German-Jewish architect Otto Koenigsberger adopted a linear approach in building Odisha’s capital Bhubaneswar in which the neighbourhood unit would be “an attempt to transplant into the city one of the healthiest features of country and small-town life.” This, he argued, would enable people to understand their civic responsibilities much better than a large amorphous city. However, in its expansion, Bhubaneswar has spread far beyond the plan and in ways that the planner would not have imagined. Urbanisation has encroached on agricultural land and forests around the city putting it on the path of unsustainable growth and left behind the less-privileged people for whom life is a struggle. Bhubaneswar should have – and can do – better.
Odisha’s capital Bhubaneswar went on an overdrive to look spic and span for the ongoing International World Cup hockey tournament. As part of this, hawkers were removed from their traditional vending spaces and shifted to dedicated zones. Organising hawkers in dedicated spaces in easily-recognised lines of green cabins has been on since 2009, but was visible only in some parts of the city. The biggest sporting event expedited the process though it was not easy or smooth. Vendors, who are important for the informal economy, have the right to be included in a city’s planning. Bhubaneswar has got some things right in integrating this informal economy into the city’s typology – which can be a model for other cities – but much remains to be accomplished.
The new city of Bhubaneswar was built from scratch but in the frenzy of building Odisha’s capital, the existing Old Town was pushed into the background. Inclusion and integration were crucial while the new city was being built but there has been little so far. With the master plan making little effort to integrate the old into the new, the two sport distinct characteristics — the heritage town continues with its lifestyle and culture, the planned capital built on barren land after independence is now a Smart City. Dotted with ancient temples, Old Town had been untouched by development for years. However, commerce and economic relations are bridging the gap between it and the city.