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

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Day 1:

I left early at six thirty about 3 hours early partly because I did not much wanted to stay in the hostel and partly because I wanted to see Delhi mornings.I went to India Habitat Centre where the auto driver took seventy rupees. Lack of the knowledge of public transport or lack of public trasport forced me daily to take these money sucking autos. Anyway all my grudge went away when I crossed the green and clean roads. I appreciated the cool air and it seemed clean too. It was a morning of Delhi which I will never forget. India Habitat Centre was a building I would be more happy to look upon than TajMahal. The architechture of the building. The plants and decoration were beautiful. The roof which was designed specially to let sunlight in. It brought air in which was cooled by the plants. The amphitheatre felt like the jungle of Amazon. It was humid sitting there without fans. It would have been no surprise to see tribals pointing arrows amidst the trees. The place was so diverse.

My friend who is also an AIESECer form Jaipur also came there after an hour. We sat and talked. He came there to make contacts and networking and I – to learn. I decided to shut my mouth most of the Summit and learn and assimilate as much as I can in my mind. First session was a light one, we fellows were introduced to the Summit and there was Mr. Anupam Yog and Mr. Sanjeev Sanyal of whom I had never heard of before this Summit but heard as many time during the Summit that they now sound so familier. Then we had breakfast and talked with Ms. Geetam Tiwari without knowing that she was an important speaker at the Summit. She explained about how she makes plans to tackle Transport and Injuries at IIT Delhi.

Then we went to Stein Auditorium after going through a real tough procedure of registration. There was a crowd of three hundred fellows to register. And over this we were told to register two times each day of Summit once while leaving and once while entering.

There was a feeling of being special when we were introduced to Summit by Mr. Raj Liberhan, Director of India Habitat Centre. The first interesting person was Mr. Arun Maira – I liked his sensitive talks, way of speaking and habit of always taking a book with him and quoting from the book. He is a member of Planning Commision, GoI.

Then there was a pannel discussion on Urbanization as Development Policy in India, China and the Wolrd. I specifically liked the presentations by Mr. Philipp Rode, London School of Economics and Mr. Andrew TaN from Singapore. I couldn’t much understand Mr. Wong from China. But Mr. Lall’s policy of focussing on economic density was a point I couldn’t much favor may be because lack of understanding of Economics. He was from The World Bank.

Then there was a coffee break. The arrangement for food and breakfast was good. I appreciate that. Than there was this session on ‘Beyond the Megacities’ on the next generation cities of India which I personally found the most unhelping session of the whole Summit. No information and vague concepts. The speakers Sudeshna and Mr. Das could not help me understand what they wanted to say.

The third session of the day was on Alternative Urban Futures of India which I suppose went of the topic and became much political but I liked it very much. The speaker was Mr. M Ramachandran, Secretary, Ministry of Urban Development. At first I had a feeling if he was reading his article from the development monthly ‘Yojana’ when he talked about all the policies like JNNURM, Master Plans etc. But the discussion with him was good.

The fourth session was very very good – It was taken by Mr Andrew Tindsley from BDP; Gaurav Gupta, The Climate Project – India; Sean Randolph, Bay Area Council Economic Institute and of course Sanjeev Sanyal. Some important points discussed were:

-How to plan a city development?
-Climate Change and India
-Walkability
-Adaptation and Mitigation

Then there was a session on role of education in bringing about urban renaissance. It was not of much help to me because all the education discussed was only architechture and design. But the presentation of Mr. Baldeep Singh. Anad Conservatory generated the importance of heritage and culture in my mind. It also raised questions like, the heritage which I and most of indians think as tourist attration spots and merely economic activity can be of any value? I mean how can not I understand what foriegners come to see in my city and feel the importance of? What importance does it really have. I had read from Barack Obama’s biography that it relates us to our history and in this way we learn to appreciate the cultures and history of our as well as others. This may be the one powerfull reason here too but I need to know more about it.

In this way the first day ended up. It was good to be at the summit and learn and know so many things. I loved the day. At that time I began to feel, if this obsession for Urbanization is fair or not? It might have been given air by the industry like consultancy, construction, design, planning etc. But soon it bacame clear that development is never bad and the real meaning of Urbanization has many aspects which are not economical only – political, cultural and environmental and this will help me connect with the topic of the 1st Habitat Summit in a much better way. I was back in IIT Delhi’s Hostel, I surfed internet and then slept in a good sleep. There was no fever but peace in my mind.

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