Let’s get the basics right

New Delhi needs more than just grand edifices to join the list of the most liveable cities, says Namita Bhandare in the Hindustan Times:

Inside Delhi's new international airport terminal

I am dumbstruck by the sheer size and scale of Delhi’s new airport Terminal 3. The capital’s latest edifice heralds “a new India, committed to join the ranks of modern, industrialised nations,” says Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Press reports have bordered on gush: a world class hub, the capital’s pride, an ultra-modern edifice to a country’s aspirations.

I don’t want to rain on this party, yet, I can’t help feeling: great about the airport, too bad about the city.

New Delhi, host to the Commonwealth Games, dreams of becoming a world-class city, a chimera of steel and glass buildings and a network of flyovers that intersect over eight-lane highways where zippy new cars and smart green buses carry people to homes with names like Malibu Towne and Wisteria.

But a city has to be more than the sum total of its monuments. A great city must go beyond physical structures to answer fundamental questions: can we really live here, and if we live here then what is the quality of our life? Can we walk on the streets? Do we breathe clean air? Are we safe in our homes and outside them? Can we access affordable public health? Do we breed tolerance for our neighbours? Most important, is there equity for all citizens?

“There is zero vision for this city,” says Pradeep Sachdev, an architect who specialises in the design of public spaces like Dilli Haat. “You’re lucky if you can manage to cross the street safely.” More:

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