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Waterfronts need careful nurturing for Gurugram to thrive

A water body in a city can be a vital source of trade and commerce, but also a place for residents to use and to enjoy, and make for good public spaces

gurgaon Updated: May 02, 2019 04:46 IST
Kalpana Viswanath
Kalpana Viswanath
Hindustan Times, Gurugram
gurugram,waterfront,rivers
Gurugram does not have a significant water body nearby, but the city has the Aravallis just next door and the biodiversity park in the city.(HT Photo/Representative Image)

I was visiting Sydney earlier this week and got thinking about water bodies and cities. I grew up, for the first 24 years of my life, in cities near the ocean. When I initially moved to Delhi, I really missed having the ocean close by. Having water near a city gives it a unique beauty. Think of Marine Drive in Mumbai, Marina Beach in Chennai, or Srinagar, and Bhopal, where the lakes almost define the city. It is similar with cities that have rivers running through them. Unfortunately, many of them are in such a state of pollution, that it is difficult to see the beauty.

The earliest civilisations all came up near rivers — Tigris and Euphrates valleys, the Nile River valley, the Indus River valley, and the Yellow River valley. There were many reasons for this — the regular flooding provided soil which could be used for agriculture and the river could be used for transportation and trade. Interestingly, many ancient civilisations also had cities. The Indus Valley civilisation, which we are still continually discovering, had more than 1,000 cities, including the more well-known Mohenjo Daro, Harappa, but also Rakhigarhi, Rupar, and Lothal (which lie in India). These cities are continually being excavated and there is evidence of good systems of street networks, sanitation systems including drainage, waste management, and other aspects of urban planning.

Having a water body in a city provides so much. It can be a source of trade and commerce, but also a place for residents to use and to enjoy. Cities with beaches provide leisure spaces for people. A look at any of these places will show that they are excellent public spaces. The beachfront in Sydney was packed with families out on a picnic, joggers, swimmers, couples walking hand in hand and children playing.

The story of Cheonggyecheon in Seoul Korea is interesting. It was an old stream that flowed through the centre of the city. In the post-war development of the city, it was covered over by a road and then by a flyover. In 2003, the mayor of Seoul launched a project to restore the stream and remove the flyover and road, in order to make it a public space for people to use while bringing nature as well as history and culture into the city. While it was a very expensive project, it is now visited by over 90,000 pedestrians a day and has changed the nature of streets around it.

Nurturing nature in our urban centres is very important to creating cities where we can live fulfilling lives. The level of pollution and congestion in many of our cities has really lowered the quality of life. Gurugram was recently rated among the most polluted cities in the world. The city is not just a place where we live, but where children grow up and people grow old and diverse groups of people try to earn a decent living and find homes. Good spaces such as waterfronts or urban forests need to be fostered and continually maintained. Indian cities need to recognise the need to protect natural resources within cities as they give a city its character. Water is especially defining — Bhopal for example is known as the city of lakes which give the city a distinct character. Of course, Gurugram does not have a significant water body nearby, but we have the Aravallis just next door and the biodiversity park in the city. By giving value to these spaces, we can make Gurugram more than just a set of buildings.

@SafetipinApp
(Co-founder and CEO of Safetipin, the author works
on issues of women’s safety and rights in cities)

First Published: May 02, 2019 04:46 IST