Rapid urbanization in India is taking a heavy toll on the livability in Indian cities. Issues such as the quality and conservation of open public places, the efficiency of public transport networks and urban mobility, and access to food are all being impacted. HealthBridge’s local partner in India, Evangelical Social Action Forum (ESAF), has a livable cities program in Bangalore, Nagpur, Thrissur, Calicut, Kochi, Trivandrum, Malappuram, and Guwahati.
These programs are focused on building the knowledge base and capacity of policy makers at the local level to identify city specific needs through its various community engagement and research activities. ESAF's work has led to active citizen involvement, which greatly improves policy implementation.
Currently the programs are centred on three main areas:
- Streets - Streets in India have traditionally been the public spaces around which social life has revolved. They constitute the urban public realm where people congregate, celebrate and interact. Streets also provide the space for pedestrians, cyclists and vendors, while also encouraging people to move about outside. ESAF’s activities focus on creating safer streets that encourage people to walk and cycle in main commercial areas, implementing the Active and Safe Routes to School program that helps make the journey to school safer, providing input into community development plans, and working with city government officials to ensure walkable and bikable cities.
- Open Public Spaces - Open public spaces are an important part of urban life and contribute to the health and wellbeing of a city's people. Car free streets, beaches, green spaces and parks provide endless opportunities for residents to walk, cycle, exercise, play, and socialize which improves people's quality of life. Well designed open public places ensure a diversity of groups feel welcome and create social spaces for people from different walks of life to interact with one another. ESAF's activities focus on ensuring cities have enough public spaces, ensuring that the spaces that do exist are quality spaces, and improving the accessibility of the spaces for people living with a disability.
- Markets and Urban Agriculture - Access to foods that support healthy eating patterns contributes to an individual’s health. Unfortunately, there are barriers to, and disparities in, the accessibility and availability of foods that support healthy eating patterns. Many cities are removing their local public markets in favour of commercial centres, which forces people to travel long distances to buy fresh fruits and vegetables. ESAF's activities including advocating for more permanent and temporary local markets and encouraging people to grow their own fruits and vegetables through urban agriculture programs.
Expected results include:
- Increased number of streets that supporting walking and cycling
- Improved quality of streets
- Increased number of streets used for placemaking and community events
- Increased number of open public spaces
- Increased number of quality improvements to open public spaces
- Increased number of people using open public spaces, especially women, girls, and those living with disabilities
- Increased number of urban agriculture sites
- Increased number of people being able to access local markets.
Key outcomes achieved to date include:
- ESAF provided technical support to the Kerala Department of Tourism to develop 42 public space destinations, which includes parks and beaches, with accessible and barrier-free features. Braille leaflets were also introduced in all these destinations to help the differently-abled easily access the facilities provided in each destination. These spaces have been completed and approximately 330,000 people have accessed these places including those living with disabilities, women, and children.
- Trained 323 women in Nagpur to advocate for local park improvements. In total 14 parks have been redesigned and over 1400 children are able to access a safe park space close to home.
- Organized 1500 children from six schools in Bangalore to walk to school every Saturday.
- ESAF started urban agriculture projects in seven Cities: Guwahati, Nagpur, Kochi, Bangalore, Thrissur, Malappuram and Calicut. These programs took place in communities and schools. More than 600 families and three schools directly benefited from the program.
- Organised 100s of open street events in Bangalore with community partners bringing thousands of people to the streets in a given day for cycling, walking, and socializing.