FOOD AND THE CITY : Why should we relocate the belly of Quatre Bornes?

‘The town is the symbol of society – of mutual help and friendly ’cooperation of fatherhood, motherhood, brotherhood, sisterhood, of wide relations between man and man-of broad, expanding sympathies-of science, art, culture, religion.’ Ebenezer Howard
Quatre-Bornes today is the fastest growing town in Mauritius. Rivalling the country’s capital, Port-Louis, Ebene (Quatre-Bornes) contains major banks headquarters, hotels, schools, shopping centres, IT and other communication centre. With all these facilities that the town offers, Quatre-Bornes has become an important financial centre in Mauritius and has positioned itself as No. 2. It is a critical time to think about the Quatre-Bornes of tomorrow, as a high growth of the economy and sustainable development relies a lot on a boost in the real estate activities. The urban metamorphosis taking place in Quatre-Bornes is creating a disparity in the supply of affordable housing and other services and amenities as the demand is going up. More and more people want to live in Quatre-Bornes. It is the right time for the town of Quatre-Bornes to envision for its future in a smart and sustainable way.
Quatre Bornes is a linear town. The St Jean Road is its primary business street which divides the town into two parts along the St Jean Church to La Louise axis. On the La Louise to Pierrefonds axis, the town is again divided into two parts along Palma Road. Quatre Bornes has a distinctive town centre as it lies at the junction where St Jean Road and the former railway line (built in 1864) intersected, along Victoria Avenue. The town centre contains public buildings such as the town hall, the market, post office and the bus terminus.
Traffic Congestion - The Real Problem of Urbanisation in the Central Business District
The Quatre Bornes of Today is experiencing serious traffic jam along its main artery, (the St Jean Road). The cause of this problem is due to the fact that more people live on the edge of the town and they have to drive their cars to go to the town centre to get to work or to the market. It is compounded by people being brought into town on large roads or motorways. These roads then link up with smaller, older, narrower roads in the town centre. This causes a bottleneck and congestion. Traffic congestion is further worsened by the bus terminus which is right in the heart of the town. Congestion along the St Jean Road is not only causing stress on the road users but also destroying the air quality.

The Old Market – A Local Eyesore

The old market was built in 1941 opposite the then railway station which is now the bus terminus and taxi stand along the railway line. When the railway line was removed in the late 1950s, the strip of land adjacent to the market was turned into a street fair for food and clothing. The structure of the old market has remained unchanged since its construction and is a real eyesore which is left to decay right in the heart of the town. During street fairs, market-goers park their cars along adjacent streets causing inconvenience and obstruction.

Restoring Civic Pride
What could be more extraordinary than improving the ordinary elements of our everyday life?

From the Belly to the Heart

For over fifty years, the residents of Quatre Bornes are desperate for a new market as they saw the expansion of the town. Finding a suitable site for the new market and the bus terminus has been a matter of debate over last few years without any concrete actions taken so far. To solve the situation, we can learn a lot from the French and the benefits of relocating the central food market from its heart to the outer ring of the town by looking at the case of Les Halles de Paris. Les Halles was the traditional central market of Paris. It was the hub of all food distribution in the city for over 800 years. It was also known as the ‘Belly of Paris’, a term coined by Emile Zola. It was actually the success of the market that brought the end of its operation in the heart of Paris. Congestion in the city centre had worsened gradually in the first half of the 20th Century due to increasing volume of traffic to and from the market causing serious bottleneck. In the 1960s, the market was dismantled and relocated to Rungis, a suburb, south of Paris. The site of Les Halles was redeveloped into a shopping mall and metro station. Four hectares of land was converted into a public garden which was opened in 1986 and adjacent streets were pedestrianized. Similarly, the ideal place to relocate the market of Quatre Bornes will be to a site on its outskirt where several hectares of land would be available close to agricultural lands/farms to allow fresh produce to reach the market stalls in short time and furthermore It has to be connected to the peripheral motorway to reduce traffic on the roads of the town. This arrangement enables vegetables and fruits to be loaded direct into the trucks from agricultural farms and so sent to the market or from the market to distant markets, thus not only effecting a great saving in regard to packaging and cartage, and reducing to minimum loss from spoilage but also reducing traffic congestion and air pollution from vehicle exhaust fumes which can significantly prove to be profitable and sustainable. Thus, the site of the actual market and bus terminus can be redeveloped into a public square with appropriate landscape for pedestrians and cyclists to give a new vitality and vibrancy to the town centre.

La Maison des Jeunes et de la Culture

According to Nicolas Sarkozy, former French President, ‘A town is built for man and not vice versa. A town can be big but it should possess a soul. Nowadays, people can communicate instantly to anyone around the world but they still have problems to live together in the same neighbourhood. A town should bring people together, unite them and not exclude anyone. The town has responsibility to offer a good quality of life to its citizens and not to suffocate them. It should make life easier and not make it more difficult. The town should unite people; embrace the different cultures and ideas while protecting the most vulnerable.’
What could be a better way to unite people of all five wards of Quatre Bornes; embrace the different cultures and ideas other than to build an Arts and Sports complex/civic centre under the concept of ‘La Maison des Jeunes et de la Culture’ right in the heart of Quatre Bornes on the site of the Guy Rozemont Football Stadium for the youth of the town in order to restore civic pride. An academy that would provide the following activities under one roof with the common goal to break-away from all the elements that have dehumanised the town of Quatre Bornes:
Sports Activities:
Basketball, Volleyball, Football, Tennis and other activities
Cultural Activities:
Jewellery making workshop, painting and drawing workshop, music, drama, cooking workshop, film screening and other activities
Leisure Activities:
Board games, indoor games (ping-pong / baby-foot / billiard) and other activities
Community Activities:
Tree planting, cleaning up of pathways and river banks, partnership with local social organisations and other activities
Socio-educational Activities:
Career guidance workshop, discussion groups, help with homework, social life and other activities
Prevention Programmes:
Drugs, crimes, mental health, information desk, discussions and debate forums, quiz, interactive games and causal talks on pop culture