KOCHI: Being the major port city of south-western India with a metropolitan population of approximately two and half million, its growth has been fairly rapid, but by and large, unplanned.
Except the sea facing western side, the city has grown in all the other three directions. With the presence of large, old establishments and industries like the the Southern Navy Command, Cochin Shipyard, Cochin Refineries and FACT and recent introductions like the International Transhipment Terminal, Special Economic Zone and Info Parks, the city has been attracting employment seekers, from other states of India and other countries. This has resulted in the migration and settlement of thousands of families in the city. Apart from this being a prominent tourist destination, it constantly attracts a large number of domestic and international tourists.
Of late, the city has been experiencing severe problems related to the availability of affordable land, drinking water, traffic congestion and solid waste disposal.
Why did these problems rise?
Before trying to answer this question, we need to analyze and understand the basic characteristics of a city. A city, like in the case of a human body, is born, must grow to its limit, cease to grow and eventually perish. The unlimited growth of a city destroys its order beyond repair. In a human body, unlimited growth is considered cancerous. The city is no exception to this rule of common sense. A city can function to the peak of its efficiency only for a limited period of time, after which, it should be allowed to die its natural death. Adding newer parts to an old city, is akin to transplanting new organs into the body of an old living organism, to prolong its life endlessly. This process distorts its fundamental body mechanism.
The second important point is that, any city must be designed for a reasonably forecast number of people. As and when this limit is attained, newer cities should be designed and built. This process should be continuous. This is quite similar to the process of reproduction of a living entity.
All major cities in India, such as Mumbai, Delhi and Kochi, are resorting to desperate measures to reduce traffic congestion. Metro rail services, to ferry people from the suburb to the city and back, are implemented. A number of flyovers are being built. Streets are being widened, sacrificing big trees adjoining the walkway. The landscaped walkways and medians are getting thinner. These are measures that are supposed to solve the problems. However, what we are forgetting is that these problems need not arise in the first place, at all, which is why there is a need to set up short-term and long-term solutions.
— Anil Bhaskaran, Urban
Planner, architect and MD, IDEA Centre Architects, Bangalore