Are Mumbai's planning problems so very different from ours?

This year we are delighted to welcome Prathima Manohar as a keynote speaker at the 52nd International Making Cities Livable Conference on Achieving Green, Healthy Cities. Prathima will be speaking on The challenge to Build Livable Cities in India. She is the founder and editor in chief of the Urban Vision; working primarily out of Mumbai she struggles to develop strategies to overcome haphazard planning regulations while accommodating a rising urban population.

Mumbai’s planning problems are not so different from problems in cities around the world. Private investors and real estate have made a killing while funding for infrastructure has been tardy and inconsistent. “In spite of ‘growth’, agrees fellow architect PK Das, “democratic space has declined and it’s manifested in the adverse effect on our lives, experiences and relationships.”

As she continues to be an advocate for healthy livable cities in India she has encountered setbacks from the city of Mumbai. When asked what challenges she was facing as a woman architect promoting healthy cities she said, “All our plans are often outdated even before they are released. The dire and unbearable conditions of our cities are a result of slow and minor interventions to ever worsening conditions. They are a result of a complete lack of long-term strategic thinking. We need to develop long-term vision. Unplanned development will not only have an adverse impact on real estate investment and development; but also on our macro-economic and societal development."

Despite challenges such as over population and high percentage of poverty, Prathima strives to make the future of Mumbai inclusive to all. She states, “Even though only 30% of India’s population live in urban areas; cities contribute to over 60% of the country’s GDP and account for 90% of government revenues. But as reflected in the state of most of the Indian cities- little attention is given to people’s well-being and advancement." Prathima has taken well-being advancement into her own hands and continues her fight through journalism, architecture, and advocacy.

Prathima has been a contributing columnist on architecture, urban development and design for The Times of India, and The Wall Street Journal. As an urban designer she has worked on pilot projects and researched issues such as affordable housing, participatory planning and green cities. Prathima earned her bachelors degree at Stanford University and was awarded the Prestigious Draper Hills Fellowship on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law, an award given to rising international students who invest their studies on issues related to democracy and development.