IMAP Lecture 2 by Bharat Sharma
- 9 December, 2011
Roles of Urban Spaces and Their Present Status in Kathmandu
Kathmandu was a collective of towns whose urban plan was mainly based on agriculture, socio-religion, culture and trade. From a historic context, open space was integral to the culture of the valley and there were plenty of spaces available, within and outside of the townships, owned by state, privately and guthis. It was very much a pedestrian collective, accessible to all. Each open space had a certain function and utility intricately linked to tradition and culture. With the advent of the 20th century came a more complex form of urban planning which had to adhere to factors of economics, design, ecology, sociology, geography, law, politics and culture to parameter a proper growth and expansion of settlements and communities. Yet, the actual expansion in the past 50 years has not fully followed and understood such concepts of elements nor considered the factual needs.
The introduction of western concepts of land use, such as zoning, environment and transportation planning, in Kathmandu’s urban expansion after the 1970s could not be successfully integrated into this socio-cultural milieu. Rather than introduce open spaces of significance (socio-religious, cultural, etc), the existing ones were occupied and engulfed by concrete, leaving very little space for any culture, socio-religious activities, agriculture or even personal space. The encroachment of traditional open spaces has been increasing since then. Kathmandu’s urban planning has focused on a plan well suited to movement and automation and completely ignored the open spaces of the valley.
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Bharat Sharma is an architect, engineer and environmental planner who has spent a 35-year career as a civil servant in the Department of Urban Development and Building. He currently teaches urban planning at the Institute of Engineering, Tribhuvan University, and architecture at Nepal Engineering College. He has a particular interest in environmental issues, especially with regard to urban spaces and has published many articles on the subject.
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