Urban Diary – Interesting reads

This post is a continuation of our Urban Diary blog series where we compile interesting reads and discussions from around the world on urban issues.


In China, ‘Once the Villages Are Gone, the Culture Is Gone’

Rapid urbanisation means village life, the bedrock of Chinese culture, is rapidly disappearing, and with it, traditions and history. In 2000, China had 3.7 million villages, according to research by Tianjin University. By 2010, that figure had dropped to 2.6 million, a loss of about 300 villages a day. Citing instance of Mr Lei whose village was torn down to make way for a Golf course, the article portrays how rapid urbanisation is taking its toll on Chinese culture.

Could Google Maps Help End Poverty?

This Forbes article profiles the work of Transparent Chennai and showcases how it uses maps to bring attention to the state of infrastructure prevailing in the slums of the city.

Down and out

Do slums keep people in poverty or help them get out of it? A article in The Economist cites and elaborates on a recent paper from economists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which suggests that slums are often traps rather than springboards.

Big Data, Big Questions

In this article Alex Marshall raises questions about the smart-city movement spreading around the globe, especially in regard to who controls the information and for what purpose. He also raises concern about whether cities, in their bid to improve services at an affordable cost, are locking themselves into proprietary systems controlled by tech majors.

Transforming Our Cities: Postcards of Change

Recently Dr Isher Judge Ahluwalia published a book titled “Transforming Our Cities: Postcards of Change” which showcases instances of transformation in Urban India. The book is a compilation of her columns published in The Indian Express and The Financial Express and is a rich resource for urban planners and city officials.

How India lives

The improvement in key indicators of living conditions such as housing, drinking water, sanitation and hygiene has not encompassed the entire population, says the latest NSSO survey.

Will monorail help Mumbai to move forward?

Mumbai monorail represents arrival, decades overdue, of a modern mode of urban transport, which along with the new metro, will belatedly drag Mumbai into the 21st century, opines Chandrahas Choudhury in this article.

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Urban Diary – Interesting reads

This post is a continuation of our Urban Diary blog series where we compile interesting reads and discussions from around the world on urban issues.

Urban Pain

In a decade or so, half of India’s population will be living in urban centres, straining urban infrastructure that cannot be commensurately expanded or improved to support such huge population concentrations. In this context cities run the risk of being mega slums if they are not managed well. Citing the work of Isher Ahluwalia committee report and other initiatives, the article provides an important perspective on the urbanisation challenge; and how as Dr. Ahluwalia says, this must be addressed with a combination of increased investment and strengthening of governance.

Urbanization in India: Stronger Cities through Better Institutions

In this blog post the author cites a recent World Bank study, which explores how a weak public sector can amplify urban challenges. Stressing the importance of better institutional framework, the post argues that the interconnected challenges of land policy, infrastructure and service delivery cannot be addressed individually. The right policy mix is essential to keep cities growing as hubs of learning, innovation, and entrepreneurship.

Cities must lead the way into a sustainable future

Jeffery Sachs, Professor at Colombia University, argues that sustainable development offers a new concept for the world economy in the twenty-first century; encouraging cities, countries, and the world to focus simultaneously on three goals: economic prosperity, social inclusion, and environmental sustainability.

The 10 Smartest Asia/Pacific Cities

Using Smart Cities Wheel, a framework created to help quantify smart cities using six components – Government, Mobility, Living, Environment, Economy & People – Boyd Cohen, writing for Fast Company, compiles the top 10 Asia Pacific smart cities for 2013.

The Unbuilt City

An 800-ft tower with a revolving restaurant on the Marina, tube trains, urban forest and more. In this article A. Srivathsan writes about the many ambitious projects that never took off which have given Chennai its shape as much as the projects that did.

New Visualization Tools Simulates Street Designs in 3D

Leveraging his experience in video game design, a Portland-based video designer has developed a three-dimensional animated tool that allows urban planners to simulate how a street would look and feel if it were laid out differently.

In case you are interested in reading our daily round up of news on Urbanisation from across the globe, please subscribe to our Flipboard magazine on your smart phone – http://bit.ly/urbandiary


Urban Diary – Interesting reads

This post is a continuation of our Urban Diary blog series where we compile interesting reads and discussions from around the world on urban issues.

Kolkata Tries to Reduce Traffic in the Worst Possible Way

City officials recently decided to prohibit people from using bicycles on nearly 200 streets in central Kolkata during the day.

The open defecation challenge in India

WHO and UNICEF estimate that there are more than 620 mn people practising open defecation in India, or half the population.

Beyond the City Limits: Report Finds Rapid Suburban Growth in India, Potential for Sustainable Cities to Reduce Poverty

A new World Bank report on urban growth in India, launched recently in New Delhi, shows India’s urban areas growing much faster than expected, adding 90 million new residents in the last 10 years. By 2030, its cities are projected to be home to another 250 million people.

