Spatial Justice in Urban India

Notes from a talk by Leo Saldanha and Bharghavi Rao on “Contested Terrains: Environmental and Spatial Justice in Urban India” at Harvard University Graduate School of Design, organised by HUPO, the Harvard Urban Planning Organisation.

Themes
A right to life includes a right to livelihood.

This challenged by:
– privatisation
– gating
– surveillance
– separation and marginalisation
– cleansing of the urban poor
– harassment of sexual minorities
– encroachment of the car.

This creates a fragmentation of communities. The problems are well understood by elected representatives – the problem is in municipal bureaucracies.

The future needs to be the “cheap city”. The small/medium-sized city is the future.

Effect of roads
1. Widening of roads displaces street vendors. New roads don’t cater for pedestrians and vendors.

2. Loss of trees, especially historic trees. Loss of urban forests.

3. Separation of users – IT users on special, signal-free highways, textile workers on public transport in congestion. Alignment of public transport not publicly consulted on.

Parks
1. Parks being gated and charging for entrance. Exclusion of communities.

2. Indian grass not being grown but Mexican and others instead – “water guzzlers”.

3. Harassment of users.

4. Opening hours in morning and evening oak hours, geared towards IT workers.

Playgrounds
1. Removal of civic playgrounds for development by private sector.

Theatres and cinemas
1. Historically, people of all incomes sat in same space, albeit in different seats/boxes. New multiplexes exclude the urban poor.

Lakes
1. Lake Development Authority ceased out lakes to private corporations.

Food
Although urban poor eat more and more often than rural poor, nutrition is inferior because of poor urban food quality.

Ways forward
Implement 74th amendment – role of planning. Reform of District Planning Committees. Assertion of a fundamental right.

Streets designed to walk, shop and enjoy – not to only drive. If you stop celebrating, the city dies.

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