A Tale of Two Cities in a global village
Real Estate

A Tale of Two Cities in a global village

The term ‘global village’ is not just a catchphrase –it is an increasing reality. And while it is facile to focus on the differences between nations, there are intangible ties that bind us in myriad ways. Internationally renowned urban planner and architect Dikshu Kukreja travelled acros...

The term ‘global village’ is not just a catchphrase –it is an increasing reality. And while it is facile to focus on the differences between nations, there are intangible ties that bind us in myriad ways. Internationally renowned urban planner and architect Dikshu Kukreja travelled across the globe to shed light on some of these linkages by interacting with leaders from various countries for a special series on TV channel WION. In the first of an exciting new series, CW presents excerpts from Kukreja’s conversations with former President of Colombia Ivan Duque as they discuss the urban renaissance of Bogota and its commonalities with Ahmedabad as well as his interaction with Prime Minister of Albania Edi Ramato delve into the stark similarities between Tirana and Panaji. BOGOTA & AHMEDABAD DikshuKukreja (DK):The second most biodiverse country in the world, Colombia is also the cradle of one of the oldest human civilisations. The capital, Bogota, is a germane representation of the country’s panoramic multiculturalism. Bogota has transformed its dystopian urban neighbourhoods into a city that represents a crucible for hope and an inspiration to hundreds of cities with its socio-spatial integration and reassertion of civil society. This transformation has found ripples in Ahmedabad, which is considered one of the fastest growing cities in the world. Ahmedabad has India's oldest and most successful bus rapid transit system (BRTS). The planners have adopted the Bogota model and appropriated it to Indian road conditions, winning praises from urbanists all over the world. Further, Ahmedabad shares numerous attributes with Bogota in terms of urbanism, cultural practices and art. The honourable former President of Columbia Mr Ivan Duque is renowned globally not only for his tremendous leadership qualities but his passion for the environment. He has authored a two-volume book, The Orange Economy, on the need to look at cities in a different perspective. Mr President, such an honour to be with you in this most beautiful city and a fantastic country. President Ivan Duque (ID): I'm delighted that you're visiting Colombia and enjoying the landscapes of this beautiful country with microclimates all over the place – Amazonic land, high-altitude ecosystems, beaches, and cities that live in a permanent interaction with nature. That's why we're promoting bio-diverse-cities. DK:Bogota was perceived by many as a city in anarchy, with social upheaval and problems with crime.Now,it's literally a utopia. I believe all this has happenedwith a lot of municipal interventions. ID: Bogota has definitely evolved in the last three decades. At some point in time, it looked like Gotham City. There was a lot of despair, a lot of traffic and no neighbourhood solutions to provide people the sense of being members of our community. I think that has changed. When you look at my administrations in the last four years, we have been able to bring to the city the biggest investment ever. We started funding the first line of the metro that is now in the preconstruction phase and we'resoon announcing the resources for the second line of the Bogota metro. We have basically contributed to develop three of the most important corridors for people to improve their way of living. In the north of Bogota, called ‘Accesso Norte’, we have the southern longitudinal road, and we have now the access to the rest of the country when it comes to the western or eastern plains of Colombia, and the connection between Bogota and the centre of the country. We have also expanded the coverage of the police and have reached the lowest homicide rate ever in Bogota. And we're making Bogota a centre of the arts, culture and tourism. In my administration, the biggest cultural infrastructure investment ever done by a Colombian government took place and we inaugurated the new National Centre for the Arts. DK:I've been experiencing the infrastructure in Medellin, Cartagena and Bogota. Bogota brought to the world the new concept of the BRTSwith the TransMilenio, introduced 20 years ago. I’ve seen it run so efficiently in such a large city. In fact, Ahmedabad also is one of the first cities in India that introduced the same system inspired by Bogota. We have many parallels but I want to get to the larger aspect: climate change. And I know how close that is to your heart. ID:I feel happy we could do things that I thought were crucial for Colombia. We expanded electric vehicles. We created a rapid energy transition where we have multiplied 100 times our installed capacity in solar and wind energy just four years ago. We have created a circular economy policy with the idea of bringing the private sector to the concept of produce-conserving, conserve-producing. We have basically incorporated the protection of 260,000 hectare with 10,000 families with a payment for environmental services. We created a program called HECO Allencia Colombia, with the biggest philanthropic environmental institutions from the world, to protect crucial spots and we have basically duplicated the protected areas in Colombia. Instead of waiting till 2030 for the Leader's Pledge for Nature to take place, we decided to have 30 per cent of Colombian land declared a protected area this year. And we created a climate action bill that was approved unanimously in Congress. DK:We share that passion. I've always said that architecture or a built environment is about not creating at the cost of nature but building something that can coexist happily with nature. In conclusion, DikshuKukreja says,“While geographically divergent, the journeys of Bogota and Ahmedabad have intersected recurrently. While Bogota has spearheaded some of the most experimental interventions in urban development, Ahmedabad is the hotbed of architecture and urban planning philosophies in India. It preserves rich architectural heritage from the Sultanate period of the Middle Ages known as the World City, which has continued to flourish for over 600 years and has been recognised as world