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Rediscover the Cal Chromosome
A green spine running through the city and satellite towns that are not colourless suburbs, Kolkata 2050 should evoke a strong sense of attachment in its inhabitants.
Kolkata suffers from two severe urban crises: an acute shortage of open spaces that are accessible to the public and grossly inadequate space for traffic and transportation. By 2050, I would like to see these two prime issues addressed.
It is not very difficult to create more open spaces - there is plenty of unutilised government land in various parts of Kolkata that has been encroached upon and I'd want the encroachers to be properly rehabilitated and these lands developed into parks. The city ought to have a network of green spines that would enable citizens to walk from one part of the city to another without having to cross a major thoroughfare.
The riverfront is Kolkata's USP and I would like to see it developed. I would envisage at least four to five pedestrian bridges over the Hooghly - they'd be twostoried with one of the floors being commercial space in order to make these bridges sustainable. The riverfront should be developed into a cultural hub and the west bank of the river (Howrah) should also be developed.
I would like to see the central business district of Kolkata - the BBD Bagh area - decentralised and concentric ring roads constructed in about three decades. Our cities are planned only for cars whereas it is the pedestrians who breathe life and variety into spaces. So I would like to see many pedestrian plazas in Kolkata and several roads made off-limits for vehicles - maybe we can even have a network of such vehiclefree roads punctuated by parks and green spaces to make a wonderful walk-abouts through the city.
By 2050, Kolkata should have many satellite towns, but not like Salt Lake and Rajarhat that are unimaginative and devoid of character. The new townships should have some unique characteristics and landmarks, not impersonal living and working spaces. Laying a network of roads at right angles and dividing the land in between as residential or commercial plots needs no imagination;I would like to see, for instance, winding roads that reveal surprises and interesting landmarks at every turn.
I would like to see this city to have a network of waterways that can be used for ferrying passengers and goods by 2050. Another thing that I'd envisage is the development of the other colonies around Kolkata set up by the Dutch, French and Portuguese, namely Chinsurah, Srerampore, Chandernagore, Bandel, Budge Budge and, of course, Barrackpore that was established by the British. All these former colonies, along with the main metropolis, can be made into an important heritage and tourism hub. I would also like to see the character of the old city preserved in an imaginative manner.
Above all, by 2050, I would like to see Kolkata turn into a beautiful city that evokes a deep psychological attachment between itself and all its residents as well as visitors, a city that is made of up of disparate parts with their own distinct character.
The writer is an architect and urban planner
(As told to Jaideep Mazumdar)
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