Characteristics, Hierarchical Order and Problems of CBDs of India

City is a complex agglomeration of multiple functions – economic, social, cultural, etc. It has many zones characterised by domination of different functions.Its ‘central area’ is its distinct section which is identified as the centre of marketing, business and financial activities as well as dense built-up sector where lines of transportation converge from various parts and nearly from all direction. It is therefore known as the hub of a city. In other words, city centre is a specialized area and a “distinctive region with a complex web of associated and interwoven land uses”.

In Great Britain, city’s ‘downtown’ is also the city centre and a principal area for marketing and business. Besides being the core of commerce, the central city serves as retail district flanked by stores, shops, office buildings, banks, clubs, hotels, theatres, museums, and organizational headquarters.

Johnson is of the opinion that there is hardly any distinction between the city centre and CBD. Here residential and industrial uses of land have merged spontaneously with the specialized uses of CBD… “And a distinction between the central area of a city and CBD is easier to make in theory than in practice”. If non-central business uses such as places of worship and educational institutions which are also commonly located in the city centre are excluded, the delimitation of a compact CBD will be almost impossible.

Characteristics of CBD:

Accessibility is one of the most significant attributes of CBD. It possesses the quality of being accessible from almost all residential areas lying all around in the far-flung middle and outer zones of a city.

In CBD area, competition for land has become too acute to cope with, and it is for this reason that buildings show vertical expansion rather than horizontal. The buildings are rarely used for residential purposes because of intensity and density of business uses. However, in the cities of the developing areas, the central business area is also occupied sporadically by residences, and in some cases upper storeys are used for residences.

In Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata more than 25 per cent upper storeys of the multi-storeyed buildings are used for residential purpose. But the case of the Western world is different. In London, not more than 5,000 populations was estimated in 1961.

Besides this, although manufacturing does not form an attribute of CBD, yet newspaper and book publication are found centrally located in many cities. This is perhaps because of the facility of their sale and circulation including convenience of transport and communication.

Recently, there has been a danger that the central function of the city might break down completely because they are becoming painfully inaccessible. Traffic breakdown has become a common phenomenon, especially in the metropolises of the Third World countries, “…cities have much to offer us when the quality of life within them is high and much to trouble us when it is not”.

Practical viability of CBD is not even 50 per cent possible for it to function. Even the developed countries’ CBD areas are not perfectly meeting their objectives, and are engrossed with incorrigible problems. Actually, there is little coordination between the theory and practice on the concept of CBD. Nevertheless mixed motives of the CBD have not been able to minimize its overwhelming attraction.

With the sprawling of cities and coming up of the residential sectors in different parts far and wide, the metropolises like Delhi, Kanpur, Hyderabad-Secunderabad in India are disintegrated into subsidiary retail business areas.

The significance of the primary CBD has been minimized because people do not prefer to reach the downtown under traffic-tension and uneasy movement out of their own residential sector. The outlying business district fulfills nearly all needs – social, cultural and economic – of the residents who are living about ten to twenty miles off the main city centre.

Hierarchical Order of CBD:

Now in cities at various places, facilities are available meeting the requirements of central business type. B.J.L. Berry has identified an hierarchical order among various business areas. The demand can be met at the various levels but of varying degree of threshold. Only the very essential goods are made available at the lowest order or at nearest point for consumers. This is the lowest level where only essential goods stores are located and are within easy reach.

At this most convenient point, frequency of consumers is very high. But with the increasing level of hierarchical order, the level or degree of threshold changes and more special nature of goods centres are found with lesser degree of consumers’ frequency (Figure 16.1).

Hierachical Order of CBD

Edge of CBD:

Degree of specialized nature of consumers’ goods goes on decreasing as one move away from the CBD towards its edge. The land values too show a gradual decline. The areas are occupied towards the edge by parks, public institutions, etc. Dickinson has termed the area of edge of CBD as a ‘zone of deterioration’, whereas it was called ‘blighted zone’ by Firey.

The edge of, CBD in many million-cities are infested by unauthorized occupation of land where mixed land uses have developed. Urban centres in this stage grow on the expense of the surrounding countryside, destroying the surrounding landscape on which it ultimately depends. It is also known as area of neglect and somewhere as zone of discard.

Shape of CBD:

Generally CBD resembles with ‘Quardrate Cross’ in shape(Figure 16.2). It is not necessary that CBD occupies the geographic centre of a city. It may be away from it where specialization of land uses develops to make the point of space a business-area of central order catering all sorts of people for all sorts of goods from all parts of a city. The shape of CBD depends upon nature of a city, its population, areal extent and above all, land uses. It has also its relations with the social and cultural institutions.

The shape and size of the CBD do not evenly spread on all directions. Near its edge, zone of neglect or discard may distort its regular shape. Similarly, zone of assimilation also affects the shape by residences over its edge occupied by business community. On a map, the shape is seen two-dimensional as a quadrate cross, but in reality it is three-dimensional, and best visualized as a pyramid – like figure with an irregularly shaped base, and a height varying in proportion to total central business floor area.

