO & KRUTI SHAH

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Play is an extraordinary pedagogical tool. It is an activity that allows for the participation and contribution of very diverse agents, thereby creating a strong integrative condition beyond the classroom. Simultaneously, it allows students to eagerly envision objectives, construct tactics & strategies of design, absorb negotiations and address pre-existing conflicts. Playing is a way for agency and knowledge to proliferate since it entails a profound enquiry on the conditions of a place while rendering explicit the rules of its systems; it makes boundaries and divisions visible as lines that can be transgressed for larger benefits. In that manner, play is also a subversive activity because of its capacity to envision radical contextual transformations, through seemingly harmless operations. Playing is mocking the status quo. As part of the ’Play Methodologies’ studio taken forward as part of the Bachelors in Urban Design program at CEPT University, Ahmedabad, students were presented with a set of challenges that made them experiment with such notions of play while taking the city as a laboratory. Hence, they designed a series of game boards capable of reproducing the complex constituencies of a site in southeastern Ahmedabad (more specifically, Bombay Hotel) which would eventually lead them to the proposition of small-scale, frugal, yet innovative, technologies: what we can term as mobile infrastructures. This is its pedagogical manifesto.

Facing page- Play session in progress. Image courtesy: Kruti Shah

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PLAY AS RESEARCH To begin with, it is important to highlight that as a methodological development play emerged as an assemblage of incremental and subsequent negotiations. The students started off by undergoing somewhat conventional stages of research such as on-site observation and analysis, empirical data collection, stakeholder interviews, mapping and other forms of visualization. However, the aim of these exercises –aside from depicting relevant physical conditionswas to revisit existing formal and informal infrastructural networks such as water and electricity provision, educational facilities (anganvaadis), unlicensed transport systems, open spaces, waste management and so on, in a manner that could challenge its apparently innocuous features. When a playful lens lends itself to unearth the power imbalances that make the Bombay Hotel site a radically politicized geography, students begin to construe the site as a series of spaces of contestation, conflict, collaboration, but mostly as a place of opportunity.

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And when the findings from such research are presented through a series of game boards, play becomes explicit. These tools of representation provided the students with an insight into the relevant dynamic components and stakeholders of the infrastructural networks they were investigating while also revealing interdependencies and struggles. Hence, as a way to enable students to structure their own procedural processes in different scales and conditions of action, the predisposition of these parameters for interaction -not only encouraged empathy but, simultaneously- worked as a strategy to identify opportunities of design. The game boards, in that way, resulted as a form of performative mapping: an experience-based representation, which urged the player to involve with specific choices that would lead to eventual transformative agendas. A form of experimentation based on techniques of participatory design and community engagement yet, set in a


Mapping the water distribution system of private suppliers in Bombay Hotel. Image courtesy: Shourya Dubey, Prabhu Prabhanjan and Praswed Patel

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Components of the informal water infrastructure. Image courtesy: Shourya Dubey, Prabhu Prabhanjan and Praswed Patel CITY OBSERVER | December 2018


Mapping the territoriality of open spaces (above) and the effects of garbage disposal in open spaces (below) in Bombay Hotel. Image courtesy: Meet Kakadiya

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different way. Multiple game sessions were held at Bombay Hotel and CEPT University, wherein the act of playing recreated site-livelihoods and triggered significant discussion (especially amongst stakeholders as local leaders, women, children and so on) thereby accentuating the value of the discipline’s social dimension.

of research and design: contextual understandings and built form propositions were withdrawn directly from the act of playing. Interactions, exchanges and negotiations became the methodological vocabulary to analyse, interpret and rethink complex sociopolitical conditions, through engaging and transformative narratives.

Now, over and above, another interesting

An iterative process of exchange, trial, error and adaptation. Deciphering while acting.

factor of these game boards is that they worked simultaneously as a tool

’Fill the container’ was an initial exploration of the informal water network as a game board. Image courtesy: Prabhu Prabhanjan CITY OBSERVER | December 2018


’SAFAR’, a game board about the education network being played on site with children. Image courtesy: Atal Chadha, Sparsh Paltan and Aditi Mishra

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’BHAV TOL’, a game board based on negotiations and informal market logics in session on the streets of Bombay Hotel. Image courtesy: Anubha Tholia, Vanishka Shah, Hetvee Panchal, Prabhu Prabhanjan and Madhav Joshi CITY OBSERVER | December 2018


’LAKSHYA’, a game board that portrays everyday infrastructural interdependencies and conflicts in Bombay Hotel; in session on site. Image courtesy: Shourya Dubey, Prabhu Prabhanjan, Meet Kakadiya, Drashti Thakkar and Praswed Patel

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DESIGN AS PLAY While the first phase of the studio was predominantly concentrated upon devising mechanisms of research directly linked to possibilities of action- the second gravitated around the potentiality of design. From play as a tool to gather information, interact with stakeholders and dabble with ideas, on to a tool of engaging with materials, textures, forms and urban elements. A way to re-instate previous questions.

