Child-Friendly Bhubaneswar: BDA and Bernard van Leer Foundations hold workshop on early childhood and city planning

Bhubaneswar: If we want to make our cities liveable for everyone, planning from the vantage point of a kid is the best place to start. As a healthy 3-year-old sees the city from a 95 cm average height, we need to shape the city from the height of a child to make everything child-friendly.

As part of capacity building programme for city planners and government officials on child friendly interventions, experts from Bernard van Leer Foundation (BvLF) in collaboration with the Bhubaneswar Development Authority (BDA) organised a workshop titled ‘Urban-95’ on early childhood development and city planning at BDA conference Hall today and enlightened administrators, town planners, architects, child development and protection officers and city officials from the city.

Early Childhood Development Specialist from BvLF Rachel Machefsky said that children are fastest learners, so we must always focus our attentions on their needs so that from their early-childhood days they would grow around child-friendly public spaces and would always have a similar orientation to have the philosophy in mind.
Rushda Majeed, India representative of BvLF presented an overview of the foundation and how it is supporting child-friendly initiatives across the world including the Bhubaneswar Smart City project, in which ‘Urban-95’ in which pilot and cost-effective innovations would be included in public space, mobility, data-driven decision making and parent coaching.

While elaborating on the best practices in terms of child friendly interventions across the globe, deliberations were also held on public space transformation of existing physical spaces into accessible places for young children to play and explore nature, ensuring safe passage for kids to walk or cycle and a safe place to play and get food etc. Similarly, collection of city-level neighbourhood data on young children and care givers were also discussed.

Chairing the workshop BDA Secretary Sitansu Kumar Rout said “as our city had topped the India Smart City Challenge and the award winning Bhubaneswar Smart city proposal envisage to make the city child friendly, the Urban-95 concept is being followed to make various aspects city design and infrastructure child-friendly in real sense.’’ BDA Senior Administrative Officer Madhumita Rath, General Manager Bhubaneswar Smart City Limited Bijay Kumar Swain, Senior Municipal Planner BMC Bandita Mohapatra, District Child Protection Officer Banishree Patnaik, CDPOs of BMC along with planners from BDA and Bhubaneswar Urban Knowledge Centre participated in the workshop.

During the day-long workshop the participants made different models with building blocks to depict challenges faced by children in urban space. With the models the participants tried to explain child safety, child-friendly zones, managing danger levels and areas within urban space in a city. They also took part in an exercise to discuss and suggest changes to landscapes and interventions in parks to make them more child-friendly, interactive, participatory and adaptive with concepts like incorporating open library at public spaces, splash pool, natural mounds, tree stumps and clay modelling and how to introduce them to different open spaces and parks in the city.

It may be noted here that Bhubaneswar envisions to become the first child friendly city in the country and collaborated with Bernard van Leer Foundation and National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA) in this regard.

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