Kumbh’s pop-up mega city ‘unlike any other research’ for Harvard team

Jan 27 2013, 03:14 IST
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SummaryNot like any field research I’ve done before,” is how John Macomber, senior lecturer of business administration at Harvard Business School, describes his Maha Kumbh experience.

present at the festival, devotional practices, tourism and environmental concerns. The health team will look at the presence and networks of hospitals, clinics and public health facilities, while the business team gathered information on business practices at the Kumbh, including the interaction of the public and private sectors. They will also examine the way in which technology, media, Internet connections and cellular networks play a role in the 2013 Kumbh logistics as never before. The team will submit its reports in a couple of months.

“This city, laid out on a grid, is constructed and deconstructed within a matter of weeks. Creating this huge encampment entails multiple aspects of contemporary urbanism—city planning and management, engineering and spatial zoning, an electricity grid, water lines and sanitation systems, food and water distribution plans, hospitals and vaccination centres, police and fire stations, public gathering spaces, and stages for entertainments and plays. Most important are the many encampments of religious teachers and monastic orders in neighbourhoods that include devotees as well as volunteers who work on their behalf to provide services and sustenance to the crowds,” a University release on the visit states.

The mela’s lessons, researchers hope, could be applied in many situations. Public health workers and doctors from Harvard School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School see the Kumbh as a model showing how to support mass migration of people into small areas in the event of a war or natural disaster. Urban planners from GSD, working with Rahul Mehrotra, one of the project’s leaders and a professor of urban design and planning at the GSD, view the gathering as an example of how India — whose smaller cities are expected to grow dramatically in the coming years — can best support the natural, democratic development of communities.

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