Urban Renewal Conference in India

The Indian government entity “HUDCO”, with support of the United Nations, organized a conference in February, in order to gather ideas for new lines of action as it confronts the enormous problem of growing degradation of the constructed environment in Indian cities. The country has more than 1,000 million inhabitants, of which 30% live in cities. Five of the fifteen most populous cities on Earth are in India, and a total of its 27 metropolises have more than a million inhabitants.  

The Indian government entity “HUDCO”, with support of the United Nations, organized a conference in February, in order to gather ideas for new lines of action as it confronts the enormous problem of growing degradation of the constructed environment in Indian cities. The country has more than 1,000 million inhabitants, of which 30% live in cities. Five of the fifteen most populous cities on Earth are in India, and a total of its 27 metropolises have more than a million inhabitants.


The social differences are extreme, with a small minority possessing great fortunes, and a middle class the majority of which are more of a “working poor”, while the great masses live in overwhelming poverty installed in shacks or encamped along the roads and even in the streets of the cities.
The visitor to India feels certain confusion. On the one hand antique buildings of incredible beauty reflect different historical époques and in New Delhi there is a great number of large parks with well-kept lawns, while on the other hand there is omnipresent misery. In the old part of Delhi one walks through narrow alleys pulsing with commercial life, full of people, bicycles, rikshas and from time to time the obligatory cows. The population density in itself presents a critical urban problem.
The conference took place in a country hotel outside of Delhi, in an environment that eased dialogue among the participants. The meals and snacks were served in the garden in front of the large meeting room which allowed different groups to come together to exchange ideas and engage in spontaneous discussion.

Kurt Rhyner of Grupo Sofonias/EcoSouth was invited to contribute his expertise and experiences. His presentation emphasized the need to support the informal sector as the motor of popular development, by creating small Ecomaterials production workshops and supporting them with credits, technology transfer and advice. He also stressed the need of accompanying this type of action with a strict quality control system, for the protection of the clients.
In the same session, Pankaj Khanna and Mona Chhabra Anand, of Development Alternatives of India, made a presentation about the need for changes toward ecological materials on a small-scale, and its association with EcoSouth in the Basin Network was demonstrated when among their slides appeared MCR tiles roofs built by EcoSouth Latin American associates. Another link in this discussion was an interesting presentation by Elio Guevara of the "Integrated Development Group of Habana”, who emphasized the need of popular participation in decision-making.

Networking
The advantages of a networking manner of behaviour were again brought home, of interchange of information and experiences among people, institutions and countries. The organizer of the event, Gayatri Rajesh participated in the first Ecomaterials Conference in Havana in 1998. She expressed that this had been an important factor in her professional development.
Dozens of international consultants and some 200 representatives of regional and local governments of the country attended the final act of the conference. It is worth noting that the declaration presented various concepts introduced by EcoSouth, and the EcoSouth delegate was appointed to present the technical aspects of this declaration.

A few key phrases:

Create a healthy competition between informal and formal sectors for the manufacture and supply of building materials. Provide incentives and opportunities to informal sector production.

To promote research, development and promotion of the concept of "EcoMaterials" (ecologically sustainable and economic)

Rhyner took advantage of his stay in New Delhi to visit the offices of Development Alternatives and had a fruitful interchange with the colleagues there. They are presently organizing a conference, along with an evaluation seminar about the Basin Network. This visit perhaps allowed for better coordination, as it was possible to have a calm and profound bilateral interchange, something not always possible within the framework of a conference or seminar. Discussions highlighted the idea of interchanges among technicians of both institutions, that could be technology transfers or even investigations.

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Javier GilJavier Gil
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