Why should chaos accompany urban growth?

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 30 Jul 2017 09:14:01

THE last week produced a need to visit a big city just for a day. It is one of the top ten cities in the country, the capital of a State, and an emerging hub for greenfield industries. It is also a vibrant place, in the sense a lot of developmental work is going on there -- including a vigorous activity to lay a metro-rail track of more than eighty kilometers in length. New buildings of huge dimensions are coming up everywhere, and roads are always flowing with heavy traffic that does not seem to ebb at any time of the day or night. It is, no doubt, a big city and also a great city with a lot of history to boast of and also tremendous future to look forward to. 

However, one also realised that any big city in the country is characterised not just by job opportunities and developmental activity, particularly in infrastructure sector, but also by certain chaos that seems to be out of control of the civic authorities and administrative machinery.
If wealth is on display on one hand, abject and obscene poverty, too, is visible simultaneously. If growth symbolising itself through many projects, mismanagement of those project also is visible alongside.

For, when a project is underway at a place, there is a
terrible mess around the site, disrupting traffic, rendering parking arrangements out of shape, and creating several constrictions on the roads under general use. As a result, traffic jams are often witnessed in most big cities. This particular city, too, showed all these, much to one’s dismay.
For, if urban growth is a reality -- a welcome reality -- why should it not come in a neat manner, a well-managed manner, in a harmonious manner?

This question often gets tossed out of the window by those who claim to understand a lot of things about urban growth. They often say, in effect, “Don’t be too naive, Mr. Phanshikar! You should understand that certain discomfort is inevitable when a city is growing!”

Initially, when one heard such a rebuke, one felt slightly stupid. But after visiting many bigger cities around the world and after seeing first hand how the authorities there manage the growth pangs so capably, one is not willing to take the nonsense, may it then be coming from anybody sitting in any high place. Also, after having watched public affairs from close quarters for over fifty years, one is not
willing to accept the ‘given’ that certain chaos does accompany urban growth.

This is utter nonsense. And the reason is that even a small hand-cart pusher in the street understands that the mess is avoidable, provided the civic authorities decide to change their method and manner.
But the trouble is that the civic authorities, as a general rule across the urban Indian landscape, are not willing to examine if there are other and better ways of doing things. The administrators and political leaders talk a similar language and tell the common citizens like this scribe that they are fools not to understand the inevitability of chaos when a city is being given a developmental push.

If this is a pan-Indian experience, then there should be a pan-Indian thought, too, to be given to solving the problem of urban chaos in the name of development. We have seen the trouble in Delhi when the metro was being laid there. We saw the trouble in other places, too. The issue is not the metro rail; it is about the wrong concept that certain chaos has to accompany development, especially in big cities.