A Short History of the Highrise

“A Short History of the Highrise” is an interactive documentary that explores the 2,500-year global history of vertical living and issues of social equality in an increasingly urbanized world. The centerpiece of the project is four short films. Each film is intended to evoke a chapter in a storybook, with rhyming narration and photographs brought to life with intricate animation.

How do bike-sharing schemes shape cities?

Bike-sharing has its origins in 1960s when 50 “free bikes” were scattered around Amsterdam, but after this slow start bike-sharing has blossomed. Over the past decade the number of schemes has increased tenfold. Bike-sharing ventures now exist in more than 500 cities, from Dubai to Hawaii.

Tackling climate change: Copenhagen’s sustainable city design

Global warming poses a real threat to cities but planners in the Danish capital are taking visionary steps to ensure its resilience – and success – as far ahead as 2100

Urban Transportation: Stockholm’s Marvelous Mix of Transit Modes

Stockholm, the capital and largest city of Sweden, is a beautiful and well planned city and known for its setting among island waterways. What makes Stockholm’s transit system so good is its intermodal functionality, that is, the ease with which its riders can switch from a subway to a tram or commuter train, using the same fare card and with little walking or waiting.


Urban Diary – Interesting reads

Beginning this post, in this new blog series we will bring together interesting reads and discussions from around the world on urban issues every fortnight.

How to Design a City for Women

In 1999, officials in Vienna, Austria, asked residents of the city’s ninth district how often and why they used public transportation. The majority of men reported using either a car or public transit twice a day — to go to work in the morning and come home at night. Women, on the other hand, used the city’s network of sidewalks, bus routes, subway lines and streetcars more frequently and for myriad reasons. Writing for Atlantic Cities, Clare Foran takes a fascinating look at how Vienna, Austria redesigned its city to accommodate women. What unfolds is an exercise that all Indian cities can learn from.

Can Urban Planning Help India’s Cities Reduce Sexual Violence?

Janaki Sharma, 24, a producer with a radio station, commutes for about 40 kilometers, or 25 miles, from her home in West Delhi to work across the city. Ms. Sharma uses multiple forms of public transport — subway, bus and shared auto-rickshaw, to get to her office. And the last stretch of her commute is a mile-long walk on a desolate stretch to reach her office. This article compiles expert opinion on how to make our cities safe for women.

Spatial plans to play key role from 2014 in urban renewal projects

The government is likely to ask city authorities to justify projects based on their impact on a comprehensive, spatial view of the city in order to receive funding in the second phase of JNNURM.

An ex-soldier leads Yangon from backwater to megacity

Every evening, long after Yangon’s office workers have squeezed onto packed buses for gruelling commutes to the suburbs, a single room remains lit up on the top floor of City Hall. Read the incredible story of Toe Aung, a former army major who almost by accident bears one of the biggest responsibilities in reform-era Myanmar: planning Yangon’s unstoppable transformation from a regional backwater into Southeast Asia’s next megacity.

City forgotten

Through the eyes of residents, local activists and civil society members, ‘City Forgotten’ documents the story of Malegaon’s fall from what was once the ‘Manchester of India’, to a town blighted by communal violence and in serious decline.

Nigeria to build biomimetic ‘smart city’ to celebrate its centenary

In 2014, Nigeria marks 100 years since it gained independence from the UK. To mark that occasion, plans are afoot to build a centennial “smart city”, following the design principles of bio-mimicry in everything from city planning to architecture to energy production and beyond.

Striking Photos Show the Ghosts Of New York City’s Seedy Underbelly

New York City today is rapidly gentrifying, with crime becoming more and more rare. A unique, new project mashes up the old, dangerous New York with today’s sanitized version by overlaying classic photographs of mid-century New York atop images of contemporary locations.

This lens man captures Chennai one day at a time

The heritage sites have been talked about, the statues and mementos have been written to death, the history of Madras has been dissected to its final thread. But Ramaswamy, in his 1,700-odd collection of photos, posted each a day, brings out the city in its crudest form, having the frames capture the common man, the narrow streets and the slightest of bustle.

Tomorrow’s cities: Rio de Janeiro’s bid to become a smart city

Rio de Janeiro’s famously chaotic favelas are as much a landmark of the city as the Christ statue or Sugarloaf Mountain but few would see them as the natural home to smart technologies. Now, a UNICEF coordinated project looks to bring tangible change by using teenagers to document the problems of favelas using cameras mounted on kites.

The Moscow Metro Is Like a Gorgeous Russian History Museum

The Moscow metro is one of the most extensive and heavily travelled subway systems in the world, transporting about 9 million people around the city each day. One photographer peeks into an average day in the life of the metro.

Artists and Urban Development

In this post Carol Becker, Dean of Columbia University School of the Arts, writes about the importance of artists in the context of cities and how they have always been central to the allure of cities, from classical Greek sculptors; to Impressionist painters; to the musicians, poets and artists of the Harlem Renaissance; to the Beats of Greenwich Village and North Beach.