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Most of us come from cities and cultures
that are rich in insights and wisdom of how to do things … here, the popular
Buddhist story of six blind men and the elephant* is retold with an urban
twist - of how we look at urban areas and fail to see the sliver lining in the
tales of doom.
It is easy to point out that urban problems are a result very high
populations, and high densities - and that this is, by itself, a ‘problem.’ We
fail to see that the people are also a resource
and can be tapped on to
find local solutions to local problems.
* where each of the blind men approached the elephant and gave completely different
descriptions of the elephant depending on the part of the animal that they
Cities and urban areas are generally
highlighted as areas that have high pollution and generate high amounts of
wastes. Cities are also portrayed as ‘consumption sinks’ that use up a lot of
But we fail to see cities as ‘reservoirs of ideas’ where the opportunities for
knowledge generation and innovative solution is much higher.
Urban problems and the solutions to
mitigate them have generally been looked from within the limits of a city’s
boundaries - as a ‘local’ issue that has to be solved within the boundaries of
the city - without taking into account the larger impacts of urban living and
lifestyles on the global environment.
Urban areas, especially in developing
countries, are routinely characterized as ‘breeding grounds’ for criminals and
disease - and fail to see the real causes behind the causes in terms of a lack
of transparency, corruption, lack of political will, leadership gaps etc.
City development programmes normally
focus on providing a high ‘quality of life’ focussing on the physical
facilities such as roads, parks, urban furniture etc. But the real need lies
in the development of a better lifestyle among urban residents that is
sustainable, equal and fulfilling.
Urban areas are usually looked at as
generators of ‘problems’ and we fail to see it as a ‘solution’ — where the
focus is on narrow shortcomings and effects of urban living, rather than on
the advantages and benefits that urban living can bring.