Friday, June 27, 2014

India : 100 New Smart Cities - Roadmap to Sustainable Urban Development

The urbanization policies and reforms carried away in the Republic of India have by far seemed to have not attained their defined goals. The reasons may be many – adoption of the foreign models into the Indian context without studying the prevailing Indian conditions, lack of co-operative planning between different sectors/authorities, lack of public awareness to avail the government run programs and initiatives, rapid growth of population, to name some, but it would have been the prime duty of those involved to look into all those factors that defines the planning, growth and development of the urban settlements. One of the major issues concerning with the urban design features of the developing nations has been the lack of planning according to their own context and prevailing conditions. With the change in the central government and announcement of 100 new smart cities by the Urban Ministry, India seem to have created a chance for itself to release the ever increasing pressure on the existing cities – but the planning regulations to be followed and its implementation process is quite doubtful.

The country is on a rapid phase of urbanization with around 35 percent of the total population expected to live by 2020 which will substantially increase to around 50 percent by 2050 and 70 percent by 2070. The figure suggests the scope of urban development and also the extent of fresh urban spaces to be planned and developed in the coming decades. Therefore, it will be quite significant not to repeat the mistakes committed in previous attempts.

Some of the bigger cities like New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata seem to have crossed their carrying capacity limit with the situation seem to get worsen in the coming decades. There’s no point in developing the new cities with these cities as their prime model of development as these cities have by far not able to provide the quality of life an urban space is expected to provide to their citizens. The Ministry quoted three words – ‘Education, Employment and Entertainment’ as the three sectors on which emphasis would be given. Its however quite suspicious that by emphasizing on these three will create the sustainable urban settlements.

The diversity of the country can be said unanimous and hence with the changes in the diverse conditions and culture – changes the habits of the communities, environmental conditions and all other things which are equally important in planning the road towards sustainable development. The chances of a prototype city planning seem to get vanished here.

India should quickly look into the significance of local area planning and development – planning for a city in Meghalaya can’t be done by the people in Chennai. It’s more of a local approach which helps in an efficient planning process. Also, transportation planning needs a revitalisation plan – building flyovers, widening of the roads, enhancing various MRTS schemes are some short-term development which seem necessary at times, but their long term viability is suspicious. Transportation defines any urban structure and hence it can’t be done in isolation – the interdisciplinary nature needs to be understood through a wider window. Also, transportation of goods to these new cities should be sorted out – allowing a agriculture buffer zone in the city’s close proximity may be one such solution which will cater to different urban issues that has arisen in recent times. Special emphasis on planning the cities pedestrian and cycling friendly should be given to reduce the extent of the carbon footprints and also to provide a healthy lifestyle to its citizens. There's no point planning the cities and that too new developments to promote consumption of private vehicles by providing wide expressways and ignoring other aspects of mobility. The difference between mobility and accessibility should be also looked in through a wider aspect. The formation of the Urban-Rural Continuum discussed in earlier posts may prove quite significant and will cater some real long-term development. The concept of density planning should also be studied and brought into implementation for these new city developments.

The step of the creation of the 100 new cities seems to be a nice opportunity for the country to guide their whole developmental process and boost up their economic strength. The Indian government and the authorities have to be visionary and far-sighted with any urban development and should emphasize on long-term development. Planning process will need to be carried in co-ordination among different ministries, authorities, departments and communities. The participatory approach may prove quite beneficial and the sites which will be selected for the new cities needs to be strategically selected and a roadmap for their collective development should be prepared at first. There’s no point of selecting the sites according to the different region and state demands and then linking them with a roadmap. The cities should also look within the carrying capacity of the environment and try to present a model to other nations by planning it across disciplines, in co-ordination among different authorities and as per the quality of life that a human deserves.

Images from raconteur and hindustantimes  

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