Proceedings of the National Conference Re-Discovering Cities

Proceedings of the National Conference Re-Discovering Cities

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According  to  Mitchell  (1966),  urbanization is  a  process  of  becoming  urban,  moving  to  cities, changing from agriculture to the other pursuits that form our cities. It is derived from the Latin word ‘Urbs’ that was used by Romans to refer to a city. The seeds of urbanization were already sown when man moved from caves to shelters constructed of leaves and boughs. The early cities flourished  along  rivers  to  benefit  from  easy  transportation  and  the  plenty  available  aquatic sources  of  food.  Up  till  17th century,  cities  were  largely  fortified  and  catered  to  limited population only. If more people migrated to the cities, the cities had no further scope to swell up and instead new cities were laid down to accommodate the migrant population. The Indus valley civilization cities like Mohen Jo Daro and Harappa had just 5000-15000 inhabitants whereas Tel-Al-Amarna, the Egyptian city built in 1400 BC, accommodated around 40,000 people. Industrial  revolution  of  17th century  produced  improved  tools  for  farming,  thereby  making people unemployed and forcing them to migrate to cities in search of better livelihood, new ways of  living  and  new  infrastructural  facilities,  between  1700-1900  AD,  resulting  in  'Urban revolution'.  These  new  industrial  cities  swelled  up  beyond  their  original  capacity  and  posed issues of unhygienic living conditions, water and air contamination, shortage of housing for the immigrants, spread of communicable diseases due to overcrowding etc. Industrialization had an adverse  impact  on  the  historic  character  of  the  cities  as  well.  In  20th century,  people  started replacing their historic buildings with glass and concrete structures in order to make more money out  of  their  properties.  Historic  cores  slowly  became  overcrowded  with  traffic,  encroachments and illegal construction. 20th century cities acted as beacon for the rural population to migrate to cities. Since the city infrastructure could support only a definite number of people, and also due to rising demand of construction, the land prices skyrocketed thereby mushrooming of slums on the fringes of the cities. At present, the cities are haunted by many issues like inadequate basic services (water supply, sewage  disposal  &  solid  waste  management);  traffic  &  parking  problems;  high  urban  poverty and  unemployment  levels;  increase  in  housing  shortage  &  consequent  urban  slums;  degraded urban  health  &  environment  (air/water  quality);  high  energy  consumption,  lack  of  respect  for built  heritage  and  much  more  due  to  rapid  growth  of  urbanization.  As  per  the  government census- 2011, 31% of the population is living in urban areas in India and this growth is likely to accelerate  further  in  the  coming  decade.  The  world's  urban  population  has  grown  from  220 million to almost three billion in this century alone and UN forecasts show that in 2050, more than 70 per cent of the world's population will be living in urban areas. As per the estimation of UN,  about  180,000  people  are  being  added  to  the  urban  population  every  day. The  rising urbanization can prove to be a serious threat to the ecology of the planet. There are serious deliberations going on around the world to revitalise/rejuvenate the cities for providing sustainable living conditions for the residents and saving  further deterioration of the environment. The National conference on Re-Discovering Cities is a humble attempt to bring together all the issues pertaining to the cities on a common platform and initiate dialogue on re-discovering our roots so that the challenges of rising urbanization are coped up by bridging the gaps between the old and the new; the past and the future; the traditional and the modern. The conference has been divided into three sessions: Historic Cities, Cities of 19th and 20th century and Smart cities. In  the  session  on  Historic  cities,  sub-topics  were  chosen  to  have  deliberations  on  issues pertaining to the deterioration of historic core areas due to the impact of urbanization; impact of traffic and transport on the historic cores; impact of slums on historic precincts; transformation of Historic Cities/Spaces/Plazas/Squares due to changing  socio-economic  conditions; revitalization/ rejuvenation of the historic cores of the old cities in order to protect our precious heritage and planning lessons for modern urbanism. Overwhelming response was received in this session from the authors who sent thought provoking papers on topics covering almost all the aspects of the Historic Cities. Some of the authors talked about issues and challenges faced by the Historic and Religious towns in the contemporary times whereas others suggested measures for conserving the historic character of the old towns. In the session on Cities of 19th and 20th century, sub-topics were chosen to discuss the impact of industrialization  on  cities;  urban  regeneration/revitalization  policies;  urban  mobility; management of waste and water systems; growing menace of slums; optimization, reuse and regeneration of resources;  laws and legislation for urban renewal etc. In this session too, authors’ response was quite encouraging. They discussed 19th and 20th century cities which are facing issues like congestion of commercial and residential cores; ineffective public traffic and transport network systems; growing number of slum pockets; rising number of crimes; inadequate housing for poor; deteriorating environmental conditions etc and discussed suggestive measures to provide affordable housing for urban poor, efficient traffic and transport network system, legislation for urban renewal, sustainable cities etc. In the session on Smart cities, sub-topics were chosen to have deliberations on as how our future cities should be in the wake of present chaotic conditions of the urban areas. This session was kept as per our Honourable Prime Minister’s recent initiative to make '100 Smart Cities' in India to improve the character of our urban areas. Hence, amidst a global call for sustainable development, it becomes imperative to bring together issues related to cities under one roof and deliberate upon them to gear up for the future. The aim of this conference is to have a dialogue between researchers, academicians, professionals, planners, policy makers and students for creating suitable urban environments for present and the future.