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Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Road to Urbania via Shanghai — and two Indian cities

Declaring it “a great gathering of world civilisations” setting out “on the road to a bright future”,China today unveiled the Expo 2010 Shanghai,its most momentous event since the 2008 Olympics....

Written by Rakesh Sinha | Shanghai |
May 2, 2010 3:08:20 am

Declaring it “a great gathering of world civilisations” setting out “on the road to a bright future”,China today unveiled the Expo 2010 Shanghai,its most momentous event since the 2008 Olympics,with a simple message to all governments: The citizens of the world are becoming Urbanians.

At the Expo, where thousands trooped in on Day One and more than 70 million are expected over 180 days,two role models from India — one from Ahmedabad and the other from Pondicherry — are being showcased with 34 others in the central part of the Urban Best Practices Area (UBPA) as experiments in improving urban life. They have been selected from over 100 entries for the first exposition which has the City as its theme — Better City,Better Life.

Ahmedabad’s urban governance initiatives find place at the entrance to one of the UBPA sections. The pavilion facade is that of a traditional haveli,the board at the entrance welcoming visitors to Amazing Ahmedabad in Mahatma Gandhi’s Gujarat. It highlights the Sabarmati riverfront development,noting that the project also involves housing for the poor who live along the riverbank in dismal conditions; the BRTS or the bus rapid transit system; Kankaria lake development; use of CNG by over 100,000 vehicles,piped natural gas for cooking; Science City as the “perfect blend of information and entertainment”; the Gujarat International Finance TecCity (GIFT) as a finance city of the future,a one-stop destination for global financial services and the IT industry; and,the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor,a high-impact industrial area being developed along 150 km on either side of the Delhi-Mumbai dedicated freight corridor which hopes to generate employment for 800,000 people once the project is completed by 2016.

The Pondicherry experience under the Asia Urbs programme,an initiative of the European Commission, is being presented as a case study of achieving economic and environmental goals through heritage preservation initiatives. It was implemented between February 2002 and July 2004 in partnership with the heritage city of Urbino in Italy, Villeneuve-sur-Lot in France,INTACH Pondicherry and ADEME France. While heritage preservation involved street restoration,matching grant scheme and designing a heritage walk,initiatives in urban environment management saw work at the Grand Bazaar,solid waste management in the northern part of the French Quarter of the town, landscaping of the Bharati Park,Gandhi Plaza and the Promenade. Asia Urbs funded a batter-charging station to serve up to 30 battery-operated mini taxis everyday.

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According to Ajit Koujalgi of INTACH Pondicherry,who has been designated commissioner general for the pavilion,the highlights of the project were the restoration of a stretch of Vysial Street in the Tamil Quarter which won the UNESCO Heritage Award in 2008 and the restoration of 10 listed heritage buildings under the matching grant scheme where 50 per cent of the restoration cost was borne by the owner and the rest provided by the project up to a maximum of 5000 Euros.

Expo organisers believe the UBPA will provide cities of the world “a platform for exhanging experiences” in urban development. It reminds cities and governments that the urban population of the world is likely to double by 2050,up from 3.3 billion to 6.4 billion.

There are also five theme pavilions — Urbanian Pavilion,Pavilion of City Being,Pavilion of Urban Planet,Pavilion of Urban Civilisation and Pavilion of Future. Three ideas provide a fleeting glimpse of what may lie ahead: the Ziggurat where parks,water channels,lakes are integrated in a single building for a cooler habitat and an ecologically safe environment; the Bionic Tower,a vertical city for 100,000 people in a single building which takes advantage of natural resources just as plants and animals do; and the New London Bridge,the harmonious development atop a bridge of shops and recreation areas,solar panels and wind turbines.

For now,powerhouse Shanghai marvels at its latest creation: the Performance Center at the Expo. UFO-like in shape,it looks like a giant sea shell during the day. At night,it metamorphoses into a floating city as men and women,from every corner of the world,walk in.

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