Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Mauritius Villages become Cities!

The government's idea of converting villages to cities is not a bad idea in itself. But, It is important that the sole objective of the transformation of a village to a city status is not only to please the ego of the villagers. It is a well-known issue in Mauritius that people living in cities consider themselves a status above. And, eventually the people living in villages tend to feel that they are a class below. The problem of ego is one that people have learned to live with in Mauritius and do not even care about it nowadays. However, it remains in their sub-conscious that the people living in cities are better-off. 

Important Note before you continue reading: I might be criticized for my point of views, and many persons might be angry about my point of view. You can criticize me for the sake of not agreeing with me or for the simple reason of not feeling inferior/superior to your compatriots. Remember, I am only saying loud what others think low. 

Village / City differences are made only by Mauritians in the first place. Most foreigners coming to live in Mauritius, would choose G.Baie, Tamarin or Grand Gaube and they do not bother about living in Villages for the simple reason that back in their country of origin, our cities in Mauritius look smaller than their villages in France, England or Switzerland. I am not saying here that the same kind of mentality does not exist in those countries. I am only saying that those foreigners do not have this mentality when they come to Mauritius. The french people are known to have this kind of mentality where, for instance, a rich girl would not marry a peasant. I am talking here about the 60's and before. But this mentality still prevails in those countries too. 

The government's project is to have all those main villages turned into cities. I am not against it. But, I would rather tell you why this is not feasible or not worthwhile. First let's see what are the main characteristics of a city. 

I have listed below 20 characteristics of a city:
  1. Compact forms of residential developments. e.g apartments ( PL,QB, CPE, RH-BB, VCS)
  2. Mass transit transports, e.g taxi train, bus tiptop ( PL, QB, RH-BB, CPE)
  3. Inbound and Outbound traffic, e.g mass movements into/ out of cities ( PL, RH, QB, CPE)
  4. Corporate HQs' of Multinationals, e.g IBM, Corporate & Chancery Group ( PL, CPE, QB)
  5. Financial Services, e.g Stock market, Banking outlets (PL, CPE, QB, RH, VCS)
  6. Participation in International Events , e.g journée des droits de l'homme, .. ( PL, CPE, QB, RH)
  7. Diverse demographic constituencies. (PL, CPE, QB, RH-BB)
  8. International and Regional familiarity/ popularity. (PL, QB, CPE)
  9. Presence of Cultural points / Memorials / Museums.(PL, CPE, QB, BB-RH)
  10. Array of Educational Institutions, more than 5 Schools / Colleges / Tertiary Education (all 5)
  11. Sporting Community and Events (all 5)
  12. Presence of historical background, e.g symbolic actions, references, strikes... (PL, CPE, BB-RH)
  13. Advanced communication Infrastructures e.g Wifi spots, Wimax, ADSL (all 5) 
  14. Skyscrapers. 
  15. Libraries, Hospitals, Police Station, Fire station, Waste services, Sewage Network (tout à l'egout)
  16. Large / Small public Spaces e.g foodcourts, public gardens, green spaces. 
  17. Employment based mainly on Education and Skills. 
  18. Cities have suburbs, downtown. 
  19. Buildings of different ages, Media attraction for documentary purposes, Higher Land Taxes
  20. Main Roads, cities should have atleast 4 main roads.. and Shops that open onto the sidewalk and not parking slots.
Ofcourse, one could say that we, Mauritians, are the most intelligent population around the world and we will be making Cities that are the best. I can tell you already, that you will only be boosting the ego of the inhabitants of the villages and your village will remain a village and not become a city with the simple change of rank. Because yes, the change of village to city is not a mere change of name. It is the elevation in rank. Whether, this accompanies more prestige to the place or pride to the inhabitants up to you to decide.

For a village to develop into a city, it will inevitably have to obtain all the characteristics listed above. Some of our cities are not worthwhile to be called as such. I will take the only example of Vacoas/Phoenix. Merging 2 big concentration of residential places does not make a city. The government should provide the Vacoas/Phoenix with a Point of Concentration where most of the services are centralized within the city. This is what a city is in the end. A place where you can have all your different procedures done in one place. It is like a huge shopping mall. 

The decentralization of main governmental bodies from the cities would only make it more difficult and more costly for documents/ persons to go from one ministry to another, from one department to another. And this would definitely add to the cost of operations. The transport problems to link to the main cities should be solved. We should not attack a problem by changing its place. The problem is a transport problem. We need more roads. Build more roads, that's it. The solution is simple. But discussing too much on a simple problem, brings us to solutions that have got nothing to do with the problem. The current solution of ring road and construction is a good start within, the government should focus on that. 
Ofcourse, after reading my article, you are probably guessing which villages should become cities within me. My future cities are as follows and in that order:
  1. Mahebourg - Harbour, centralized region for the south, market place, food court, mass transit transports (read the 20 points to know what I mean by that), suburbs, airport nearby and included as part of Mahebourg, Historical heritage of Mauritius, Museum, green space, colleges, schools, .. 
  2. G.Baie - Harbour, centralized region for the north, Commercial avenues, food courts, sewage and advanced communications infrastructure, cultural diversity, Corporate and Organization HQs, marketplace, green space, suburbs (can include Pointe aux cannoniers and Pereybere as suburbs). 
  3. Flacq - centralized region for the east, regional shopping center, suburbs, food courts, cultural diversity, green space, ..
My list is a lot shorter than the list of the government. But this list is more reasonable and  contains villages that could become successful cities beyond the mere change of name to boost the ego of the inhabitants.

You do not agree with my point of view? you have an opinion on the topic? Please comment below!

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