Thursday, January 9, 2014

Hyderabad Urban Lab

How well do we know our city? Anant Maringanti, one of the founders of Hyderabad Urban Lab(HUL) speaks to Cityplus to let us know how we can find the answer to that question.

You must have come across chemistry labs, but have you ever heard of an urban lab? Meet Anant Maringanti, one of the founders of Hyderabad Urban Lab (HUL). A lab with the aim to help urbanites understand their own world and bring a change to it. Anant is an economics geographer who, after his stay abroad, came back to his roots, his city and is letting others see it from a different perspective.

Right to know one’s own city

It was in the year 1956 that a French philosopher brought the concept of the right to know one’s own city. United Nations has also been closely involved with it over the years. The fundamental idea is to produce knowledge about the city in a local text and to understand how urbanization is shaping up internal and external lives of urbanites. Anant elaborates, “Cities are topographies that do not belong to a particular person. They are developed over ages undergoing many changes that eventually shape them up. They are entities. We are yet to find out how cities function as entities. Ours is an idea to explore this more.”

Bholakpur, for instance

Much like factories, cities too produce their own waste. And every city has its own places filtering the waste of a city much like kidneys do for a body. For Hyderabad, Bholakpur works as its kidneys. The 150 year old area is known as the leather tannery of the city amidst verdant crop fields. “People came from villages to settle down there and then around it, a city transformed. Now, at Bholakpur people live who deal with the scrap that the city produces – these people actually have made the city livable and clean. Areas like Bholakpur do not feature much in town planning. In 2009 when drinking water was mixed up with sewerage water, the area was labeled as the hub of maladies. Nobody bothered to find out whose fault it was and why it happened. It is an important area that puts commodities back to life post consumption; this is what needs to be recognized when cities are planned,” says Anant. Hyderabad Urban Lab began its research work on Bholakpur the last year to locate Bholakpur and places of the same sort on the global and political economy by giving its people a platform to tell their tales.

Meta Data

The data related to a city is rarely transparent. There is always a mismatch between two government bodies thanks to their own ‘risk and benefit’ factors. The accurate data can help save many a denizen during natural calamities or man-made disasters. Not only this, it will help people understand their city in a much better way. They can connect with one another as and when required. Anant signs off saying, “We are trying to accumulate accurate government public data. This will be very useful in the communication between public and government. We have begun to collect data and data samples from various sources. We teach students GIS and ask them to collect data for us.”

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