‘The single most important thing a city can do is provide a community where interesting, smart people want to live with their families.’ Malcolm Gladwell
Calling Fuvahmulah a ‘City’ was the biggest flattery I heard so far. Yes, I felt flattered too. Kind of felt proud. But that feeling didn’t last long. As fast as a lightning bolt, the reality came and slapped on my face. The reality is, there is nothing much ‘city’ in our city.
Now that we have a city by name, it is a responsibility of every Fuvahmulah citizen to make this city a real city. A city that is on the same line with cities around the world.
The world is developing. Today more than 50 percent of the world population lives in cities, 74 percent of Europe, 80 percent in the Middle East, leaving the rural world behind.
A city, at some point in time in the past is a village. Even Malè city was also once a village. Villages depend on imports to supply their daily needs. Their productions are too small to feed all the people. A village might have farming, fishing, and wood works. But they are not produced in a sufficient quantities to cater the demand. Take woodworking from the village for example. At first when they start, they produce a small quantity. However, as they increase efficiency, by improving management, obtaining more capital, they begin to supply enough quantities to meet the demand.
Once they start producing more than the people need, the worker will look for a new work and start doing that work along with the old work. This means the wood worker, if he make furniture, adds the works of ship building together with furniture work. Once he reach the stage where he can supply enough ships to meet the demand of the people who need ships, he begin to look for another work to add. This time he may add importing woods on top of ship building work. This way, when all the workers start doing that, the number of products and services increase in the city. Before you only get furnitures from that city, but now you can get boats. This way of adding new works over old works over time transform a village into a city.
A city has the ability to cater every human needs. This is the essence of a city. If a city fails to cater a human need, it is no longer a city. If you get sick, go to a city. If you need latest dress, furniture, cosmetics, beauty salon, spare parts for GN motorcycle, you will find it in the city. You will find the items in its best quality. If you crave the taste of a pepperoni pizza, you don’t go to a village to get it. Things as small as making a duplicate key, finding a headset, to get a new stamp for your stamp collection, to print a high quality family photo, to find someone to get married, to get food for your pet, to replace the battery of your watches, you will find in the city. Though it may take some time, by adding new works on top of older works, Fuvahmulah city can develop it’s economy in to an economy of a city.
Apart from production, there are other things a city require. Proper street network is essential for a healthy economic activity. Driving on a bumpy road, dusty, and over puddles will damage the wheels of delivery vehicles as well as decrease the lifetime of pick ups. Soon the pick up spend more time in the garage and less time on the road. Shops cannot not refill their stocks. As a result the whole economic activity decline. Therefore, the first thing a city need in order to fuel the engine of its economy is a well maintained modern roads.
Another important area to focus is the safety. In the process of city transformation, as facilities increase, with this, the crime rate will also increase. If the criminals are left without control, they will become organized criminal groups, like Mafia in Italy, Yakuza in Japan, mob groups and thug groups begin to hang around corners of the street. It’s possible to maintain peace and low crime rate in villages by using religious preaching, as in Belfast, Toronto, and Vancouver in the early days. However as it transform into a city, it need a stronger policing, 24/7 police patrol, CCTV camera on roads and stores. Police should detect criminal activities before it occur. Business has to use anti theft devices and night guards to protect their assets.
When we look at a city from afar, we see huge buildings, roads, bridges, and road lamps. Since there will be massive architecture and construction works going on in a developing city, the works has to come from a single source, called a City Planning Commission. The commission consists of intellectuals, I will not go in details, as they are qualified to do the work.
City is also a learning community. Encouraging, participating, and producing knowledge. A city need many learners and leaders. It is a place where such leaders are produced. A developing city like Fuvahmulah need institutions that provide all kinds of education so that it can cater anyone who want it. Schools that provide K-12 education, college and research institutions, seminars, think tanks, educational fairs, TED like social events, etc. are essential.
Apart from those big stuffs, small but essential part of a city include:
- Idealism – A value based approach on activity and functions.
- Diversity – Welcoming different cultures, ways of life, interest and people of different backgrounds.
- Gendered approach – Having both sex’s perspective on activities.
A society missing these small components will have internal conflicts and frictions in different areas. People, instead of spending time on development and progress, they will waste more time dealing with interpersonal issues.
In short, the big blocks Fuvahmulah city need for further development is economics, roads, safety and knowledge.
The Economy of Cities by Jane Jacobs