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Above - Playing with images: visualizing potential site of intervention. Image courtesy: Shourya Dubey and Meet Kakadiya Facing page - Playing with images: visualising stakeholders. Image courtesy: Khevana Makhanwahla


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While the games informed eventual design decisions, play became the language through which propositions emerged. Design as play. A playful means to understand (and act

Design brief for a movable water filter and gathering space. Image courtesy: Prabhu Prabhanjan

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Design brief for a solar ‘chabutra’. Image courtesy: Madhav Joshi

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upon) Indian urbanity as a raw bundle of overlapping dynamics in constant exchange; an exercise of observing reality as it is - and not as it should be in order to reverse-engineer its principles and re-purpose them. Enhance the environment. Playing-design from this perspective, was consolidated within found values: Jugaad as a form of frugal innovation, temporality as an opportunity for poly-functional infrastructure, density of space as index for optimization, flexibility as a guide for positive change, interdependency of the formal and informal (as well as private and public) as programmatic locus, negotiations as an everyday currency. Strategies of action legitimized by their reappropriation.

The challenge for the students then consisted of formulating specific briefs that would address issues and opportunities while envisaging appropriate technologies. In order to do this, they were given a set of ten bounding parameters through which they had to think their urban design interventions: they had to be urban devices (small-scaled) of decentralized character (not relying on institutions), temporary or mobile (not a one-time solution), scalable (a system that could expand), systemic (located within preexisting networks), polyfunctional (for multiple appropriations and uses), feasible (working with what is available), frugal (acutely conscious of resources), politically aware (deliberately situated within power relations), and playful (risky, daring, engaging and accessible).

Bombay Hotel: Jugaad / Cloth as water filter. Image courtesy: Prabhu Prabhanjan

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Bombay Hotel: Jugaad/ Cloth as second door. Image courtesy: Anubha Tholia and Vanshika Shah

MOBILE INFRASTRUCTURES WITH AN ACTIVIST AGENDA What was fascinating about this process, was not only the ad-hoc composition of the responses to the challenge but, mostly, the sui-generis character they displayed. While Prabhanjan Prabhu developed a ‘lari’ (street cart) meant to filter water as a doorstep service that could also be a public space of gathering, Hetvee Panchal proposed an expandable co-working space for women to learn crafts in abandoned neighbourhood plots. Madhav Joshi on

the other side, projected an energyproducing ‘chabutra’ (bird feeder) that could double as a community meeting place, while Sparsh Paltan designed a play-device for children to concentrate in controllable areas. Additionally, Meet Kakadiya and Shourya Dubey worked on a water-filtering space that would turn a derelict lake into a public garden, while Atal Chadha proposed a mobile playground that could consolidate safer spaces of interaction for the neighbourhood children.

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CHADAAI, a collapsible playing device. Image courtesy: Sparsh Paltan

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GHANAKSHETR, a mobile playground. Image courtesy: Atal Chadha

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TRANSFORMER-a movable water filter and gathering space. Image courtesy: Prabhu Prabhanjan

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Of / by / for the PEOPLEwater filter to produce green spaces. Image courtesy: Shourya Dubey and Meet Kakadiya

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The notion of ‘play’ permeated inquests and propositions, as an attitude through which understandings and actions acquired an adaptable

condition. Flexible to circumstances, to contexts: a form of listening and acting accordingly. As a pedagogical project, our agenda was not that of providing

End semester exhibition at CEPT University, Ahmedabad. Image courtesy: Sebastian Trujillo

End semester exhibition at CEPT University, Ahmedabad. Image courtesy: Kruti Shah CITY OBSERVER | December 2018


End semester exhibition at CEPT University, Ahmedabad. Image courtesy: Sebastian Trujillo

pre-established methodologies (directly transferring step-by-step mechanisms) but rather setting up the parameters by which students could formulate their own, taking play as an excuse. An

approachable action that –if properly harnessed- can be liberating: an instrument of knowledge-production with noteworthy potentials for the field of urban design.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS Sebastian Trujillo is an architect and design educator based in Ahmedabad and Bogota. His bachelor’s degree is in Architectural Design from the National University of Colombia. He did his Masters in Architectural History, Theory and Criticism from CEPT University, Ahmedabad. He is currently a visiting faculty at CEPT University, a research associate in the CEPT University Press, and an independent practitioner. His research interests include the utilization of ‘play’ as a design-research tool, understanding ‘jugaad’ technologies as potential architectural methodologies, the potential of public architecture and infrastructure as catalysts of agency and the political role of the architect in contemporary scenarios among other topics. Kruti Shah graduated from Academy of Architecture, Mumbai, and completed the Masters of Architecture programme at CEPT University within the Architectural Design specialization. She is interested in the relation between the construction of micro and macro narratives of lived spaces, their intangible quality, and how they can be translated into small design interventions that impact larger contexts. Currently, she practices architecture and is also a studio tutor in the Faculty of Planning at CEPT University, Ahmedabad.

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IMAGE CREDIT: ABINAYA RAJAVELU


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