Jul 20, 2012

Planner’s Dilemma – A case of developing nation.

Choked Public Drain, Whose fault? 

Repeatedly choked public drains, is it due to under capacity drainage Infrastructure, an unplanned network, inadequately planned disposal system, underestimated growth, unexpected demand, immigration externalities, over exploitation of resources, lack of vision, out dated technology, inefficient management, uneducated population, citizens with low or no sense of public responsibility, lack of willingness, lack of database for timely assessment, no early warning system, underreported occurrence, over hyped issues,  diverted attention, prevalence of corruption, discrete tax structure for usage of public infrastructure, lack of maintenance, insufficient funds, absence of relevant law, loophole in policies, or may be implementation failure?

Drainage/ sewage disposal issue is just an example to illustrate; there are innumerable examples and issues like this in an urban setting whether its inadequate water supply, transport chaos, interrupted and poor power supply etc, and innumerable reason for the each of these issues.  It’s a very common phenomenon in towns and metropolitan cities of developing nations, but what’s the solution.

After some time of tolerance people start losing their patience due to public infrastructure system failure like this, then some hue and cry, some demonstration, followed by media coverage, then suddenly public agencies wake up, some blame game, then some investigation committee, followed by months long survey, then few months of compilation, then some kind of outcome and recommendations, by that time people already start losing their interest in the subject, by that time there are  other hyped issues to deal with, and this show goes on. Somewhere in this cycle of events planner or some planning consultancy firm gets introduced to assess the situation and resolve the issue. Do you wonder how much or how little a planner can help to resolve the situation at least bringing down the scale of chaos.

Do you see how many vulnerable points can be there in the value chain of any system as we saw in the blocked drain example? More the number of elements more the chances of failure of system.  A system with a long operational or value chain can only work efficiently, if all the possible elements of interest work efficiently individually and cohesively together as well. When an urban planner or similar is approached by public/ private agency to resolve such development or redevelopment issues, they expect an out of box magical solution. Planners can of course suggest a wonderful infrastructure solution at some reasonable cost; they can propose some implementation and regulatory strategies as well, but one has to understand that a “multifaceted urban issue” needs an “inclusive solution”. Planners need to be empowered to have a say on any or rather every element which might affect the proper functioning of any urban or regional system, even if it’s an aspect which is tangential to the core system but which can impact the system in future. Planners have to address or at least talk about each and every tangential aspect of any core issue while suggesting a solution blueprint for development redevelopment projects. For example, one might argue how a drainage problem can be related to education of citizen, they can always say while problem like this demands infrastructure solution why to talk about education? Let’s consider this.  No matter how well you plan the infrastructure, if there are uneducated users, infrastructure is not going to work as the way it was perceived and planned. Even simply being educated is not enough, there has to be education with a sense of responsibility, a sense of citizenship.

What a planner can do in this situation for example. A planner has to talk about the relevance of educated citizens in proper functioning of the public infrastructure in its strategy report; he can go to the extent proposing restructuring of school curriculum, so that users become responsible enough toward public infrastructure while they are still in school. suppose If people are educated and responsible as well but still not using public infrastructure as intended there might be flaw in signage design or placement, planners need to talk about that in its development report, they might need to talk about the role of education through technological infusion to masses through different communication channels before they are about to introduce a new technology in public domain along with ways of infusion. Similarly they need to propose some short to long term strategic inputs for all the ancillary aspects revolving around the core public system or infrastructure issue no matter how distinct they appear.

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