Projects taking precedence over planning in South Asia: Arif Hasan

‘Poverty is being pushed to the periphery of the city’

The attempt by various governments in South Asia to make metropolitans ‘World Class’ has led to the completion of projects taking precedence over planning.

Speaking at the annual lecture of Himal Southasian magazine, here on Friday, eminent Pakistani architect and academic Arif Hasan said that the context of cities like Dubai and Shanghai, which cities like Karachi and Mumbai want to imitate are “very far removed” from the latter.

For creating an image that would attract foreign direct investment, “poverty is being pushed to the periphery of the city and already poor-unfriendly by-laws are made even more unfriendly by permitting environmentally and socially unfriendly land use conversions,” said Mr. Hasan. “The World Class image of the city is all about gentrification and it has no place in it for informal businesses and hawkers, who make life affordable for the poor, except as organised tourist attractions.”

All megacities in the sub continent have witnessed massive evictions without compensation, of which he judged Kolkata to be the worst off.

A common trend in all South Asian cities, except Kolkata, is the phenomenal increase in their populations after the last census. Citing Karachi-based researcher and activist Roland D’Souza, Mr. Hasan said, “South Asian populations have grown about 550 per cent between 1941 and 2011, much higher than Thailand at 280 per cent or Britain at 160 per cent. The more the population grows, the more migration takes placed to cities.”

'New urbanism'

This “new urbanism” is marked by high population densities “that could not have been achieved without the violation of floor are ratio and density related laws.” The collapse of the caste system has led to villages losing self sufficiency, he explained.

“Villagers now buy goods produced in cities which are not affordable for landless labourers. The earlier migrants made a conscious decision to migrate for a better life. They came from stable societies where local community governance systems functioned… For this first time the lower castes have the freedom to migrate en masse,” he said.

The voting patterns of the settlements of older migrants have also changed.

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Printable version | Mar 31, 2020 11:03:15 PM |

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