Urbanising India — the case of Karwar
Laying out a master plan for the city of Karwar in Karnataka explores the possibilities of nature-, culture- and people-centric approaches to development vis-à-vis an infrastructure-led one
Case study on Karwar, as part of the Post-Graduate Urban Design Studio, 3rd Semester (February-June 2017) of R V College of Architecture, Bengaluru
The origins of the present-day city of Karwar in Karnataka can be traced to a traditional fishing village on the Arabian Sea at the mouth of the River Kali. Rich in natural resources, Karwar drew its significance from a natural harbour protected from the sea. Karwar’s physiography was the triggering point that led to early settlements. The place became home to several migrating communities who settled near the sea, river, or forests, based on their occupation and cultural practices. Among them were the seafaring communities (fishermen) such as the Gambits, Ambigas, Harikanths, Kharvis, the land and forest communities like the Bhandaris, Siddis, Hallaki-Vokkals and numerous others. The use of the harbour resulted in this area being exposed to international trade. Trade w ith the Arabian Peninsula, African continent Southeast Asia and others passed through this point.
The arrival of Europeans in Karwar marked a shift from trade for essentials to trade fuelled by surplus production. Karwar was established as a military town owing to its unique geographic advantage. The onslaught of industrialisation disrupted the domestic self-sufficient cycles and the communities became consumers. As the city became congested, a new grid-iron street pattern with conservancy lanes was inscribed within the existing fabric. The new areas created at this time came to accommodate most of the institutional, commercial, posh residential areas of the city.
The post-independence period saw Karwar as the district headquarters, since the formation of the state of Karnataka in 1956. However, the acceleration of development was driven by infrastructure such as the bridges to connect the western coastal highway from south to north in 1983, the Konkan railway since 1998, a port at INS Kadamba since the mid-2000s, the Kaiga nuclear power plant, ABCIL at Binaga, and paper mills and other industries.
Karwar today is undergoing rapid changes triggered by urbanisation. While there is a defined role for Karwar as a city in the context of state or central plans, the local aspirations fall through the cracks. The present-day reality of Karwar is that the native population is either migrating to other places or that the occupations that thrived on this geography and that influenced the production of culture in terms of language, food, rituals and practises are simply disappearing. The present-day masterplan speaks about development, infrastructure, jobs and prosperity but it isn’t clear whom this is for. Looking at it from another perspective, if development is
coming to Karwar, isn’t it only fair to imagine it should also benefit the native communities?
Framework for the studio
Cities are human settlements with complex interconnectivity or layering of systems. The objective of this studio was to identify methodologies which could help develop an understanding of these complexities. The intent was to stimulate critical thinking around what is perceived as a ‘nature, culture and people’ and its interpretations with reference to geo-political, socio-cultural and economic layers, by addressing the relevant research questions. In this context, the following questions were discussed during the semester:
— What was the relationship between nature and settlement? How did the terrain and geography influence the evolutions of settlements in this area?
— What were the geo-political triggers that created human settlements in present-day Karwar and its surrounding areas?
— What were the factors that led Karwar’s economy to perpetually move on and be selfsustainable amidst rapid development? — What were the economic shifts in Karwar over time? What were its effect on the livelihoods of the people? What were the conflicts and threats faced by the people of various occupations? — What were the relationships between communities and culture? What were the role of cultural spaces in creating different territories amongst the communities?
The Master Plan approach to Karwar
The Government of India formulated the Karnataka Town Planning Act in 1961 to regulate land usage and prevent uncontrolled development of land caused by land speculation and profiting. The first Master Plan of Karwar in 1998 consisted of the Karwar C.M.C area and the villages of Chittakula, Makeri and Shirwad. Today, the local planning area of Karwar is around 96.56 sq km (9656 hectares).
The Seabird Project, the Konkan Railway Station at the Shirwad village, and the inclusion of the adjacent villages in the CMC area like the Binaga village in the south led to the expansion of the development area as proposed in the Master Plan 2021. The proposed area to be urbanised is around 3445 hectare. The plan is oriented towards a future projected population of 200,000 people with a gross density of 58 persons per hectare.
The major portion of the present Karwar City is residential with the public and semi-public buildings on the edges of the beach mainly along the eastern side of the National Highway. The population density in Karwar is unevenly scattered, with a large variation among
the wards. The southeastern areas have a much lower density compared to the rest.
It is expected that around 85,000 migrants will move to the city in the future. While the master plan predicts the in-migration of a range of skilled workers to man the infrastructure projects, the local fishermen community is migrating out of Karwar. The primary reasons for this are better prospects, and access to healthcare and education. Outmigration of active fishermen from the district might lead to an under-utilisation and wastage of the scarce marine fisheries potential of the Uttar Kannada coast.
Karwar’s major commercial activity is concentrated in the highly congested CBD area, marked by the prominence of both the formal and temporal activities. The 2021 Master Plan proposes decentralisation of commercial spaces by introducing new commercial spaces along the major roads of the city. The intention is to make the facilities easily accessible to the common people for which 3.21 per cent of the urbanised area is to be reserved for commercial use.
