Friday, March 7, 2008

Development


I don’t know why I was really surprised to see Lhasa expanding and developing and facing the challenges of any other city these days. I guess it is because I just have never heard anything about it. There is even a store in Berkeley called Lhasa, selling Tibetan goods, but it just never really registered with me. It certainly does now. Lhasa now contains about 400,000 people and is growing rapidly. It is hard to know how many of these are Chinese, but the Chinese government has been encouraging the Chinese to move there, and most Chinese find better income opportunities as well. The growth is happening at a pretty good clip. Constructions cranes are around the city is expanding east and west in the valley. Development pressure is abound. At our friend’s home, there are rumors of the government taking over the land to build housing and other projects. They do not feel their tenure is secure.
Our friend cited the story of the woman who delivers milk to them everyday and has done so for the last 15 years. Her farmland was not too far from the city and the government recently took it from her for the land to be developed. She was given an apartment in the city. So, she had a new place to live, but didn’t know what to do. Her lively hood had been destroyed and where was she going to put her cows? In my class, Housing and the Developing World, my professor at UC Berkeley showed an image from Cairo of an apartment with a cow, a chicken, and a pig on its balcony. It was a funny image, and we all got a good laugh. But, at the heart of it lies a serious and fundamental challenge to much of the world’s population. The rural to urban migration is phenomenal and cities now how more than half of the world’s population. Just how exactly people make this transition and the physical spaces accommodate that transition to me, is a critically important question. Once again, is there another space or series of spaces that better accommodate this transition?

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