Villages as centre of economic activities.
The world is witnessing the consequences of the concentrated development model in the form of urbanization. The countries like Brazil and South Africa are facing a dire social, economic and environmental crisis. India, aiming high for development needs to draft a distributed development model where there are prosperous villages millions of small economic centres. The architectural set-up for such a village has to be designed with the approach of responding to the local context. Only the idea of ‘Think Locally and Act Global’ holds a promise of a sustainable future.
Urbanisation is essentially development — a notion of development which rapidly took over world post-industrial revolution. While some countries managed to recover from this infestation after historical epidemics, others who followed late due to socio-political reasons, are facing the adverse effects. Afflicted with the population explosion, the developing countries are facing an unprecedented challenge of development. And this mode of development has resulted in grave social, economic and environmental concern in countries like Brazil, South Africa and other African countries like Ghana and Nigeria . The concentrated mode of development has resulted in 50 per cent of the world population crowded into 3 per cent of the earth’s area. The projections say that more than 90 per cent of future population growth will be concentrated in cities in developing countries, and a large percentage of this population will be poor .
India stands at 31% urbanisation, according to the definition formulated in 1961. However, relaxing the census definition, and considering settlements with more than 5,000 inhabitants as urban will raise the share of the urban population to 47%. While considering satellite images of the built-up area would make it to a whopping 63% . India is projected to add another 250 million urban population by 2050 .
This mode of development by concentration of population is hurting India in more than one way. Currently, some 81 million people live in urban areas on incomes that are below the poverty line, and this is bound to increase with further urbanisation . More than that, this mode is destroying the much-revered social structure of India. With rural population forced to migrate to urban areas, we are killing rural economy along with its culture, traditions and humanist values. The concentration of population increases the cost of living, and hence substandard life for masses. At a critical threshold, it will not be viable, forget it to be sustainable.
Thus, India needs to move towards distributed development where we have millions of villages as small economic centres. Such an indigenous system has supposedly existed in the pre-invasion period, and Gandhiji promoted the concept as ‘Gram Swaraj’. His dream of village ecosystem was such that villages must be self- sufficient with food, cloth and other necessities and villagers don’t have to wander in cities for primary education, training, market and medical facilities .
Habib Rahman said that it is only the rural architecture which can lay claim to being a living and organic architecture. The rural architecture of India keeps intact its humanist approach — deriving out of experience and needs . The distributed development approach will not only benefit the masses but also conserve the rural heritage of India in the form of art, culture and architecture.
In the adoption of this approach, architecture has a pivotal role to play. Even Gandhiji’s idea of Gram Swaraj begins with house — a house which is well ventilated and receives proper sunlight. We have to begin seeing villages as centre of economic activities and invest accordingly. Going by the principle of ‘act locally think globally’, the architecture has to be designed with sensible adherence to local context — in terms of techniques, materials, forms and requirements. Thus, studying, analysing and coming up with an appropriate design solution for villages is a prime and urgent requirement. And if we have a vision for a sustainable future for India, envisioning the Architectural set-up of Rural India is something, to begin with.
(Vision & introduction of my final year architecture thesis project)
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