Our Detailed Project Report is out.
It’s not the usual DPR. We wanted The Cha Project DPR to be a document with soul. It isn’t merely a dry assemblage of data and drawings, but data and drawings that speak to one and all. A report that speaks from the heart.
That’s because we want everyone to get excited about The Cha Project’s plans, not just the government and local authorities, not just urban planners and stakeholders, but even the man on the street. The Cha Project is a community-led project and we want everyone to understand that this is about Kolkata, it is about creating a better life for all, and about reclaiming our pride in our city.
The DPR is really a labour of love. That so many individuals have put in so many hours of hard work shows in the many beautiful pages. Not only does it look good, it is exhaustive in its content and rigorous in its detail. To quote from an article that appeared in the Times of India: “Right from correcting the sewage problems, introducing self-contained garbage disposal systems and beautifying the existing infrastructure to include food, retail and entertainment zones, the DPR explains everything in the minutest detail.”
The DPR was presented to the West Bengal government during Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s visit to Singapore in August 2014. It was also presented to the Tourism Secretary, Mr Ajit Bardhan, in Kolkata in September 2014. To quote from the same TOI piece: “I have studied the DPR and I must say that it is going to metamorphose into a wonderful project. The state wishes to be a partner in the project and start work by the end of the year.”
The first question that most people ask us is, “So, you have all the funding?” and we answer with a straightforward “No.” We are firm believers in what Jaime Lerner, former mayor of Curitiba in Brazil (and someone we consider the guru of urban transformation) said: “The lack of resources cannot be an excuse not to act.” What we have instead, is an amazing bunch of talented and driven people who are making this happen, piece by piece. And overwhelming support from the community. And so it is with a belief in the innate generosity of individuals, corporates, and the government that we are forging ahead with our plans of transforming first Chinatown, and then the rest of Kolkata.
The Singapore Factor
Don’t get us wrong – we aren’t trying to turn Kolkata into a Singapore. The two cities are as different from one another as is possible to be. One is the epitome of efficiency and order and the other’s charm lies in its chaos and unpredictability. They don’t mix. What we want to do is pick some lessons from Singapore’s incredible growth story and apply them wherever possible. Living and working in Singapore, The Cha Project team has imbibed a work ethic that we feel could help Kolkata transform into India’s most exciting city. We want Kolkata to be the example for the rest of the country that things can be achieved efficiently, transparently, and completely free of corruption.
The other thing we wish to imbibe from the Singapore growth story is the emphasis on good design. Very early on in its development, Singapore encouraged design education and the city now has an enviable number of design schools of repute. Over the years, good design has percolated into every stream of life. Design isn’t only about prettification; it is about making lives better, making things simpler and more efficient Better sanitation that uses less water – that’s design. More customer-friendly seating for food streets – that’s design. Solar powered stalls that double up as homes – that’s design. Use of colours that are uplifting – that’s design. Street signages that are easy to understand – that’s design. A British Design Council study shows that every pound spent on design translates into a £20 increase in revenue. And so The Cha Project hopes to inject Chinatown with good design sensibilities that can spread to the rest of the city. What the city needs are design regulations that encourage creativity rather than stifle freedom of creative expression. Iconic neighbourhoods can develop their own distinct identity only through a larger design strategy which The Cha Project hopes to devise.
End of the day, it’s about making lives better
The Cha Project isn’t only about making the city look pretty or attracting visitors, or injecting buzz into Kolkata. It is about making lives better, about pulling the marginalized out of abject poverty and creating a sustainable business environment. It benefits everyone, rich and poor, and we hope more and more companies will take this on as their Corporate Social Responsibility, and more individuals will come forward to help us in this grand plan.
Together let’s make this happen.