For Media

Hotels for Press
Accommodation levels in Rio de Janeiro are anticipated to be at full occupancy during the conference. While it is not the responsibility of the United Nations to procure accommodation for the media, it should be noted that the Brazilian national organizing committee for Rio+20 has committed to blocking a minimum of 500 hotel rooms in Rio de Janeiro for media covering the conference. Costs must be covered by the media. For more details, visit: http://www.rio20.gov.br For information regarding room availability please contact: Terramar Travel Agency

Emails: reservas2@terramar.tur.br or reservas4@terramar.tur.br or reservas8@terramar.tur.br

Tel: (+55+21) 35120067 or (+55+11) 30142042 or (+55+19) 35145600

Media representatives must present their approval letter and copy rio20.hoteis@itamaraty.gov.br when requesting their accommodations.

Information

Urban Journal: No Wonder Gurgaon’s Revolting
Last week, fueled by a long and brutal summer with temperatures regularly crossing 40 degrees Celsius and power cuts of more than eight hours a day, residents in the suburbs of Delhi erupted in anger. Finally, on July 6, monsoon clouds burst over the region, bringing down temperatures (significantly) and tempers (moderately).

If Gurgaon’s history is anything to go by, this respite is going to be short-lived. Flooding and potholes will soon replace our daily battles with the heat and dust. Here, population growth is outpacing infrastructure development. According to the Census of India, between 2001 and 2011, Gurgaon district’s population grew 73.9% to 1.5 million people. The results of this are all too clear: hours spent in traffic, pigs rummaging through uncollected garbage, reports of sewage-laced tap water, and relentless struggles with water and electricity supply. There is also an unhealthy reliance on the private sector, even for the provision of basic services.

It is a story of unsustainable urban development, and a harbinger of what is brewing in medium-sized cities all across India.

Gurgaon is in the state of Haryana, so urban planning and infrastructure development decisions are made by agencies such as the Haryana Urban Development Authority and the Town and Country Planning Department, headquartered in the state capital Chandigarh, almost 300 kilometers away. A “one size fits all” solution for every city in their jurisdiction doesn’t necessarily work – what suits Panipat and Panchkula often doesn’t suit Gurgaon.

“A big part of the problem is that decisions are being made by people who are not affected by what is happening in the city,” Nisha Singh, a councilperson from Gurgaon’s Ward 30, told India Real Time.

“The mayor system needs to be much stronger, but the state is unwilling to let go of their control. Councilors should able to decide the services that their constituents receive, not MLAs [Members of the State Legislative Assembly] making decisions to serve their vested interests,” said Ms. Singh, who quit her job with Google in Gurgaon in 2008 to stand for municipal elections as an independent candidate in May 2011 (“Gurgaon’s pot-holed roads drove me to [it].”)

This year marks the twentieth anniversary of a landmark ruling for urban planning in India. In 1992, the constitution was amended (the 74th Amendment Act) to require the creation of local municipal councils and corporations that would act as independent institutions of self-governance with minimal interference from the state. It also recommended that state governments relinquish the power and responsibility for preparing plans for social justice, economic development, land use and public amenities. In short, it paved the way for decentralization of power, with local governments responsible for the social, economic and spatial development of cities.

This amendment was ratified by state legislatures and came into effect on June 1, 1993. (This is pretty much what happens in the United States today – a similar Standard City Planning Enabling Act was approved in the U.S. in 1928.) But nearly 20 years on, the amendment has yet to show any lasting improvements to India’s municipal development.

A report released in March 2011 by a committee set up by the Ministry of Urban Development stated that the “overbearing and overriding role of state governments… not only robs cities of any autonomy in deciding their own future and thwarts innovation and change, but also considerably slows down the urban planning process.”

The report reflects on the failure of local governments to deliver planning functions over the last two decades, saying the inability to implement the 74th Amendment Act is largely due to poor training and capacity-building. Also, by only “recommending” that the planning functions (and finances) be transferred to local governments, states were able to hedge and delay the process.

The importance of planning at the local level was somewhat echoed at the end of last month’s Conference on Sustainable Development, or Rio+20, when the United Nations released a document called “The Future We Want”, in which it said all levels of government and legislative bodies have an important role to play in the promotion of sustainable development. This covers economic prosperity, environmental quality and social equity.

The Indian government, which participated in Rio+20, already has some policies at the national level that promote sustainable development, such as the National Urban Transport Policy. But the implementation of national policies at the local level is moving at a glacial pace. No amount of international treaties and resolutions, or national level policies and posturing will make cities and towns sustainable unless they are given the authority to decide and implement what works best for their community.

The Municipal Corporation of Gurgaon was only formed in 2008 with elections held for the first time in May 2011, but now is the time for the city to take back power from the state and create an independent planning agency. The agency should be well-trained and up-to-date with the latest planning theories and principles, and most importantly, will place “public interest” of all its residents at the forefront of its planning decisions.

K.C. Sivaramakrishnan of the Center for Policy Research wrote in a 2006 paper, “In any city [in India], big or small, if the question is asked ‘who is in charge of this city’, the answer is painfully simple, ‘no one’.”

It is clear that this needs to change. Only then will we see sustainable social, environmental and economic development in our urban areas, and less of the mob outrage witnessed in Delhi’s suburbs last week.
Copyright (c) United Nations 2011 | Terms of Use | Privacy Notice | Contact | Site Map | New