Dehradun: What could be a better time to ponder the future than when you are surrounded by creative minds at a literary festival? Dehradun really inspires creativity. No wonder writers like Ruskin Bond have decided to
The stark difference one can notice of course is that their greenery is dwindling at a far slower pace than in the Kathmandu Valley. What one can see from the window seat while taking off from Kathmandu is, simply put, sad. It seems that valley residents, real estate developers in particular, hate greenery and are looking to demolish anything that looks like trees.
If real estate development is to be sustainable here, then perhaps those who say they are responsible players and have ganged up as an association need to ensure there is self-regulation in this business. Else, we will be fighting to sell the last hillock. For Nepal what it also means is that conservation and sustainable utilisation of natural resources have not been internalised. Donors have lost interest in these subjects as 'inclusion and exclusion' and predicting another conflict have become hot topics.
One of the issues we discussed in Dehradun was man-mountain relationships. Compared to mountain people, people living in the valley are far removed from nature. This is perhaps why they don't have any qualms in being part of the destruction of nature. This may also explain why felled trees aren't replaced in Kathmandu, or Gurgaon for that matter, and their residents are happy to convert rivers and rivulets into open sewers.
The architectural landscape seems to be changing everywhere and protruding rebars have become contemporary styles. Indian architect Gautam Bhatia describes them as Punjabi Baroque, Marwari Mannerism, Bania Gothic, Anglo-Indian Rococo, Sindhi Hacienda and so on. We have our own Trigonometry Landmarks: buildings with more than four corners, chowk malls (traditional chowks that have been converted to shopping complexes) and heritage pasals (shops fronting traditional facades). As far as our surrounding valleys and the hills along our highways go, the day will not be far when you will actually have to go on a 'tree hunt'.
But the next big question is: in order to make cities sustainable, is it not necessary to have an efficient transportation system that does away with private car ownership to a large extent? This may not be music to the ears of the automobile industry, but the taxi pods experimented with at Heathrow airport could give us some pointers. It took us nine hours each way to cover 240 kilometres from Delhi to Dehradun, courtesy of the jams created by people who don't want to follow traffic rules. Amitabh Pande, who was in conversation with the Beed on Unleashing Nepal noted that road rules are understood differently in South Asia. We Go, Look and Stop.
The problem in Nepal is that each urban centre is aping the development model of Kathmandu, which means unplanned growth that puts much pressure on urban infrastructure. The problems have been extensively written about and have featured in many donor reports, but when will we actually start implementing plans? While we talk about energy shortages, donors continue to fund an inefficient NEA. Melamchi is the best project we have for now. But politicians turn a blind eye to ghettos developing on the river banks as they are their vote banks and money banks.
Self-sustained new townships along the lines of what have been developed in some parts of the world could be the answer. This Beed prefers to keep his cards close to his chest, however. Anyone is free to dream up their own sustainable cities.