Monday, August 18, 2014

Architects, urban planners ask Gujarat authorities not to repeat Sabarmati riverfront "model" in Vadodara

By Our Representative
Expressing serious concern over the proposed Vishwamitri Riverfront Development Project (VRDP) in Vadodara, Gujarat’s cultural capital, on lines of the Sabarmati riverfront project in Ahmedabad, showcased as urban model for other states to follow, prominent citizens of the city have come together to demand “a thorough and immediate re-look” into it and “reconceptualize” it. “A major problem with the proposed plans and designs is that they fail to recognize that Vishwamitri river is not like the Sabarmati in Ahmedabad, or Tapi in Surat”, they say.
Pointing out that Vadodara’s “physical and cultural characteristics, socio-economic constraints and opportunities, and ecological values are very different and unique”, the citizens say, “What is done for the Sabarmati Riverfront Development (SRDP) should not and must not be repeated for VRDP. We do not want our river to be treated in a piecemeal manner and only for its selected ‘front’, the same way as the Sabarmati in Ahmedabad is treated”. The reference was to Sabarmati riverfront’s beautification for just 10 km stretch; on the downstream for the next 100 km it turns into gutter.
Among those who have drafted the statement – called “petition” – on Vishwamitri include Dr Shishir R Raval, landscape architect and natural resources manager; Sailesh Nair, president, Indian Institute of Architects; Punita Mehta, architect and urban designer; Sanjeev Joshi, architect, urbanist, co-convener of INTACH, Gujarat State; Trupti Shah, economist and activist with Sahiyar, Sonia Nair, landscape architect, Shreya Dalwadi, urban planner; Neha Sarvate, urban planner; Kareena Kochery, architect; and Dhara Patel, architect.
The petition has been submitted to Vadodara municipal commissioner Manoj Bharadwaj, and copy has been sent to chief minister Anandiben Patel.
The citizens underline, “We want our river’s environs to be far less engineered and far more natural while allowing for suitable and compatible development along its corridor”, adding, a problems with the proposed VRDP plans and designs is that “they fail to see the waterfront in the larger systematic / watershed level and they do not take into account progressive international case studies and examples where canalized rivers are turned back into more natural profiles while also accruing more socio-economic and ecological benefits for the entire city and its eco-region.”
Demanding a “wider range of participation from other relevant and needed voices from the city and its eco-region is crucial”, the citizens says, “Genuine and continuous participation from our city’s and eco-region’s academic institutions, non-governmental organizations, private sectors, and common citizens is missing. Such participation must be assured by all levels of government authorities for all stages of development decisions.”
Also taking exception to the Sursagar Development Project (SDP), the citizens says, “For this SDP too, our concerns are based on the information found in the local media and personal networks among the anxious citizens. The description of the project talks about the proposed gateways, fountains, gardens, “Ganesh visarjan areas”, boating, etc.”
However, the project seems “like a disjointed effort at mere beautification. It is not concerned with its ecological, urban design, architectural, or socio-economic and cultural forces or opportunities associated with this historical water body and its link to Vishwamitri river.”
Pointing out these projects should be looked at in a larger context, the citizens say, “Under the various Central and State Governments’ programmes and schemes (such as, the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor and Golden Jubilee Chief Minister Urban Development Scheme) our city, Vadodara, and its eco-region are going to get crores of rupees of investment and, thereby, experience tremendous spurt of planned development as well as ad hoc growth.”
They add, “All such development projects are affecting and will continue to affect even more aspects of our city and its eco-region. Major aspects include natural and cultural heritage, ecological patterns and processes, socio-economic opportunities, urban and regional character, experiential quality, and quality of life for all. We must also ensure that these programs and schemes are more inclusive and progressive and result in more desirable outcomes, in the short and the long term.”

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