Category Archives: Landscape

Livable Cities: Green landscapes and election promises

Trees and green spaces are an integral part of an urban landscape. The great cities of the world boast of some of the most diverse public spaces that are green. Central Park in New York City and Hyde Park in London are just two examples that come to mind.

However in India, there is a near total lack of green urban spaces of that scale. Yes we do have the largest “national park in an urban boundary” claim by way of Borivili National Park in Mumbai, but that’s hardly the center of Mumbai; and even that is being encroached up with drastic results.

Gautam Patel makes a fantastic case of the need for more green space and how the politicians manipulate this theme come election time.

In the run up to Mumbai’s municipal elections, of the many to-be-left-unfufilled promises made by political parties, two were common: less corruption and more “infrastructure”. The latter, in our peculiar notion of what makes a ‘world-class’ city, only means more roads, more bridges. No one promised to make our city more liveable. In my constituency, apart from the familiar talk-to-the-hand and offerings for lotus-eaters, there were many odd symbols for candidates: a sewing machine, an LPG cylinder and something that looked like a pasta machine cross-bred with a meat grinder. Not one had a tree or anything that looked like it.

Continue reading Livable Cities: Green landscapes and election promises

Moshe Safdie to under take beautification of Golden Temple surroundings

CHANDIGARH: Internationally acclaimed US based architect Moshe Safdie, who had successfully accomplished the most prestigious project of Khalsa Heritage Centre (KHC), Sri Anandpur Sahib would soon undertake the beautification of the surroundings of Golden Temple (Sri Harimandir Sahib) along with the corridor project (Galiara) around the holy Golden Temple at Amritsar.

A decision to this effect was taken at a high level meeting by the Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal with the delegation of architects led by Safdie here at Chief Minister’s residence this morning. Safdie informed the Chief Minister that he would make a detailed presentation on the concept and lay out plan to under take the beautification of the surroundings of Sri Harimandir Sahib from historic Jallianwala Bagh Complex to the temple site shortly. He said that the existing approved plan of the beautification of corridor project around Golden Temple would also be an integral part of this composite plan. Safdie pointed out that since the Golden Temple was one of the most sacred amongst the religious places of the world where people of all faiths across the globe converge to pay obeisance and offer prayers, was also the most preferred destination of religious tourism. Safdie also informed that he would also utilize the services of world renowned Lebanese landscape Architect Vladimir Djurovic for planting rare species of trees and shrubs which would be brought from the different part of world to accentuate its mystic aura and serenity. Continue reading Moshe Safdie to under take beautification of Golden Temple surroundings

As Mumbai Spills Over, Floodwater Creeps Closer

By VIKAS BAJAJ for the New York Times.

MUMBAI, India — As this city prepared recently to inaugurate a shiny new bridge that officials promise will ease Mumbai’s chronic traffic jams, Dilip da Cunha was peering at the underbelly of the city’s waterways and drainage systems.
Taking two visitors on a tour of the busy causeway where the city’s befouled Mithi River meets the Arabian Sea near the new bridge, the Bandra-Worli Sea Link, he pointed out a small clump of trees nearby under which several men were defecating.

The trees represented one of the last remaining species of the mangroves that once dominated the ecology of Mumbai, India’s financial capital and its most populous city. Over the decades, most of the wetlands of the Mithi River estuary that were home to such trees have given way to highways, slums, office buildings and apartment towers.

While the mangroves’ retreat has provided valuable acreage for Mumbai’s growth, Mr. da Cunha, who is one half of a husband-and-wife team that recently finished an exhaustive study of the city’s landscape, said their disappearance, along with the degradation of the city’s waterways, has made the city increasingly vulnerable to flooding during the monsoons. Continue reading As Mumbai Spills Over, Floodwater Creeps Closer

City Water Bodies: Urban Wetlands

Sunil Laxman over at Balancing Life writes a very convincing case for Urban Wetlands. Most Indian cities have lakes or water bodies that are part of the city, but many of them are in a really bad shape.

Urban wetland management unfortunately is not much of a concept in most of India. Yet this lake is just one example of the kind of diversity and richness of life in lakes around the city. It is also a fine example of a lake that could easily be made into a city nature park. To do that, only a little needs to be done to protect the wetland. Obviously, preventing encroachment around the lake would be a priority, as would be stopping the flow of untreated sewage that is choking the lake would be an obvious other step.

In addition, the usual mismanagement of “lake development” that most city authorities eagerly embrace should be avoided. Usually, the city decides to build a big “garden” around lakes, which means manicured lawns, paved paths, lots of flowers and trees that don’t usually grow in wetlands, and a complete destruction of the wetland around lakes.

This usually ends up slowly killing the lake. Most of these birds live and nest amidst the reeds that grow in lake wetlands, nurturing a rich ecosystem that supports frogs, breeding fish, small reptiles and small insects. Unfortunately, “beautifying” or “developing” lakes by building parks only breeds mosquitoes (by killing off fish and dragonflies that eat them, and breed in the reeds). The Yediyur lake in Jayanagar was a thriving lake that was killed off by just this effort of “development”. First came some lawns, and then there were motor boats and motor scooters, and now it is just a little swamp that breeds mosquitoes.

 

Continue reading Sunil’s entire entry here.

Salvaging our city’s public spaces

Pinned on soft boards lining the auditorium of the School of Planning and Architecture were 114 project reports. These entries, part

of a compelling contest organised by a landscape architecture journal were the blueprints for a much-neglected domain public spaces. The contest, which would definitely strike a chord among Delhiites, involved picking a public site and redesigning it within its social context to turn it into an energetic and safe spot for social intersection. Unlike other international cities, Delhi scores very badly on this count.

Pradeep Sachdev, architect of the Garden of Five Senses and Dilli Haat, while scrutinizing the entries for freshness and relevance, said: “Imported cut-and-paste ideas don’t work here.” Each idea, however, was unique to India’s chaos.

Continue reading Salvaging our city’s public spaces