Re-imagining public spaces

By Darryl D’Monte

, by India together

An innovative new approach to Mumbai’s open spaces is an extensive mapping survey. The same approach can be used in other cities too. Darryl D’Monte reports.

The preoccupation with providing residential and commercial real estate in this country’s cities has led to the severe neglect of open spaces. While finding a roof over one’s head is admittedly a priority, the shrinking of parks and recreation grounds is already depriving millions of children in urban areas of anywhere to play. It hardly needs to be stressed that this will cause both physical and psychological damage: play teaches children to socialise at an early age. In the absence of playgrounds, children will remain inward-looking and find it difficult to interact with their peers as they grow older.

It may come as a surprise to many to learn that among India’s major cities, Gandhinagar today has the most green space, as much as 160 sq metres per inhabitant. Admittedly, Gandhinagar, adjacent to Ahmedabad, has a small population - just under 0.3 million in 2011. Chandigarh follows with 55 sq metres. Being planned cities, the ratio of open space to population is much larger in these two state capitals than even in the "garden city" of Bangalore.

[...] Mumbai must figure as the city with the lowest ratio in the world, at least among mega cities with over 10 million people each. Each Mumbaikar has only 1.1 sq metres, which may only half in jest lead to a mutation of this city’s human species in the decades to come. In 2000, London had 32 sq metres, New York 26 and Tokyo 4 sq metres per person. The 22 largest Dutch cities have almost a fifth of green cover, amounting to an astonishing 228 sq metres per inhabitant. Canberra and Greater Paris record 80 sq metres per capita.

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