Instant City: Urban Planning as a Medium of Control
Image 1 is a map that we have drawn to indicate the manner by which urban planning and the placement of these migrant camps is used a line of control. The camps are so segregated and cordoned off, outside the city, that the average person wouldn’t even know of their existence. As mentioned earlier, the camp Sonapur, that we looked at, is a half an hour drive into the dessert. As observed, by us from looking at the satellite images, and trying to trace out a plan of the camp, it seems like the camps have two perimeters, almost like a primary and secondary envelope. The first being an immediate tall fence, and the second being a barricading along the road network that surrounds the camp. There are also guard towers and check posts in between these two so that the so called ‘camp bosses’ can keep an eye on anyone trying to escape or any outsider who tries to walk into the camp. The camps starkly resemble military concentration camps; devoid of vegetation, extremely paroled and guarded, with no sense of life whatsoever, a very apocalyptic undertone is set here. The exterior perimeter, the rigid street system, the impenetrable alleyways, and the lack of any pedestrian circulation (Image 1), all seem to be testament to the afore mentioned control that the government and the private developers apply on these laborers. Not only are the camps, extremely closed off, but the connection between the camp and the city is also controlled by these employers. The migrants are carried to and fro from everyday, in buses, through the major highways (Image 2). They are not allowed to wander or linger in the city. There are like the ‘ghosts’ or ‘elves’ of Dubai, building a glass city, while they themselves are not meant to be seen, or even known of by the world. Their lives are insulated and bound by this shell, as they oscillate between work and the camp. The city becomes a distant fairy tale for them, even though they are actively involved in building it.
Image Courtesy, Raori Ravin, The University of Hong Kong, 2015
Image Courtesy, Tai Nicholas Han Vern, The University of Hong Kong, 2015
Elsheshtawy, Yasser. Dubai behind an Urban Spectacle. London: Routledge, 2010.