17 February 2011

New Roads - Inroads into a tiny city

Sector 17- Heart of Chandigarh
I have always believed Chandigarh to be a tiny city.  15 minutes and you could traverse it from ends to ends.  Landlocked from all sides, it had no scope to grow any further.  Its roads were tree lined and designed for leisurely bicycling.  Le Courbusier could not imagine a city that could require a road wider than 10 feet in future. His rectangular city with independent sectors and parks and shopping areas were charming, are charming still, but inadequate for future times.

Scenic Village Kansal where many big banglows have come up
To begin with, Chandigarh Panchkula and Mohali were stringed together, had a similar character and were called a Tricity.  Now it seems to me as if the Tricity has spread, like butter in the sun to include Kharar, Zirakpur, Naya Gaon and Rampur.  Tiny villages that were the 'outside' slums like Khajeri,  Colony No 1, Ram Darbar, Naya Gaon, Kansal, Hallo Majra, Mullanpur, Dadu Majra have blossomed into prime properties with a mix of old style shanties and grand kothies.  Village Kishangarh is drowned by magnificent edifices built thanks to the SEZ endowed IT Park.
DT Mall in IT Park
So the city grows, shanties shrink and there is suddenly a crying need for roads to get to places.  The side roads and small lanes that hardly ever saw a bicycle whizz by are now beset by all kinds of vehicles, all trying to get to point B from point A, in a tearing hurry and wanting to mow down anyone who comes in their way.

Necessity takes me down roads I never knew existed.  I think this every time I take a road  between Baltana and Mouli Jagran,  cross the railway fatak, turn right and take the narrow curving road that passes the railway station and take a left to reach the transport chowk.  From here it is a straight road to  Browser, my much frequented spot, in quest of new books to read.

Chandigarh sits like a Koh-i-noor amongst a more modern setting of sometimes crass, sometimes showy borders of noveau localities.  


  1. Oh yeah... all the areas on the periphery of Chandigarh have developed so much. Recently, I visited Kharar after a span of 8 years and I couldn't recognize the lanes that led to my grand-parent's home! And ditto for Zirakpur, Manimajra...!! Winds of Change, they say!!

  2. I've never been to Chandigarh but I've heard that it is the most well-planned city in India.

    Considering how cities in general have exploded in the last two decades (a result of rapid development and increased mass migration), you should be thankful that Chandigarh has retained most of its character and tree-lined roads.

    As for future expansion, yes, it is necessary to provide for this but surely this can happen in suburbs (like you've mentioned). These can be developed to become satellite towns so that core Chandigarh does not get over-crowded.

    Just my thinking based on what I've seen happening in Bangalore over the last 20 years. The city is totally unrecognisable now. Over crowded, huge destruction of ecosystem, traffic problems, water problems, indiscriminate construction/development. It could be the classic case study of how to destroy the charm of a city.

    Now, finally, a metro is going to come up, the public transport has improved. All about 20 years too late IMO.

    I am not one bit against development but I am totally against indiscriminate development.

    Anyway, rant over! I am reminded of Rafi saab's song "Swapn jhade phool se..." when I look at Bangalore today. I still love the city very much - and it is still better than many other places - but the development could have been so much better with proper planning and foresight.

  3. Shilpa - I live here and I fail to recognise old spots in the periphery.

    Raja - Greedy councillors and property dealers have cut out plots in the periphery in such a bad manner, that I don't see any hope for them.

    Metro for Bangalore is late, and Chandigarh is even now just thinking. Luckily most roads in Chandigarh are good, and sort of well maintained. Not as bad as Bangalore. Most cities in India follow the dictum - Develop now, plan later. So the infrastructure seems to the gasping to keep up with the growth.

  4. I remember being told always "Chandigarh is a planend & beautiful city" whatever little I have seen of it (It was past midnight when we had reached there) it did look very clean, organised & nice city. But I guess in the present day of growth & mortar development no city is left untouched. All small villages slowly merge into cities and the boundaries are increasing. Killing the charm of the city in the process. Sad but thats the reality of real estate - it kills the reality of the city ;)

  5. It can be sort of bewildering to see a much loved "home" bloat into a haphazard monster spawl....i have not visited Chandigarh, but have read much about the poster-town of " Planned City development". Development cannot be stopped, one only hopes that the city fathers draw lessons from other dreams that turned into nightmares ( our dear Bengaluru among them)and make better and farsighted plans.

  6. Smita : It is still pretty, but the periphery has gone out of control.

    Yosee : Thats so true. I remember Bangalore as a laid back, beautiful city of gardens. From what I hear, that is all gone with the IT wind.

  7. Its been 10 years since my visit to Chandigarh. I remember the small city then but perhaps Mohali (tricity) was already a part of the sprawl, can't clearly remember. Bangalore's cup of woes is mainly due to the administration (or lack of it) for many years. And as you said, the Metro is probably too little too late.

  8. Anup - Even Chandigarh is just thinking about a better public transport system. They are planning a metro from Kharar (beyond Mohali) to the Kalka end of Panchkula. It will cut across Chandigarh diagonally, which is good. But it is just a plan yet.

  9. I wonder why Bangalore (and other) metros run above ground. Even elevated ones take up too much space. Anyway, as for Chandigarh, since its only a plan, who knows when (and if) it will happen! Took ages and tons of dust/pollution/traffic jams for Bangalore to come this distance with their Metro. Sigh.

  10. i dread the time when the building on the metro starts. God knows what all will be dug up.