1st Habitat Summit – A Four Day Trip to Delhi – Day 2

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Day 2:

I left hostel much early than yesterday even if there was water in IIT today! I went to find out some breakfast and had healthy fruit salad and the famous Delhi’s Mother’s Dairy milk bottle. Then I went across the whole campus to the main gate and took an auto which this time took only Fifty rupees! I reached India Habitat Centre. Today I explored the building and when got tired I sat down to read in the binder of the Summit. Today I sat on the breakfast table with Pranav Gaur, American Express and had a wonderful discussion with him.. Others also joined in and participated in the discussion ranging from Sustainability to Delhi Metro to Placements in Architechture and Law firms.

The first session was on Making Cities Work for Growth and taken by Mr. Hiroto Arakawa. It was great to know about Tokyo as a city and it’s Metro System. It was quite informative but still I feel somehow it may not be sustainable. As the population on the city is rising and Metro is becoming overloaded in Tokyo. But it acts as the backbone of Tokyo also. Not easy to decide!

Then I would like to say that the most interesting session was the Politics of Urban Mobility. The speakers was Ms. Geetam Tiwari whom we had met on the first day of the summi; Mr. Jaipal Reddy, Minister for Urban Development, GoI; Mr. Rakesh Mehta, Chief Secratary, Government of NCT Delhi; Mr. Phillip Rode and Mr. Sam Miller writer of a book on Delhi’s city adventures. In overall it was most informative, entertaining and I could most connect with.

Interestingly it was chaired by most interesting personality at the Summit – Mr. K C Shivramakrishnan. His speach started with a quote from the economic survey of Delhi, ” The flyovers have been successful in shifting traffic jam to the next crossing.” In Delhi, there is BRT controversy and many political situations created by public, government, beaurocracy and other groups. There is politics of parking, public and private funding, taxing, policies like JNNURM and what not?

Mr. Rakesh Mehta grieved about the lack of collaboration in many agencies (Next day Manit said that the water supply management in Delhi is controlled by more that fifteen agencies!). He talked about the Common National Transport Policy which according to me is not a good idea as it’s a city’s unique needs which should frame the policies. He was the only person in the whole summit who talked about corruption in Trasnportation.

Mr. Philipp Rode talked about the virtues of low car dependency. I like this guy for his simple and sweet approach to problems and ability to clearly explain them. He again talked about Congestion Charge and it’s success in dreating more public spaces in the cities and reducing cars. This I think should work for Indian cities as well.

Mr. Sam Miller connected us emotionally and logically to the problem by showing three pictures from the city of Delhi where the pedestrians had a real problem in walking. And focussed on developing sidewalks.

Ms. Geetam Tiwari talked about three myths that we are facing and unable to get rid of are:

– Road congestion can be reduced by more flyovers.
– Congestion and pollution can be reduced by metro trains.
– Pollution can be reduced by fuel efficient cars/motorized vehicles.

She said that these myths are challenges that has to be looked upon. She also said in metros most trips are less than 10 kilometers. So I understand it’s really not necessary to have metros and flyovers but promoting cycle riders and walkers that can help a lot instead of spending such a huge sum of money on these monstors of concretes which are of no use!

All of them talked anout lowering dependency on cars and focussing on walkability. It was good to have the Minister of Urban Development there as these ideas were going to him directly and I really expect him to really look over these issues raised.

Mr. Jaipal Reddy said he supports the public transport and champion of the cause. He said the National Urban Transport focusses on people rather than vehicles.

The after lunch session was somewhat much related to ground work rather than big talks of policies and government authorities. It was on social inclusion in urban revitalisation. There was present Mr. Ashish Ganju who helped develop Ayanagar which was an unorganised and illegal settlement near Delhi. He developed the pond in the village as the centre of all activities and in this way lead to the development of the region. He said there were four ponts that has to be taken in account while developing a community:

– Community Involvement – which he considered was not easy enough but most necessary step.
– Habitat Design – the focus he said should be on public health like it was in the old times before industrial times.
– Documentation – He said it was necessary so that others can also learn form this project.
– Raising of Human and Financial Resources

Mr. Pankaj Vir Gupta talked about his project in Delwara, Rajasthan. Where he helped the community develop from the local resources. He wanted to make a toilet there as the people defaceted in the open like most of the villages in Rajasthan ( Later it was known from a speaker the even 60 percent of Delhi does so!). But his project when fully designed and planned was stoppped by local panchayat because they considered it inapproprite. Panchayat Power!!

Then there was Rahul Srivastave from Mumbai who had worked for the development of Dharavi. Also Mr. Marcello Balbo from University of Venice informed that in developing countries out of financial resources available eighty percent goes in running costs like payments. So he said do plan small projects, not long term and feasible. He also said that community involvement is necessary.

Till then I had in my mind questions about decentralization. The problem with it is that the expertise, resources, brains, thoughts, vision, etc. may not be available at such local level. So, with power there is a need of all these also to be developed locally or supplied from outside of higher levels of power. May be it’s true and that’s why people of a village don’t take action but someone from outside has to come and show them the way.

The next session was on Affordable Housing in India. It was much dominated by a group of builders and bankers who were planning to set up low price apartments for the poor people which in itself was found to be full of flaws when questions were raised. They were asking for a help from the Govenment in terms of subsidies in land aspects. Well it was a good session as I came to know how the housing, real estate and banking sector works. There were concepts like Residential SEZ discussed. Also they demanded the renewal of land laws. The presence of Ms. Kiran Dhingra, Secretary, Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation GoI made the session much interesting. A comment from the audience, ” Solution exists but the will is lacking. And Behind every failed scheme there is a Beaurocrat.” shows the frustration od common people from the beaurocracy and government.

Then I attended the public forum where Ms. Meera Sanyal, Mr. K C Shivramakrishnan, Mr. William Bissell and Mr Yogesh Chandra were present for the discussion. The focus was of good governance and how can we work for the development of the city. The outcome was one should come ahead, mobilize a community and storm the office of administration… not literally. The participation of community was again the most important. The comment of Mr. Shivramakrishnan was worth appreciation and thought provoking, “We are individualy intelligent but collectively stupid.”

This way the day was full of interesting debate. I went back to IIT Delhi with a mind full of facts and information. I ate two stuffed nan at FX canteen in the campus and went to Hostel to sleep.

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