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

HT Estates - - FRONT PAGE - Nam­rata Kohli feed­back@hin­dus­tan­

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.


Ac­cord­ing to ex­perts, there should be city­spe­cific so­lu­tions to safety is­sues

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