Protest over shifting of market in Karwar:
Such articles are symptomatic of top-down decision-making. This impacts the daily livelihoods of communities. In this case, the ‘weekly market’ in question is a large regional affair. The vendors come with their wares from the rural hinterland and so do the buyers. There is a complex ecosystem that facilitates such events in the city. The municipality has recognised it as an important element and institutionalised its occurrence as a ‘weekly market’.
Karwar’s industrial area lies in the southern part, developed by KIADB. The proposed expansion for industries has been limited to 5.56 per cent of the total area owing to the expected limitation of scope.
The expansion of the port is part of an ambitious plan to place Karwar on the national map. The investments in the port and its infrastructure is a trigger for economy in the region of Karwar. However, the proximity of the port to the city makes it a point of conflict. The port continues to take away land from the settlement like in the case of construction of two Indian Oil Corporation terminals mentioned above. This creates tensions between the residents and the port authorities.
Proposal to construct two Indian Oil Corporation terminals in Karwar opposed
The tensions between the communities and the authorities play out through protests mainly, as the functioning of the defence authorities is not transparent. The defence authorities have already acquired extensive amounts of land which remain undeveloped. In the face of such a situation, the residents do not want to part with more of their land for the sake of infrastructure development.
Parks and open spaces
Karwar presently lacks a significant number of open parks and green spaces. The beach is the only prominent lung space for the city. The | future master plan proposes that around 10.01 per cent of the total urbanised area be developed as neighbourhood parks. Mangroves that helped mankind grow are dying silent death! It is ironical that the master plan would conclude that there is a lack of open and green spaces in Karwar. The very location of Karwar with the beach on the west and the hills with the forests on the east gives it an abundance of it. On the other hand, there is a degeneration of mangroves along the coast and river edge, due to infrastructure proposals such as the construction of a jetty and public-space development. These mangroves are natural barriers to the sea and provide habitat for a multitude of flora and fauna. They are not awarded a protected status whereas standard ‘types’ of open and green spaces normally described in master plan of cities multiply.
Transport and infrastructure
As mentioned earlier, the British laid down a grid-iron pattern with wide roads in Karwar. However, no further development of the system was done later. This led to a narrow, unorganised layout of streets. The future master plan reserves 19.12 per cent of the total urbanised area. New roads in the city have been proposed as has been the widening of old ones to facilitate smooth flow of the traffic. It has also been proposed that the state’s highways which connect Karwar to Ilakal and to Belgaum be widened to 30m. Specific internal roads of the city have been identified for widening up to 9m, 12m and 18m to ensure better circulation of the traffic. The question would be: Is the widening of the roads the best solution for the low density of Karwar?
Nature- , culture- and people-centric approaches
To address the nature-, culture- and peoplecentric approaches, the city was read through a series of mapping frameworks, grids, overlay diagrams and timelines. The mapping frameworks looked at Karwar from three perspectives — those of Geo-political & Infrastructure, Socio-Cultural, and the Economy. Each of these perspectives examined the city across four-time scales of pre-colonial, colonial, post-independence, present and four spatial scales of world, subcontinent, region, city. A sample of the study is illustrated below: The mapping of Karwar in this manner helps to identify patterns of development in the
subcontinent or region or city at regular time scales throughout history. Further, Karwar is studied at a building typology and cluster scale in the present-day context to understand the relation of the people with the habitat. Each location is identified with a specific objective, as each also becomes a building-block in a better understanding of Karwar. These locations were Maruti Galli, Ayyappa Swamy Lane, Alwewada, Sadashivgadh, Gungiwada, Renuka Yellamma Temple complex, Naganath Temple complex and the Shejeshwar Temple.
The mapping of Karwar allows for understanding and identifying conflicts in the realm of nature, culture and people. The design explorations began with an effort to understand conflicts as a window to address issues. The identified conflicts were broadly located in three key geographies of Karwar: • Water’s edge and estuary: The detailed studies of Alwewada, Sadashivgadh, Renuka Yellamma Temple and Naganath surroundings considered conflicts arising from the settlement being impacted by large-scale development such as the highway, proposed public spaces along the river Kali and the proposed network of water transport on the river. • Hills and foothills: The detailed studies of Ayyappa Swamy Lane and Shejjeshwar temple surroundings considered conflicts arising from the city pushing its frontiers into the realm of the forest, particularly the residential settlements clustering around religious institutions on the edge of the forest. • Mid-lands or marshy wetlands: The detailed studies of Gunagiwada considered conflicts arising from an increase in real-estate prices and commercialisation due to better connectivity. Also, the environmental impacts of the conversion of wetlands into agricultural areas and residential zones. The studio takes a position to counter the forces of master-plan led infrastructure development. For achieving those ambitions, the design interventions depend on innovative solutions and hybrid programs that are meant to bridge the gap and therefore set some examples. Through these key projects the studio explores and articulates the multiple directions that the city may choose in the future.
