Castles in the air: Delhi govt, don’t put slumdwellers in highrises without consulting them!

A day after I blogged about the opportunity Delhi would miss by not consulting citizens and involving young design to  inform the redevelopment of large tracts of government land in the city centre, an article coauthored by my colleague Gregory Randolph and myself has been carried in The Hindu’s op-ed page. The piece, titled ‘Castles in the Air‘ speaks out against the government’s subvertion of due process in a bizarre scheme to relocate thousands of slum-dweller families in 17-story highrises. It underlines that a lack of community consultations and environmental analysis means that the new homes are unsuitable to the lifestyles of the poor who will be forced to sell and return to a slum. In effect, the project is a nightmare and set to fail, a tregedy that can be avoided.

It is, of course, a huge honour for us at mHS to be published in The Hindu and it is fitting that they should have helped us voice our plea for a serious re-think on attitudes towards housing for the urban poor. For those of you from outside India, The Hindu is one of the country’s most respectable daily newspapers and is renowned for calling a spade a spade! As a friend put it, the column we got covered in is usually reserved for opinions on current issues and has carried pieces by eminent people like veteran journbalist P Sainath and Nobel Laureate economist Paul Krugman, no less!

But beyond the thrill of being published, I hope articles like these generate more serious debates on the need for participative planning processes. For there is no argument that these are the cornerstone for inclusive and sustainable urban development. In a rapidly urbanizing world, it is time experts and non-experts alike, indeed all of us living an urban existence, dwell upon these issues that urgently impact our present and our future.

About ramblinginthecity

I am an architect and urban planner, a writer and an aspiring artist. I love expressing myself and feel strongly that cities should have spaces for everyone--rich, poor, young, old, healthy and sick, happy or depressed--we all need to work towards making our cities liveable and lovable communities.

Posted on May 16, 2013, in Urban Planning & Policy and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. Good article,read it.But are’nt they doing the same thing at Dharavi,Mumbai.

    • And in chennai and in ranchi and everywhere! It’s preposterous! We and others have low and mid rose high density solutions. But there seems to be little understanding of their merit. Plus planning bye laws need to be revised too. Many are in conflict with high density proposals. For instance mandating car parking or wide roads is a wrong strategy for low income housing. We need nuance, much more nuance! Thank you for reading and being so responsive. Huge encouragement!

  2. Rajam Subramaniam

    This has happened in Chennai. The fisher folks were built apartments along the beach road for them to move in to make the beach clean. After a while as you have written they sold their apartments and moved back to the seashore. This has happened also in the famous dharavi slum Developement apartments in mumbai. I wish the govt could pay a little more attention to the various details and work in the right direction.

    • Yes. Am getting connected to the architects of that project who proposed a low rise high density scheme which the government scrapped last minute to build high rises. I am wondering if that is also public private partnership like the Dharavi projects. Those are hugely influenced by pvt sector real estate developers because they get land in return for building free housing. It’s called cross subsidy. But in the case of the DDA project we are writing about it is a 100 percent govt project. They do not need to pander to private interests necessarily and can do a better job. Unfortunately it’s got embedded in govt psyche that high rise is the only way to accommodate high densities. Our professional challenge is to debunk and disprove that notion and expose it for what it is, a blatant sale of subsidised govt housing to the middle class instead of the urban poor who need it most.

  3. such article draw attention at the corruption of skycrapers and how builders are screwing the city. con go and luk forward to read more of u:)

  4. a PIL filling is warranted here for sure.

  5. Congratulations on the article getting published in The Hindu.

    Mankhurd area in Mumbai was one of the first places in Mumbai where high-rise rehabilitation happened. It started off with a lot of fanfare and PR with happy and expectant families being used in the campaign to move more people to the highrises. 10-12 years down the line, only 1-2 of the buildings have worked in the sense that the residents have got together and maintain it. The other buildings are in shambles. Newer slums have come up outside these buildings and what not…

    While slums need to go, high-rises is definitely not the solution.

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