Centre’s challenge for Indian cities: How would you design your city for a 3-yr-old?
If you were to see the city like a three-year-old, whose average height is 95cm, what changes would you make to its design? The Central government has posed this question to Indian cities.
The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA), along with the World Resources Institute (WRI) and Dutch-based Bernard van Leer Foundation, on Friday launched the Urban 95 India challenge – an open call for all Indian cities to plan and design cities with an infant-, toddler- and caregiver-centric approach. This means, the cities will have to be more inclusive, accessible and visibly active public spaces.
After intensive research, the Bernard van Leer foundation has developed guidelines and framework to create child-friendly cities similar to those in urban areas across the world and India’s Bhubaneswar and Pune. The five main objectives are developing safe, green, accessible, playful and inclusive neighbourhoods for toddlers.
Launched under the Central government’s ‘Smart Cities’ mission, the programme will support 20 cities to experiment, pilot and scale the solutions, while 10 of these cities will receive further support to implement the solutions over a two-year period. Municipal corporations with a population of over a lakh or agencies such as development authorities, metro rail agencies can also apply for the challenge.
Kunal Kumar, joint secretary and mission director (smart cities), MoHUA, said, “Cities are usually designed keeping working individuals in mind. However, various studies have shown that the initial years of development are the most crucial for children to achieve their full potential. So this sort of investment [in lively public spaces] will not only enrich children’s lives, but also result in a more productive economy.”
India is home to the largest number of children in the world. As per census 2011, almost 37 million children under the age of five live in urban areas across the country. However, a large number of these children live in vulnerable conditions, lacking basic services and infrastructure to support a healthy childhood. Public spaces in India are also not safe for children. At least 43 children lose their lives on Indian roads daily, according to WRI data.
Madhav Pai, director, WRI India Ross Centre, said, “Along with right nutrition, children between the age group of 0-5 years need to be closer to nature and need space to play outdoors to achieve their full potential. The idea behind the challenge is for cities to mainstream the need of children and their care-givers while planning and designing streets, parks or transport-related services.”
Anca Abraham, founder of ‘Love Your Parks’, an initiative for children, welcomed the move. “A city designed for children is basically good for everyone – accessible footpaths, cycle tracks, well-connected open spaces, so kids can walk/cycle to school and to their local park...this is the city we all dream of,” she said.