Project to evolve blueprint for transforming Puducherry into sustainable city

 thehindu.com  08/02/2020 17:28:29 

In a synthesis of academia, urban planning and new age art, a French agency-funded project is aiming to evolve a blueprint for Puducherrys transformation into a sustainable city.

The Socio Ecological and Urban Resilience in the Pondicherry Bio-region (RUSE), a collaborative project launched by the French Institute of Pondicherry (IFP), is looking to formulate a three-dimensional approach to local and regional development  social, sectoral (water, heritage, urban governance and ecology), and spatial (from neighbourhood to region).

The French agency, Agence Franaise de Dveloppement (AFD) is funding about 50,000 (approximately 44 lakh) for the two-year project.

The initiative marks a continuum of the IFPs increasing involvement in discussions and debates under the smart city mission and regional development plan to promote integrated approaches to urban spaces, said Nicolas Bautes, who along with Raphal Mathevat, is lead investigator of RUSE.

The action research falls into two parts which cover the major challenges of sustainability of the urban and socio-ecological systems of the city/region in the dual contexts of urban development planning and the recently defined Smart City Plan. While one part focuses on the challenges of urban production, heritage and the cultural economy, the other examines the social and ecological challenges of adaptive wetland management urban, peri-urban and rural, IFP researchers said.

As a Franco-Indian research centre, IFPs interdisciplinary team expects to put together a database with a corpus of knowledge that would not only serve as a basis for action research but also produce analyses at different temporal and spatial scales and at different levels of organisation (family, exploitation, sectors, neighbourhood, municipality, region, watershed).

The RUSE project, spearheaded by IFPs Department of Social Sciences, has also involved French artists Delphine Delas and Nicolas Louvancourt, whose new age light-and-sound shows blending three-dimensional mapping, art, photography and music, have caught the imagination of the public, from their hometown of Bordeaux, France to Hyderabad.

In fact, the Bastille Day celebrations on July 14 (largely an online event due to the COVID-19 pandemic), featured the premiere of a short video, Water Matters by the duo. As a sub-project of RUSE, Water Matters, intends to explore the very relationship between the city, its people and water in different forms. This part is funded by AFD and French Institute in India.

It addresses both the local myths related to water in Puducherry and the contemporary relation and perception different people living in different location have with water, both sea, rivers and canals, said Mr. Bautes.

The research project also has as collaborator, the Urban Design Collective, a collaborative platform for architects, urban designers and planners to create liveable cities through participatory planning. The aim is to link together all stakeholders, from government to NGOs and community, in an integrated approach spanning the dimensions of urban, environmental, especially wetlands and water management, and governance.

A series of public debates, workshops, exhibitions, photography competitions, coordination of exhibitions or artistic interventions, involving communities and other stakeholders  governmental, NGO or others (Smart City Mission, Auroville, PondyCAN) would shape specific actions in different places of the city and its near region.

The objective is to publicly submit this empirical knowledge, consider collective responses to these issues, and identify levers and obstacles to both collective action and public action.

The content of the exchanges established during these workshops will be synthesised and returned in an annual report submitted to AFD, Mr. Bautes said.

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