Sunday, November 15, 2009

Panel Discussion - Informal Cities

I went to a discussion on Nov 7 organised under the Informal Cities Exhibition which was titled "Focus on Redevelopment in Dharavi" which had (a) presentations by Anirudh Paul (an Architect looking at an alternative way of redeveloping Dharavi) and David Satterthwaite (International Institute for Environment and Development) and then (b) a panel discussion with Gautam Chatterjee (CEO, MHADA) and Kalpana Sharma (the journalist who has written a book on Dharavi). The discussion was moderated by Sheela Patel, founder of SPARC.

The discussion was very interesting on a couple of counts - firstly to get an indepth understanding of the various forces at work in Dharavi (typography of the population, the inner street layouts, of course the new plan and the alternatives) but secondly, to also hear David's view that "slums are the solution and not the problem" ! If I understood him correctly, he was making at least two points - first being that migrations are always going to continue and the slums were the only practical low cost residential option for this influx which was responsible for keeping costs low for the whole city (in terms of supplying services) - second point was that around the world, it was getting to be an accepted fact that slum demolitions did not work and instead the focus was on slum upgradation - in terms of helping with sanitation / water / electricity / home improvement etc. He said that with state support. the slums he saw 20 years ago in various countries (Colombia, Brazil, Peru, Thailand, etc) had actually improved to a point where he would happily live there.

It was highly interactive in that the audience questions took up another hour and Sheela had to finally force close the discussion at 6.30 (after 2 and a half hours).

Interview with David Satterthwaite