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Urban conundrum

Aruna Bhowmick |

To continue with discussions on Contemporary Urban Conundrum, IIC Quarterly, Winter-Spring 2016-17, one cannot but agree with Vikram Soni when he states, "Thus far we have identified progress with an increasingly devastating high standard of living." The city design he seems to have in mind would be low on consumption, but integrate living natural resources in an essential way into the scheme of living and yet provide an impeccable life.

"The idea is to build self-organised, non-invasive cities that 'conserve and use' their living natural resources, and are selfsufficient in water, food and milk." While this seems like a pipe dream, anything is possible with dedication and sincerity ~ a change of mind set first of all, brought with leading by example.

"The world today lives by the belief that all you need is to invent and consume. Who is to explain to our policy makers that quality of life is not an entirely material thing ~ it is far more subtle and sensitive. Good water and air are basic, not just to the quality of life, but to life itself, that no amount of luxury can compensate for them."

How does one convince those who manage to win/not win elections and are appointed to high ministerial offices through sycophancy and the whims and fancies of political powers that be? We go to far away places in search of natural getaways when we have ample space in our own neighbourhood, provided we are able to generate a congenial environment therein. But lack of real education, loud, unpleasant behaviour and greed for money are some of the reasons why our commons can never be utilised to their optimum. Our myopic mental growth will keep us from civilised public conduct for centuries yet, keeping us eternally divided into "them" and "us", seeking exclusivity and segregation, striving for more and expensive lifestyles governed by money and a great deal of crudity.

Day-to-day acceptance in the name of right to livelihood stems from none but the pandering to numbers are populist measures to garner votes.

"Over time, urban living has transformed the landscape of life. The change has been wrought by development moving to larger and larger human settlements, defying the very idea of limits of growth. In our country the urban fabric has become frayed and strained," helping a part of the population survive and profit, while the other part suffers, fast making the megacities unliveable for the latter. Soni’s solutions for the rising water scarcity is worth making note of, where he suggests that in the face of rivers becoming unusably polluted, the only way out is to discover a new perennial local source of water and protect it with one’s life.

The Himalayan rivers and their tributaries flow down from the Himalayas into the plains of northern India and China, and Prof Soni has ideas of how to tap this resource that are well worth a serious read! The issue includes some interesting street art by Harsh Raman Singh Paul.