Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Why an all-round success of the SmartCities in India is doubtful?

There’s always a difference between a dream and a vision. A dream may be a happening of sub-conscious mind while a vision is based on one’s wisdom in his conscious existence. A dream is based on an individual’s thought process while the vision is based on our collective thought processes put together. To dream of building SmartCities was undoubtedly good but urbanization is one of the toughest thing in this world to be dealt in such easily and that too in this fast paced mode of developments and advancements being experienced by our ongoing civilization. For a smart mode of development, indigenous planning is the first requisite. Cities are being treated more as a market commodity nowadays like ‘We provide the best service and product' with assurances and terms & conditions tag in the small right hand corner generally in small fonts so as to give it the least attention. The government should make consultations but it should also remember that there can’t be any prototype designs for building a real smart city.

The second thing is the smart utilization of the natural system. There are doubts when environmental planning is done separately ignoring the fact that the natural system is itself the smartest thing in this universe and its utilization in an integrated manner would have been given a higher priority in the planning process if aspirations are for building real smart and sustainable cities. The government has called for a competition and it is quite possible for it to come up with yet another policy and test based on quantitative indexing. Smart cities literally means smart in every sense and not just IT-enabling of a city to make it more interactive. If the government is eying at it, then the term DigitalCities would have been more apt and less confusing for the concerned fraternity. 

The third is the human society itself. The real utilization of the smart technology in places where it will be placed in Indian cities is another thing that creates doubt about the success of the smartcities in such a nation where a major share of its population can be normally seen living in the slums and degraded urban parts generally out of lack of awareness and education. The usage of the entire technology base which is being conceptualized to be incorporated into the urban system of the so-called SmartCities is itself quite doubtful with a population still trying to come up in its education sector. If the government really have aspirations for planning and building Smart future for the nation, it should first look into things like raising its percentage share of GDP used for education and learning and then come up with its indigenous planning approach and then the utilization of smart technology would have been more appropriate and suitable. But the government has its vision and what all its inhabitants can do is increase their participation in the whole planning process.  

The government is often seen pressing the advantage that the country has for having the world’s largest demographic dividend, but its proper utilization as per their capabilities and potential isn’t being looked into through wider perspective and the exercise has looked more concentrated to provide them employment in order to boost the economic development. Government has to understand that economic development is only a means to an end & over-emphasizing it has produced some non-adaptable or failed examples across the World. Smartcities (as per the contemporary approaches generally found being followed) may come up with some sectoral successes but in an inter-dependent system of human settlement, following sectoral approaches  can never create balanced, smart & sustainable future and the concerned fraternity should realize the phenomenon of the domino effect which is one of the best way of understanding the complexity while planning up for the smartcities. India has a golden chance to write its urban history better than many other nations of the world but the key is to not repeat the mistakes which are already committed by our fellow human societies and are found inappropriate/unsuitable/unworthy for the efficient functioning of an urban system. 

Image from asid

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

It’s not just about a single profession - the collective attitude is responsible.

What has been referred to as a shameful act by the Indian Media in Nepal has originally revealed the face of the humanity which is advancing towards becoming more individualistic over the coming decades as the process of urbanization is intensifying with every passing moment and there are no clues yet to plan those social & natural aspects while formulating urban policies and programs by the government and the persons involved. The pet & over-hyped project as they call it of Mr. Modi, India’s honourable Prime Minister - smart cities can be looked as his yet another way of attracting the masses which just seems more inspired from the likes of ‘SmartPhones’ and ‘SmartTV’ but the latter are just human creations out of his artistic mind and the same principles of digitizing can’t be applied to the human settlements as we aren’t the only thing this world is meant for and cities aren’t just assembling of good quality infrastructure to provide employment and trade facility. Focusing on economic development is good but thinking it as the end product of human development is one of the biggest mistakes which the whole humanity has been doing now especially after ‘The Great Depression’ of 1920’s and 30’s as it is commonly known as.  When everything becomes economically active over the brains of human beings, his basic empathetic characteristics are over-ridden by his individual needs & desires and he tends to make such mistakes as made by the media-persons in Nepal.

It’s not the mistake of a single profession or a single person rather it’s the outcome of the accelerated rate of advancements and developments that the present generations of the ongoing human civilization are experiencing and they are left in a state of confusion and ambiguity leaving them to get easily inspired by the availability of excess of information over the web world which they usually grasp without practically applying their brain and experiences over it.  Moreover, with the structure of the society changing to more conserving one the situation can be seen to get worsen over the coming decades if proper social and natural planning isn’t carried out by India. Governments are formed to look after the system of human settlements with a vision and not just to beautify them without the understanding of its inter-dependent nature. 

India is at crucial junction of writing its urban history with a major portion yet to plan over the coming years. What our future generations will read and think about us will be defined in these coming years. Therefore rather than playing with them for any type of individual or group gains, the government should focus on increasing the capabilities of its population not just in terms of money and finances - there are other significant aspects as well like social security, relaxing with nature and the end product which the government should focus should be to provide its citizens a happy, healthy and prosperous environment. It can’t be done by virtue of isolation planning approach which is generally seen by Indian mode of development. The planning would have to be carried out considering the entire system as one single thing which looks quite complex to understand and plan for, but it’s not a thing which can’t be worked out for formulating rejuvenated indigenous approach for planning balanced and efficient human settlements if the concerned nationals are really concerned about building a better future for the country. The planning has to be made far more visionary if India has to build its sustainable and smart human settlements of the future. 

