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.

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.