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Lessons for US students

Bhubaneswar, Feb. 27: A group of students and resource persons from a US university are in the city to study urban planning.

Led by professor Nihal Perera, the 14-member team from Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, has been exploring nooks and crannies of the city over the past seven weeks to observe and understand issues and challenges of the various aspects of life in a city that is fast acquiring the trappings of a metropolitan.

Joined by students of Delhi School of Planning and Architecture, the foreign delegation has undertaken a study on apartments, government housing, slums, temples and the transport system.

Perera The Telegraph that the team had studied the Niharika apartments on Cuttack Road. “It is one of the first apartments to come up in the city and we tried to find out the problems the residents were facing. We found that it is mostly tenants, who do not have the power to take decisions, occupy the flats and therefore, most structures lie neglected and lack proper maintenance. This spoils the look of the apartments,” said Perera.

The team feels the government housing blocks are quite “overcrowded”. “Maintenance work is hardly undertaken in government quarters and officials who live in them do not bother to spend a few bucks because they feel it belongs to the government. An attitudinal change is required,” said Yuvi Wang, one of the 12 students in the team.

On the other hand, Nirmani Liyanagnor, a resource person, said they found the slums in Bhubaneswar “quite interesting”.

“The slums here are barely slums. They are so organised in most places. They have a space for gardens and a common place to sit. We were surprised by their knowledge of space designing,” she said.

Students, who studied the autorickshaw system in the city, suggested that there was a requirement for parking space for these vehicles. The group also visited temples and vegetable markets and presented their findings before officials of the Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation (BMC) on Saturday. Before Bhubaneswar, the team visited Ahmedabad to conduct a similar study.

“The field trips are intended to provide a beyond-the-classroom learning for students of urban planning and give them a chance to find real-world solutions and make a difference,” said Perera.