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UDC conducts ‘Our Water/ Our Waste/ Our City’ Workshop at the Indo-German Urban Mela in Chennai!!!

Our workshop at the Indo-German Urban Mela on 1st September between 5pm to 7:30pm was such a thrill! Around 50 super-enthusiastic participants from an age group ranging from school kids to senior citizens and such varied strata of life… what more can we ask for at a workshop on participation and intervention in the planning process!!

Vidhya Mohankumar making a presentation at the workshop on various examples of participatory planning

The workshop kicked off with a short presentation by yours truly, demonstrating various examples of participatory planning from different parts of the world as well as the benefits of such a workshop based approach to planning and intervention.

The 3 working groups

The entire audience was then divided into 3 groups under the 3 themes ‘Our Water, Our Waste and Our City’ and each of the 3 groups was led by our own awesome fivesome facilitators- Bharath Gandhi Palanisamy & Balaji Mohan Rajkumar in-charge of ‘Our Water’, Tahaer Zoyab & Nischal Buddhavarapu in-charge of ‘Our Waste’ and Bankim Kalra (who drove up all the way from Pondicherry just for the workshop!) in-charge of ‘Our City’ – And all of them did a great job in getting the best out of the 3 groups in the given 45 minutes.  Here is a gist of what we got from the 3 groups-

Bharath Gandhi Palanisamy and Balaji Mohan Rajkumar facilitating the ‘Our Water’ group

The ‘Our Water’ group touched on the imbalances caused by excessive extraction of ground water at certain locations in the city and the need to have a check on the amount of water consumed at all levels. They were also deeply concerned by the many disappearing water bodies in the cityscape and recommended more stringent guidelines and enforcement to curb development that infringes on our waterbodies as well as the shared water resources.

Nischal Buddhavarapu and Tahaer Zoyab facilitating the ‘Our Waste’ group

The champions of ‘Our Waste’ strongly recommended the segregation of waste at source and believed firmly that a well-executed awareness campaign starting all the way from primary school will be the best way to ensure that we all learn to manage our waste more effectively. They also stressed the role of NGOs and also identified a few NGOs working in this sector. Incidentally, one of the school kids who was part of this group had actually managed to convince his entire class in school to segregate their waste! Way to go champ!

Bankim Kalra facilitating the ‘Our City’ group

The third group- ‘Our City’ were asked to steer their discussion towards land use and transportation. Given the 45 minutes, they did a fine job to identify the things that make up Chennai from a land use and transportation perspective as well as put together a list of what is lacking and needs to be fixed. They came up with a set of recommendations to augment the assets of Chennai such as the heritage precincts, the waterfront zones, a network of coherent public spaces and also called for integration of the many different transportation networks that support various parts of the city including infrastructure for walking and cycling. They also called on the role of both NGOs as well as residents to demand and make a case for these improvements which would if implemented well definitely add to the sense of pride for the city among its citizens.

Following the exuberant group discussions, our awesome fivesome presented the groups’ issues and recommendations which were then again discussed with the larger audience.

Post-discussion presentations by each group

As we dispersed, it was evident from the charged up atmosphere and the fervour with which email ids and phone numbers were exchanged that this was not a one evening affair.
What a fine evening indeed and a toast to more such evenings!

Over and out.

Vidhya is a reserved architect and an impassioned urban designer with over a decade of work experience in India, Ireland and the United States. She has also been teaching as a guest faculty at various institutions since she returned to India in 2008. In other parallel albeit real universes, she is a wishful artist, an avid wanderer, a constant gardener and a newly enthused cook.

About Vidhya Mohankumar

Vidhya Mohankumar is an architect and urban designer with over a decade of work experience in India, Ireland and the United States and a passion for creating livable cities. She is the founder of Urban Design Collective (UDC), a collaborative platform for architects, urban designers and planners to create livable cities through participatory planning. Vidhya also advocates sustainable development through training and capacity building programmes for various stakeholder groups and also within academia through her association with a number of universities as guest faculty. In other parallel albeit real universes, she is a wishful artist, an avid wanderer, a constant gardener and a newly enthused cook.


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