Eating is an agricultural act - Wendell Berry

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

the mess that is our cities

2008 is an important year for population statisticians.
the population residing in urban areas will cross the 50% mark.
the UN estimates that this will move to 70% by 2050.
the 2001 indian census shows that 27.8% of our population is urban and increasing quite rapidly.
atanu dey at deesha is an active proponent of the creation of cities.

it is an undeniable migration and close to irreversible (unless the raj thackereys of the world have their way).

but the reality of the india's inept governance structures makes this process extremely scary, a point which is well brought out by kalpana sharma.

Typical of such small urban centres is Nawada, the district headquarters of Nawada district in South Bihar. Barring a few reasonably broad paved roads, the rest of the city appears to be connected and disconnected with narrow pot-holed roads where all manner of vehicles jostle for space with vendors, pedestrians, and animals. The winners are the ones who are more dexterous.

Electricity comes sporadically. The rich have diesel generators and invertors. Most manage with kerosene lamps after dark. Many homes depend on handpumps either inside or just outside their houses for water. Sanitation facilities are suspect although there must be some sewerage, and there is little evidence of garbage collection as you see the piles of garbage around every corner with pigs and dogs competing for access.

Yet, this town has a history studded with the names of men and women who played an important role in the freedom struggle -- like Jayaprakash Narayan. The Sarvodaya Ashram he established is a couple of hours away from the city. And there are older reminders of a distinguished past that residents will tell you about, including its link to Buddhism and Jainism. Nawada is also home to the master of dhrupad and thumri, Siyaram Tiwary.

Its past notwithstanding, Nawada’s present reflects little that distinguishes it from other towns of an equivalent size. It exemplifies the acute problems that urbanisation poses in India – the absence of investment in infrastructure, the lack of planning and developmental norms and the poor status of structures of governance that could make a difference. There is a silent crisis afflicting these places that is affecting the lives of millions of people, yet no one seems to notice or care.

for example, the water supply situation...
According to figures quoted in ‘Status of Water Supply, Sanitation and Solid Waste Management’ prepared by the National Institute of Urban Affairs (June 2005), there are literally dozens of fairly major towns in India that get water twice a week or every alternate day. Although the figures quoted in the study are from 1999, and the situation in some of these towns could have improved, it is indicative of the extent of the water crisis in these cities. The worst off, according to the 1999 data, were towns in Gujarat. Surendranagar, for instance, got water for 30 minutes once a week, Gondal was slightly better off with water supplied for 20 minutes once in four days while Amreli received a supply of 60 minutes once in three days. Nine towns in Tamil Nadu had water either twice a week or on alternate days. Even Bangalore got water on alternate days.
entire article is here.

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