heritage by UNESCO. Master architects like Louis Kahn and Le Corbusier have added beautiful strokes to the urban canvas. Transformation in both these cities has also happened correspondingly. What has worked in Bogota as an urban intervention has also alleviated urban problems in Ahmedabad. Bogota shows us that despite upheavals, socio-political turmoil and differences in opinion, it is possible to breathe new life in a city. It is possible to reverse years of combative tendencies of people by including them in policymaking and by giving them quite literally the right to their own city.” TIRANA &PANAJI DikshuKukreja (DK):Tirana in Albania and Panaji in Goa have both struggled to stamptheir own uniqueness owing to endless invasions, foreign influence or isolationism.Albania is a prime example of social organisation and religious harmony being practiced as a code of honour, a way of life, much like in Goa, where people from different faiths live in incorruptible harmony. Goa saw a change of power from Maratha to Islamic kings, and then finally to the Portuguese who ruled for over 450 years and are the major influence behind the architecture, food, culture and even toponyms of Goa.Even though Albania and Goa are approximately 6,000 km apart, the similarities between the two are stark. To unpack them with me is the honourable Prime Minister of Albania Edi Rama. An artist and professor before becoming mayor of Tirana, he is credited for changing the entire vocabulary and built environment of the city, painting it in a different colour! It is truly an honour to be here with you and decipher many of the aspects we know about Albania. For instance, Besa, your code of honour. In India, we have something called Atithi Devo Bhava, which translates into ‘The Guest is God’. Tell us more about this concept. Prime Minister Edi Rama (ER):This is a unique occasion to communicate with an audience that is far away in geographical terms, but not so far spiritually. The Albanian language is a unique one. It is one of the branches of the Indo-European languages [where it is considered an ‘isolate’.]And guess what? It is a passage from Sanskrit! I know about ‘The Guest is God’ in India; here it is also about the house. In our first Albanian Canon, it is written that the house of the Albanian belongs to God and the guest. Albania was the only country in Europe to have more Jews after the Second World War than before –Albanian families even risked their lives to shelter, save and protect them. We have sheltered Iranian refugees and Albanians from Kosovo and were the first to open the door to the Afghans after the mess there. DK:Albania has gone through various periods from the Ottoman invasions and then communism and Italian fascism. Yet, there has been a sense of peace here. In Goa, for example, we have had the Marathas and then a long period when the Portuguese ruled Goa for almost 450 years. For example, if I talk about the architecture, the spatial organisation of a typical Goan home is around a courtyard with a mix of European design elements and Indian decorative features. Are things like this happening in the architecture of Albania? ER: We have always been peaceful but also fearful of enemies. So, for example, we have a beautiful sea but we don't have really a sea life tradition. And if you see the villages on the seaside, some are built up in mountains and hills that are reachable with a certain level of difficulty because we always feared the sea as being a gatewayfor enemies. DK: So, 70 per cent ofAlbania is mountainous. Does that pose an infrastructure challenge for development? ER: It does but it's interesting. Our whole existence has been based on the mountains as our fortress and our whole dream is to be in the seaside. If you see the seaside, it was desert before, of course with some infrastructure built during communism. But now it is booming.This is also dangerous because it's somehow spoiling our beautiful seaside. DK: So,Panjim (and Goa as a whole)is considered the carnival capital of India. There is a certain vibe that attracts not just domestic tourists but people from across the world. It has that kind of festive flair, and so do its architecture, crafts, food. We see a lot of involvement in Tirana where it is literally becoming a culture capital. There’s Tirana Design Week, for instance. ER:Tiana developed during communism with ultra-functionalist buildings with no identity, dormitories for the working class. The part of the heritage that is our source of pride and energy is what has been built before. And then with democracy and capitalism, Tirana entered a barbaric era. The first 10 years were just about squatting everywhere, building illegally, going from a collectivistic society where no private property was allowed to a no man's land where everyone could build everywhere. When I was elected mayor, I was able to start the reverse process. The city of beautiful energy is now going to the next level with developments,towers and the buzz of nightlife. I am sure that at the end of this decade, Tirana will be the city of this region. DK: India is at the forefront of globally moving towards initiatives to mitigate climate change. What are your thoughts regarding Albania? ER:We are blessed and cursed at the same time because we are 100 percent renewable; we don't have any fossil fuel energy but are cursed because all our renewables so far are hydro. So, we depend very much on the humour of the guy above! If he's not sweating or crying hard, we have a problem. We are now trying to diversify with some solar, wind, but at the end, what Albania or Goa does is not relevantvis-a-vis what India as a country does, what the big countries do. When the big countries do not do enough, we are all doomed to fail. In conclusion, Dikshu Kukreja says, “The Indian subcontinent, from ancient times, has been transformed by empires and cultures, including pro-Albanian tribes in the mid-centuries that gave rise to its uniqueness. Albanians are an ancient people who are direct descendants of the Illyrians. Their language has a branch of its own in the Indo-European group of languages. They have seen the rise and fall of the Roman civilisation, the Ottomans, Italian fascism, and the black curtain of communism. I thank Prime Minister Edi Rama for showing us such beautiful facets of the country.”

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