Shape of CBD

Land Uses in CBD:

Two groups of land uses are on average visible:

(a) Service-financial-office uses, and

(b) Retail business uses. Wholesale business activity and residential units as well as factories do not form part of it. Besides these some of the insti­tutions like administrative municipal council, other public institutions, parks, churches, place of worship, etc., also do not form its part.

The following list of the various uses may indicate various CB and non-CB uses:

The following list of the various uses may indicate various CB and non-CB uses

Delimitation of CBD:

It is a difficult job to delimit CBD accurately because land uses in the central part of a city also vary from cities to cities. There is lot of difference in the central areas of the developed and developing countries. Whatever methods are used by the western authors hardly suit universal urban environment. There is not yet any standard method of its delimitation. However, some of the methods have been given here which may reflect on the nature of fieldwork involved in its delimi­tation.

(1) W. William – Olsson Technique: This method takes into account a ‘shop rent index’ which is the total of shop rents of a building divided by the length of its frontage. But because of the difficulties involving in the collection of such data, it is impracticable. In India nobody discloses the correct value of rents.

(2) Sund and Isachsen used total turnover or trade instead of total shop rents. But, again, this is rather more unreliable to obtain and in the developing countries this type of data obtained from the Municipal Council (Department of Marketing) are totally fake. Therefore, it is very difficult to prepare a map out of the aforesaid data and the picture which is thus obtained is mostly diffused.

(3) Proud foot used to locate intra-city business areas by block-frontage-volume of sales for each side of a block of all stores whose addresses indicate that they front on that side. But Proud foot method too involves weaknesses being unconcerned about the activities of offices and banks.

(4) Other possible efforts include the data of building heights, population distribution, traffic and pedestrian flows, valuation data and land uses. Some minimum building height may be taken as a cut-off point to mark higher heights on a lot basis as the boundary of the CBD area. If the resulting boundary obtained is irregular, the same may be smoothened out by basing the map on blocks rather on lots. Population of dwelling units, pedestrian flows, traffic volume may, similarly help in delimiting the area in question.

An appropriate criterion may be selected after close empirical studies of the central city. Of course, it varies from city to city, to their size, to economies, to culture and to various activities which are centripetal to the area.

The simplest method is plotting of the land-use for delimi­tation of the CBD. Wherever there is a break in CB-use and non-CB use on a map, a point can be plotted for each street. But this must be carefully decided that, “how much of a break must there be in order to locate a point?” This problem is being solved by an application of Central Business Index Method (see Figure 16.3).

CBHI and CBII of Warcester

The delimitation may be done as:

(a) A block must have a Central Business Height Index (CBHI) of 1 or more, and

(b) A Central Business Intensity Index (CBII) of 50 per cent or more,

Where CBHI stands for C space + ground floor area and CBII for C Space/ Total Space × 100

A profile for each story of the block is prepared. Its horizontal scale is equal to a base map of a city. This method is not suitable for small cities where only a few blocks could meet the CBHI and CBII measures. In India, the method may only be applicable in case of main four metropolises. CB area in other cities can be identified by plotting CB uses on maps.

Some Problems Faced by CBD:

Nearly all CBD areas are overwhelmingly becoming crowdy during peak hours and near the Peak Land Value Intersection (PLVI) point traffic movement becomes a serious problem. This must be channelized by planning arterial roads and indicating places for disallowing traffic movement. Parking spaces should be provided on all sides at least one-to-two furlongs off the PLVI. In the absence of parking facility there is always insecurity and danger for pedestrians.

Kolkata has the largest volume of pedestrian traffic and the problem in the CBD area is being enhanced by encroachments by vendors. Calcutta Urban Development Project (CUDP) constructed underground parking plazas in the CBD. Usurpation of road-frontage and unauthorized occupation of footpaths should be strictly prohibited. The edge of CBD is notoriously occupied by slums and blight areas. In Delhi, old CBD including Sadar Bazar and Chandni Chowk is inflected by slums and blights.

Commonly in India, an average size of city does not have a distinct CBD resembling the cities of USA and Western Europe. One may identify a compact CBD in the metropolises of Kolkata (Chowringhee), Mumbai (Kalba Devi-Tank Rd.), Bangalore (M.G. Road), Delhi (Old Chandni Chowk), New Delhi (Connaught Place), etc.

Identification of CBD area in India is not possible through the Murphy-Vance Index Method. There may not be a single compact area. But in our cities, being multiple nuclei in structure, there may be small central areas developed on and around different nuclei. Their delimitation may be possible by plotting on map central-business uses of land.

Unplanned cities of India possess CB areas of distorted shape and may not be like ‘quadrate cross’. Another distinction which makes CB areas of India different in nature from their western counterpart is their residential use. Most of the central areas in India are occupied by semi-residential buildings and possess high density of population which is an uncommon feature in the Western Central areas.

CB areas of Indian cities are considerably flanked by haphazard retail marketing stores, narrow and tortuous roads, traffic congestion, in sanitary conditions, absence of footpaths and parking space, and above all, slums and squatters. These possess an unhealthy look and movement within the central business areas of our country is rather unpleasant and rather a difficult job.




About Rashid Faridi

I am Rashid Aziz Faridi ,Writer, Teacher and a Voracious Reader.
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