Policy planners have created an urbanscape ignoring pedestrians. A look into this issue, by M.A. Siraj
India has nearly 60 cities that have a population of over or approaching a million. Economic liberalisation has expedited the pace of urbanisation. But given the poor infrastructure and pathetic planning, the urban sprawls tend to be totally unwieldy. Mega structures like flyovers, skywalks and grade separators find quick clearances, whereas footpaths serving the pedestrians have low or no priority with the planners. Urban spaces look even more cluttered than they ever were. Carbon emission levels are turning the cities into gas chambers. Pro-car policies and apathy towards public transport have allowed a minority of urban elite to encroach upon already constricted space assigned for mobility in these cities. Cities lose their economic efficiency and suffer from decline in productivity if the infrastructure fails to keep pace with the urban sprawl. Going by the annual Mercer Quality of Living Index, even the most livable Indian cities figure below 140 among the 220 world cities. Experts who gathered for the Volvo Nobel Seminar on the ‘Evolving Landscape of Public Transport’ recently were unanimous that for progress towards a sustainable urban future, policy and planning bodies would have to work in tandem and have to live down the current process where vision gets fragmented and moves in bits and pieces.