Chandigarh – how far can we plan?

Chandigarh, capital of two states (Haryana and the Punjab), is a planned city – designed by Le Corbusier, no less, in the 1950s. St John’s College, Chandigarh, shares this inheritance – spacious grounds, tall trees, thoughtful buildings. Fifty years on, we can ask – how far can we plan?

The footpaths are so wide the rickshaw-drivers use them, relieving traffic and enjoying the shade of flowering pink cassia. The central squares are so generous, they still provide the hub for the life of the city, commerce and family outings. The artificial lake is so inviting thousands stroll, jog, or picnic there every weekend, and every evening.

Granted, the lake, at the foot of the denuded Himalayan slopes, is silting up; the city is growing more polluted; the vehicular traffic is more tangled. But the gift of a lake, abundant trees, a superb site, a sense of space, these are priceless. Planning that takes heed of what the human heart needs, our hunger for communion with the egrets on the lake, the parrots in the trees, gives us the space in which to create the future we seek.

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