Towards Inclusive Urbanization

The Divided City is set in an opportune moment to assess how cities in India fare up to the challenge of inclusive urbanization. Each of the chapters inspects this question from multiple dimensions supported by empirical evidence. The research underscores how and where the urban pathway departs from the goal of inclusion, through several fissures, including but not limited to: (1) spatial and social segregation; (2) accessibility — access to resources, spaces and services; (3) representations — in civic and political spaces; (4) visual and architectural divides and (5) increasing divisions in environmental vulnerabilities and climate change risks. In effect, this volume simultaneously bridges the gap between policy, practice and theory to eventually recommend an Urban Equity Index and Urban Equity Plan for settlements. One is hopeful that these research outcomes would serve as useful resources for those engaged in systematic articulation of a vibrant, capable and sustainable urbanizing world, committed to the goal of inclusion — social, economic and environmental — duly acknowledged in principle by nations and global urban policy frameworks.

India is a country rich in human resources that must be treated as capital in its own right. Demographic diversity in cities by age, race, national origin, political outlook, and other attributes helps provide a fertile ground for inclusivity and liveability. Both design and management aspects of the city are important. The arrangement and aesthetic of buildings, public spaces, streetscapes and neighbourhoods in effect decide whether people embrace cities or abandon them. Are there enough parks for children to play, and footpaths, greenery and spaces where people can just hang out. Cities that provide new opportunities to learn, discover and improve, in other words, have strong social infrastructure like parks, schools, universities, hospitals, labs, theatre and cultural hubs, galleries, museums are good cities. Cities, where citizens have opportunities for political participation (not only through voting) but also for representations in varied civic spaces, are inclusive cities. Only through the use of an urban equity index could one determine how well Indian cities fare in the indicators of an egalitarian city. While forming such an index, it needs to be thoroughly considered that several similar matrices, measures and indices are already in circulation, although in academic studies than in practical use. Most of these like the segregation index and the dissimilarity index hinge on rigorous statistical and or spatial analysis relying heavily on the collection of primary and secondary data that perhaps confine their utility in practical situations. On the other hand, there are several useful urban planning guidelines/norms, building codes and SLBs, if duly complied to, it would be difficult to have urban disparities. But on the contrary, policy planners and public representatives require a practical and empirical tool to 

appraise and manage equity in their day-to-day decision-making. Hence, this urban equity index is proposed to transparently benchmark the existing status, plan for greater inclusiveness, define methods to do so, monitor them regularly and eventually conduct post-evaluation. The chief questions addressed within the conceptual framework of an urban equity index are presented in Table 1. It is a five-step self-assessment index that methodically allocates a score of 20% upon finding positive and satisfactory answers to questions raised within each stage. The attainment of higher level or stage by a city undoubtedly connotes a greater degree of urban equity.

Bringing More Inclusiveness in Indian Cities

In addition, the index is not just a tool for self-evaluation but it acts as a practical instrument to drive inclusive city planning. The same stages, in fact, provide a procedural framework to prepare a “City Equity Plan” (see Figure 2). A settlement that pays due diligence to the stages within this process is bound to address the issues of inequity evident in its jurisdiction.

The suggested indicators for an inclusive city would invariably include:

1. Safety and security, without any bias and additional costs

2. Equitable access to (and supply of) basic amenities like road connectivity, piped water supply, sewerage, stormwater drainage, electricity, telecom, etc.

3. Safe, secure and affordable shelter

4. Equitable access to social services like schools, health facilities, community centres, etc.

5. Universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible, green and public spaces, in particular for women and children, older persons and persons with disabilities

6. Economic opportunities, without any social or spatial prejudice

7. Social diversity and opportunities to intermingle and socialize without restrictions

8. Freedom to choose residence, workplace and schools, particularly in 

mutual vicinity

9. Freedom to practice one’s faith, customs and beliefs without jeopardizing others’right to do so

10. Spaces to represent opinion and voice dissents

11. Provision of minimum existential space mutually acceptable to all

12. Equal charges against availing of equal levels of services

13. Minimum discrimination based one’s spatial disposition

14. Fair, representative and participatory mechanisms in urban planning & governance

15. Protection and safeguarding of traditional arts, crafts and built heritage

16. Positive economic, social and environmental links between urban, peri-urban and rural areas

17. Reducing environmental impacts, especially considering air quality, sanitation, municipal waste and disaster risks.

Image: Pixabay

Source: Medium

This article is culled from daily press coverage from around the world. It is posted on the Urban Gateway by way of keeping all users informed about matters of interest. The opinion expressed in this article is that of the author and in no way reflects the opinion of UN-Habitat.