Theimportance of building and creating safe cities to live in
SECURITY ISSUES Safety was a given earlier. But the right to live free, breathe and feel safe seems like a luxury nowadays, given the terror attacks in India and globally. A look at the secret of antiterror architecture that any city needs to build to ke
NEW DELHI: A night of revelry turned into one of terror when three attackers drove a vehicle into pedestrians on London Bridge and stabbed people in Borough Market in the heart of the British capital last Saturday. There have been three terror attacks (Westminster, Manchester, London Bridge) in the last three months in London itself and earlier in many parts of Europe.
In the wake of the recent terrorist attacks, the big question is no longer how plush your home is versus minebuthowsafeisthe city where you live. No one wants to live in fortress, or behind barricades and barbed wire, but one thing that we all yearn to do is live safe.
What does it take to build a safe city? According to the Economist Intelligence report, a safe city is a measure of variables such as infrastructure safety, personal safety, health safety and digital safety. The report rates Tokyo, Singapore, Osaka, Amsterdam as some of the safest cities in the world.
There are countries like the US which have learned (post 9/11) to negotiate the aesthetics of urban planning with public safety, creating double-duty structures that secure a city without changing its character. One such ingenious protective detail is the bollard (from mari- time history found in shipyards and docks), a short metal post used to direct traffic or secure certain areas on the street.
The key to creation of safe cities is better design that can help make healthier and more vibrant cities. An environment that is friendly to walking, biking and public transport will improve air quality, and encourage physical activity and economic development by encouraging more street-level commercial activities.Video surveillance at traffic signals and all key points is effective.
Efficient enforcement of laws is another important area to look at. A city that has nearly perfected this area is New York. According to safety expert Bo Grönlund, architect and urban planner, “New York City is a very safe city nowadays, very different from 30 years ago. This is mainly because the police is much more efficient now. The police work there was deeply reformed in the 1990s.”
Do citizens have an important role in creating a healthy city? They are responsible to keeping the community as clean and beautiful as possible. By making the space inviting with plants, seating areas, art, one can help create community spaces buzzing with activity and these are great crime deterrents.
Grönlund has done extensive research on CPTED (Crime Prevention ThroughEnvironmental Design), and believes that most of North America, as well as North, West, South and Central Europe have rather safe cities. But owing to immigration and residential segregation, there are some areas in these cities, that are less safe. Adds Grolund, “Amongst these there are no cities I would be afraid to go to, but there would be some city districts and some hours, where and when I would not visit alone. Before I go to foreign cities, I look up satellite images, different kind of segregation maps and crime maps, if available - or talk to people about it. In general, in the developed world at least, 50% of crime takes place on 5 to 6% of the street segments in a city, and 25% of the crime takes place on just 1 to 2% of the street segments (Weisburd, The Criminology of Place, 2012). China, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand are quite safe too.”
Not a proponent of gated communities, safety experts like Grolund term them as “urban enclaves that turn their backs towards ‘public’ streets as well as fenced and gated developments are temporary answers to severe problems of crime and fear of crime, e.g. in India, South Africa, Latin America and the US.” While these developments may ease the situation for the well-to-do for some time, but they will not solve the problems of crime and fear of crime in public spaces and they will be detrimental to social cohesion and sustainability in the long run.
For India, the problems are unique and hence the solutions. According to Prof. Dr. P. S. N. Rao, Professor, Dept. of Housing Head, Center for Real Estate Studies School of Planning and Architecture and Chairman, DUAC Ministry of Urban Development: “Most of our cities have large populations of people coming from the villages and settling. Poverty is quite high. Ter- rorism is another issue. Therefore, while we may take cues from other developed nations, India has to device its own unique solutions.” He adds that safety as a concept is wide ranging and includes several areasnatural factors and man-made factors. Cities need to be made safe against natural forces such as earthquakes, cyclones, floods, etc. For this, city planning and building construction need to encompass measures which can reduce, if not entirely prevent, damage. On the other hand, there are other man made factors such as fires, vehicular accidents, industrial mishaps, crime, etc. where the city dwellers, be they the elderly, women, children or anybody, are exposed. Here again, various measures are needed in the planning and design of our cities. There is no one important thing but a series of measures which need to be taken. However, if one were to prioritise, then safety in buildings, safety on roads, safety in public transport, safety in markets and safety in schools are very important. To ensure this, a series of measures to put infrastructure in place and also ensure that it is maintained is equally important. One needs to understand the peculiar nature of our cities before devising safety solutions.
FOR INDIA, THE PROBLEMS ARE UNIQUE — POVERTY, TERRORISM , LARGE POPULATIONS COMING FROM VILLAGES. THUS INDIA HAS TO DEVICE ITS OWN UNIQUE SOLUTIONS
According to experts, there should be cityspecific solutions to safety issues