1. Arundhekar Narayan Dutta, Determinants of fishermen migration: A study on a traditional marine fishing village in Uttar Kannada District, International Journal of Research on Economics and Social Sciences, Volume 6, Issue 6, June 2016 2. Arundhekar Narayan Dutta, Determinants of fishermen migration: A study on a traditional marine fishing village in Uttar Kannada District, International Journal of Research on Economics and Social Sciences, Volume 6, Issue 6, June 2016
The article argues that the significant ‘push’ factors are unemployment during off-seasons, large family size and geographical factors like shallow continental self and tidal waves. The significant ‘pull’ factors are better =earnings and facilitation provided by early migrants. 3. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/ hubballi/Protest-over-shifting-of-market-inKarwar/articleshow/55654705.cms [Nov 28, 2016] Protests erupted over the district administration’s and Karwar CMC’s decision to shift the weekly market from the central location at M.G Road to a yard near KPTCL near a waste water nalah. 4. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/ hubballi/Second-phase-of-Karwar-portexpansion-begins/articleshow/55606959. cms [Nov 26, 2016] Aa master plan has already been prepared for the expansion of the Karwar port and will fetch handsome revenue to the government,” he added. 5. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/ hubballi/Proposal-to-construct-2-Indian-OilCorporation-terminals-in-Karwar-opposed/ articleshow/55447408.cms [Nov 16, 2016] This article refers to a struggle between the residents and IOC which wants to acquire some strategic land. When much of the Indian Navy lands remain unused, residents question the whole idea. 6. https://www.newskarnataka.com/karwar/ mangroves-that-helped-mankind-grow-aredying-silent-death [Oct 20, 2017]. This article pertains to the death of mangroves or Kandlavana as they are called in the region.
Bibliography — Badkar, S. (2017, Oct 20). Mangroves that helped mankind grow are dying silent death! From newskarnataka.com: https://www. newskarnataka.com/karwar/mangroves-thathelped-mankind-grow-are-dying-silent-death — Correspondent. (2011, May 06). Kinnar Celebrates ‘Meenu Habba’. The Hindu. — Dutta, A. N. (2016). Determinants of Fishermen migration: Study on traditional marine fishing village in Uttar Kannada District. Journal of Research in Economics and Social Sciences, Volume 6, Issue 6. — Group, K. T (2014). Karnataka Tourism Vision Group Reccomendations. Bengaluru: GoK. — iDECK. (2012). Draft Strategic Plan for 2012- 2017: Preparation of Coastal Master Plan for Karnataka. Bengaluru: GOK. — (1985). Karnataka State Gazetteer: Uttar Kannada District Gazetteer. Bangalore: Karnataka Government. — Konkani-speaking areas in Karwar yearn for Goa. (2013, Feb 17). The Times of India. — Proposal to construct 2 Indian Oil Corporation terminals in Karwar opposed. (2016, Nov 16). The Times of India. — Protest over shifting of market in Karwar. (2016, Nov 28). The Times of India. — Second phase of Karwar port expansion begins. (2016, Nov 26). The Times of India. — University of Agricultural Sciences Dharwad,ICARKRISHIVIGYANKENDRA,Uttar Kannada. http://kvkuttarkannada. org/DISTRICT_PROFILE.html
— Karnataka State Gazetteer: Uttara_ Kannada District Gazetteer 1985 — Uttara Kannada District (1862- 1947): A study in colonial Administration and Regional response; Mrs Bhagyashree H. Naik, Chapter 02, 03 and 06 — Gears and Crafts of Karwar : An Overview — Problems relating to coastal and Marine Biodiversity, Chapter 05 — Industrial Development of Uttar Kannada District, Karnataka State MSME Development Institute, Huballi. — Geography of the North Kanar DistrictS. Silva — The Kadambas of Chittakula- S. G. Kadamb, Panaji, Goa — Journal of the Indian Fisheries Association 18. 1968, Ulhas G. Naik & Neelkantan — Karnataka Tourism Vision Group (KTVG): Recommendations to the GoK, 2014 — Uttara Kanada Adventure Tourism; GoK — Tourism Statistics for the State of Karnataka- By A.C. Neilson ORG - MARG Pvt. Ltd. — “Sub- District Details” Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner, India. — “Census of India 2011” Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner, India. — District Census Handbook 2011 of Uttara Kannada, Part xii b.
The material published in this feature was part of “Exploring a nature, culture and people approach to development vs an infrastructure led, masterplan approach”, a case study on Karwar, as part of the PostGraduate Urban Design Studio, 3rd Semester (February-June 2017) of RV College of Architecture, Bengaluru. Authors and Studio Faculty: Himadri Das, Prasanna Rao, Vagish Nagnur, Bakul Jani, and Shivani Srivastava . Graphic material and photographs courtesy of students of RV College of Architecture, Bengaluru (PG Urban Design, 2016): Ambika. P, Angel. T, Anusha. T, Prakruthi. B. L., Chitralekha. R, Irene. J, Kevikhrielie. L, Rahul. S, Shubhangi N, and Suchismita. S.