Proceedings of the National Conference Re-Discovering Cities
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.