Society

Making sense of the city

This think-tank of urbanists and architects wants everyone to move on from fire-fighting and provide long term solutions to citizens for a better life

Urban planning is a bane for every urban city which is in throes of perennial transformation. And, there are several agencies which are working in this field. Sensing Local is one of them and yet different because it exists between community groups and government agencies. “Community groups, RWAs, NGOs don’t have money but are aware of the real issues. We exist in the middle trying to make people come together,” says Ankit Bhargava, who co-founded Sensing Local with Sobia Rafiq in 2016.

Signages, air pollution, lakes, solid waste management are some of the issues, the Austin Town-based outfit has taken up so far. “Everyone is fire-fighting. There comes up an issue, it is fixed up temporarily. The vision and thinking ahead is missing. What is needed is to solve the issue,” says the young urban planner. Sensing Local focusses on consensus building, system thinking and vision to address these concerns.

In BTM Layout, the outfit carried out a six-month air pollution project called Breathe Bengaluru. Sensors were fixed at six different locations, picking up data with the help of volunteers from various universities. Five open houses were organised with different stakeholders. “We found out that people living near parks had access to better air and in some particular areas, air gets worse on Tuesdays and weekends. The air pollution is high at 6 am and 8 am, when people do their morning walks. We came up with solutions like larger tree buffer zones, planting a specific species of tree along the roads. For a long term solution, it may take time so what can people do in the interim was the idea,” explains Sobia. The study is in its second phase with a detailed report being prepared which will be made public.

Ankit adds that air and water pollution are subsets of bad planning and incorrect reading of data thus creating a demand for organisations like theirs. “Less time is spent in analysing the data and addressing the issue,” he says.

Signage is another area of focus for Sensing Local, which took off with Cubbon Park last year. “With cities so complex and a population with 50 % migrants, we should be doing more to represent it better. There are many areas, especially slums where the roads are not even named. The so-called poor areas don’t even figure in map. What we want to do is make our cities legible,” expresses Ankit. Cubbon Park was followed by Indiranagar in collaboration with t/e RWAs but eventually got stalled because of government apathy.

Currently, it is working on the signages for the KR Market area. An important metro station, there the outfit is designing the signages keeping in mind the rich history of the area so that people coming out of the metro feel interested in exploring the area. “Different kinds of typologies are applied in mapping different areas like neighbourhood, parks depending on the speciality of the area. Signage making is also about identity. Think of Central Park and you think New York. Does Cubbon Park, one of the most important park of the city, remind anyone of Bengaluru?,” asks Ankit.

(A space for initiatives which aim at making our cities livable)

Making sense of the city

Making sense of the city

Making sense of the city

Making sense of the city
 

Making sense of the city
 

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Printable version | May 25, 2020 11:53:07 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/making-sense-of-the-city/article19997494.ece

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