The painful neglect of the old walled cities in the urban policies of developing nations has been noted for some time (Steinberg 1996; Naidu 1994; Mohan 1992), albeit with very little impact. The decay of historic cities in India and elsewhere in the developing world is in contrast to Europe’s old cities, for instance, which have been carefully preserved and protected. The old core of historic cities like the walled imperial cities in developing countries are typically regarded by city planners in the same manner as slum settlements – as ‘blight’ and ‘anachronisms and obstructions to modernization’ (Lingawi 1988: 36). They are sites of stagnation as their built environments and infrastructure are incapable of advancing modernist development to a significant extent. In his study of Islamic heritage and development of old Middle Eastern cities, Lingawi notes (1988: 36) that heritage is perceived as inherently incompatible with modern urban development for a number of reasons: ‘The narrow streets are not accessible to automobiles, there are no modern sewer systems, modern appliances do not fit easily into the traditional structures, and so forth’. In the Middle East, the old Islamic core city was ‘modernised’ primarily through ‘plowing wide avenues’ to allow motorised transport, even though narrow lanes are important in desert cities to provide shade and relief from the scorching sun (Lingawi 1988: 36). Kuwait City presents the most ‘extreme example’ where a Western-style CBD (central business district) has fully replaced the Islamicstyle residential and trade areas. India, along with other developing countries with a wealth of old cities, has lost valuable time in analysing and strategising methods for the renewal and rehabilitation of the traditional historic urban cores. The neglect and stagnation of the old cities is of concern for India’s overall urban development. These cities, like the newer cities, pose real problems and threats to sustainable urban development but their intensity is often greater, and developing appropriate policies is that much more challenging. Older cities experience significantly higher levels of air pollution through a combination of extreme traffic congestion, rapid deforestation of the green areas and particularly high-density living (Mohan 1992). These cities also face extremes of water pollution as well as

scarcity more intensely as a result of outdated or non-existent sewage and garbage disposal systems (Mohan 1992), and consequently they are more vulnerable to human health risks. Further, the existing frameworks to theorise and plan for modern Indian cities are insufficient for the historic cities. The old cities of India, characterised by multiple uses of space, fluidity of movement and meaning, congestion and traditional social relations lack a ‘conceptual vocabulary’ familiar to the planners of India’s new modernist cities (Gandhi 2011: 205). The fact that such precolonial cities did have their own indigenously developed planning and design framework, vocabulary and logic regarding spatiality, ecology, mobility and land-use (Mathur and da Cunha 2007) was of no consequence; these cities experienced rapid decline and decay as their infrastructural development stagnated and the new cities outside the metaphorical or the bounded walls of the old cities were seen as the ideal urban bastions of modernisation, hygiene and progress. Old cities became stigmatised even in planning by the negative associations of poverty, backwardness, congestion and pollution, and are viewed as inherently incompatible with notions of development and modernity. Retrieving the genius loci of the old cities, and understanding the various elements, attachments and associations that constitute meaning, place and identity is vital to develop planning frameworks that respond to their socio-cultural realities. Understanding the multiple manifestations of religiosity in the old cities may in fact be central to their genius loci and renewed vitality. The old cities of the Middle East offer substantial credence to the argument that religion may be a central element to the renewal of old Indian cities. Baghdad, Cairo and Tunis, for example, are similar to the historic and walled cities in India in their experience of urban decay, poverty, congestion and migration of the younger and wealthier citizens to the newer parts of the city. Tunis presents the best-practice example of urban renewal as its latent religious character and heritage was recognised as a vital part of the Old City, rather than as a decaying, unwanted eyesore that was an impediment to the modernisation and development of the whole city. ‘The key then’, writes Lingawi (1988: 37), ‘is to realize the role and the actual vitality of the traditional Muslim city’. The elements that made for the vibrant older traditional Muslim city thus were excavated and celebrated in the formal planning of the city. In the next section of this chapter, I discuss the urban development challenges of India’s old cities. Specifically, I examine three broad issues where tangible and intangible religious heritage have a strong influence: the ghettoisation of minority groups and the creation of pockets of urban poverty as well as the museumification of certain spaces which leads to spatial inequity and decay in other spaces; the particular vulnerabilities that women suffer in old cities; and religious heritage’s links with the natural ecology of old cities. The chapter aims to provide as broad an overview as possible of the multiple developments faced by India’s old cities to demonstrate the extent of religion and heritage’s links with these issues. The prosperity, resilience and sustainability of India’s old cities are linked to overall sustainable urban development in the country. By

extension, religion’s importance to developing sustainable cities in India extends to well beyond the walled boundaries of the old cities.