In January 2012 we held two conferences where we discussed our research findings based on fieldwork carried out in India in 2009. Key CityForm members discussed the research methodology and case study areas in Faridabad and Rajkot. Many members and stakeholders such as the UK-India Education Research Initiative, Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology, National Institute for Urban Affairs, University of Warwick, University of Sheffield and School of Planning and Architecture (New Delhi) attended.
The first conference was held in New Delhi at the National Institute for Urban Affairs (NIUA) and hosted by CityForm members, NIUA Director, Chetan Vaidya and Senior Research Fellow, Satmohini Ray. The conference began around 10am with a warm welcome from Chetan Vaidya after which Professor Emeritus Mike Jenks delivered his presentation ‘Towards City Sustainability’. Professor Jenks discussed the commonly recognised problems of unsustainable cities such as urban sprawl, car dependency, health concerns, growing inequalities and many others. He then described the claimed benefits of sustainability which are that it is spatially sustainable, environmentally sound with efficient transport and both socially beneficial and economically viable. These benefits led Professor Jenks to use some European examples (BedZED, Sutton, London, UK; Vastra Hamnen, Malmo, Sweden and Vauban, Freiberg, Germany etc.) to illustrate characteristics of sustainable cities, such as mixed land use, high density, interconnected streets and walkable neighbourhoods with a low/zero energy design etc.
Following Professor Jenks, Mr. Arun Goel the Joint Secretary for the Ministry of Urban Development took the stage and delivered a detailed Keynote Address. First Mr. Goel explained the urban trends in India noting how India’s urban population is almost equal to the combined urban population of United States, UK and France and that recent studies indicate the infrastructure in Indian cities is lagging far behind the pace of urbanisation. Mr. Goel detailed many urban initiatives in India such as the JNNURM a reform linked investment programme, the Urban Transport Policy and the Citywide Slum Upgradation Program. After a round of applause Mr. Goel answered the audience’s questions centring on the need to educate, train and recruit people in areas such as sanitation. With 12 million people joining the workforce each year in India and 7 million of these having no skills, Mr. Goel said there is much to be done in terms of education and training.
Later in the day Dr. Shibu Raman and Dr. Nicola Dempsey presented on CityForm-India’s Research Framework, noting key findings from the literature review and highlighting the five areas that make up urban sustainability that the research focused on, these being; economic, social, environmental, institutional and urban form. Professor K. T Ravindran then presented the Faridabad Case Study and after a delicious networking lunch Professor Utpal Sharma discussed the Rajkot Case Study. Towards the end of the day Ms Satmohini Ray discussed the findings from the CityForm-India research covering key findings related to; density, land use, accessibility and layout. With regard to density the research found that there is no ‘one size fits all’ density and that Indian cities needs to see what fits their requirements with moderate to high density neighbourhoods feeling more secure and being more likely to have better access to services and facilities. In India, effective land use planning suffers from incongruous regulatory structures and critiques of Master Plan preparation and there is more research required to determine which services and facilities are to be provided at what scale. Ms. Ray noted how many cities in India are already moving towards mixed use land use which increases sustainability and growth of neighbourhoods and means that informal developments can be easily checked. Furthermore, the promotion of mixed land use through controlled development allows for greater economic sustainability and whilst each city is unique common basic principles on land use mix can be prepared. Whilst there are guidelines on what should be accessible to residents there are no norms on how accessible these should be and the need for central policy guidance on these issues is critical. Ms. Ray’s full presentation can be found here.
The conference in Ahmedabad followed a similar format and whilst Mr. Arun Goel was unable to attend this one, the conference room was packed to the walls with both professional and student attendees.