Rising From The Ashes: What Bhubaneswar Can Learn From Hiroshima

On this day in 1945, the world saw the dropping of the first atomic bomb in the city of Hiroshima, Japan. As many as 1,40,000 people were killed and 69 percent of the city’s buildings were razed to the ground. By the end of 1945, only 60 percent of the city’s original population had survived, spelling a seemingly bleak future for the city and its people.

I visited the city in 2006, expecting to see a Ghost City but I was proved wrong, as Hiroshima had rebuilt itself as a world-class city in less than 60 years that no Indian city can match either its quality of life or its lifestyle.

I landed at Hiroshima Railway Station and walked towards the site where the atomic bomb ‘Little Boy’ was dropped. The ruins of the dome still stand across the Ōta River with no alteration, reminding every visitor of the horrific day. Today, it is a World Heritage Site.

Hiroshima City was transformed from a heap of ash into a metropolis. According to Lonely Planet’s ‘The Cities Book’, Hiroshima was assessed to be one of the 200 most-attractive cities in the world, along with just two other Japanese cities. Singapore ranked 25th, while three Japanese cities Tokyo, Kyoto and Hiroshima ranked 26th, 45th and 133rd respectively.

Over the years, Hiroshima was developed in a slow but steady manner. Its tragic history has left its imprint on the development plans of the city. The Peace Memorial Park and Peace Boulevard were constructed in the city centre to comfort the souls of the bomb victims. Out of respect for those who perished during war time, green belts of trees and memorials dotted the place along the Peace Boulevard, instead of developing it for residential or commercial purposes.

At the museum, the remnants of that day are preserved. Like clocks stopped exactly at 8.15 am, tiffin boxes of school children. There were copies of letters of protest sent out to world leaders every time a country tests its nuclear capability; One of them was to Prime Minister of India by the Mayor of Hiroshima.

Over the years, Hiroshima has taken steps to revitalise itself and join the world economy. But it has not abandoned its past. The streetcar system, which existed a few generations ago, is still in use today. The citizens of Hiroshima still consider the electricity-powered public bus a symbol of the city’s revitalisation as it resumed operations just three days after the atomic bomb landed.

Today, Hiroshima has targeted to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 5 percent in 2030 and by 70 percent by 2050. The community has made 5 percent reduction in the total amount of combusted waste.

Even though I moved around Hiroshima by walk, bicycle and public transport system but one that surprised me was the electricity-powered public bus which was in action during World War and even today. Looking at Hiroshima bounce back, I wondered how in 75 years Bhubaneswar was able to dry down its city sponges and imported an idea that killed the very fabric of independent India’s first planned city into a concrete jungle. Well, there is a lot to learn from Hiroshima, even though the first electric vehicle ran on the streets of Bhubaneswar while the nation is celebrating 75 years of Independence.

The city of Hiroshima, which turned 75 post ‘Little Boy’ two years ago, symbolises peace and hope, and hopes cities around the world will learn from its success story than just remembering it as the city that felt the vibration of the atomic bomb. Interestingly, Bhubaneswar will turn 75 as a planned capital city in a year’s time. Well, what is common between both cities is peace.

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