Events like that in Nepal should be seen as an eye opener and nature’s signal rather than concentrating on blaming a section or group of people. Like in this case, the media persons involved aren’t aliens or from any other planet – their mindset is the reflection of the society as a whole in general and people should understand before making comments over such things that they are also part of it and they can only bring in the change in their society by participating in constructive things. Our collective attitude should be positive and achieving progress and development will be a lot easier than. And media being a group of people which are considered to be human beings with more wisdom and humanity than ‘aam aadmi’ (as its trending for some years now), should better learn the subjects of humanity and ethics before even thinking of becoming a journalist or any media person. We all should remember it at least one time a day that we are human beings first than being anything else in this world and shall act accordingly. Being hopeful for some more positive changes as some are already under process.

Note - This article was written after trending topics like #GoBackIndiaMedia and others which created a lot of buzz around the Globe.
 Image from akashbanerjee

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Can it be called as development with No Quality Air and No Quality Water?

There are no questions about us being the specie interfering the most in the efficient functioning of the natural system. We are often proud of our achievements and we should be as the race of humanity has made tremendous advancements and developments for improving his living standards and bringing in more comfort to our lives. But there are many points which the modern human beings have to think upon for planning an efficient future for the generations to come. Let’s take two basic human requirements needed by him - air and water needed for living and breathing at first and then the productivity of the citizens is directly related with them which is then related with what the focus of the humanity has been on – the economic development. It’s pretty important for the human beings who are really concerned about economic development to try and understand the inevitable cycle in which we all are living in. Economic development isn’t just a factor of making investments and earning profits alone (though it’s needed for social well-being as well). It surely is much about it. Several news are published daily from across the Globe highlighting the issues of ever-rising pollution, levels of global warming and climate change (which was never the same), but there seems no concrete and integrated plans to effectively reduce their share over the coming decades. After going through several reports published by world renowned organizations, no one seem to be focusing on the progress of the system altogether but in parts and in isolation. 

I shall not highlight the levels of pollution for different human urban settlements as they are already under so much of media coverage. Let’s just consider one of the two earliest megacities of the world – Delhi and Beijing. One of the reasons behind discussing these cities is the kind of impact they have on their respective national planning approaches followed while planning cities. Also, the two nations involved are about to experience world’s largest share of human migration from living in rural spaces to urban counterparts and there is still a lot of planning activity to be seen by them. The inhabitants of both the city are inhaling air that doesn’t fit with human cycle, they are generally tend to buy bottled water in the absence of potable municipal water, noise levels are found as high as not considered fit for human hearing and may even damage ear cells at some nodes.

Over 4 crore of human beings are living in the urban agglomerations of these two cities and they aren’t getting quality basic human living requirements, but the countries are still said to be achieving human development. Both the countries annually tops in the charts of the amount of development made. I would like to emphasize that if it is termed to as development then the personalities concerned surely lacks either a multi-disciplinary vision or their personal gains over-rides the benefits of the human society. What the Indian government has done to curb the levels of pollution in the national capital can be termed as playing with the lives and humanly aspirations of the present generation and also of those yet to get born. Development isn’t just building physical infrastructure for the people to get employment – the picture is pretty larger which is generally left unwatched. 

These cities have to take some strict steps. Such Steps are needed to be taken which increases the system efficiency and not to counter the issues which arise over time. The future of our civilization is in the hands of our cities but sadly they aren’t properly taken care of. The human race must be big enough to admit their mistakes, smart enough to profit from them, and strong enough to correct them if we all are looking for a better life ahead. 

Images from chinatoday & cleanbiz

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Will they really be smart or it’s just following the trend?

Smart cities has almost succeeded last decade’s most trending topic of achieving sustainable development in India (for words used while discussing urban or human development) and concepts have also just become like the new sale in the market which comes up every other year. Major community seem to be getting excited already about their new settlements which are still in the conceptual stage but a question is still rolling in the brains of some people – will they be really smart? Both the planning persons and the government officials  ministers involved have emphasized the importance and significance of making smart cities. But are they themselves clear with what a smart development really is? While going through various interviews and videos on YouTube I have find a state of confusion and ambiguity among the fraternity and many of them weren’t able to define it properly in their own terms. For instance – once I asked a senior planning person involved in conceptualizing smart cities – I asked, what would be our approach for achieving smart development? And I was left quite disappointed by his perspective which went like this – we’ll make the cities automatic. And that’s it, although he continued with his influential answer but there was no proper vision and understanding about how cities actually function. I’m afraid where this mode of development guided by a state of confusion will take the urban development of India.

In this age of ever-increasing human interference where sustainability (though itself is now one of the most polluted words of 21st century) could have held the human population of India focused towards their own natural system of living but with the introduction of a new term on the lines of a smart-phone & so many other smart’s – the urbanization seem to have focused on the introduction of IT sector into human living and which isn’t a bad move in any case but it also can’t be applied to every other city without analyzing the inter-disciplinary nature of the urban system and also its long term effects.  A real smart city will be such where people enjoys their living in a happy, healthy and prosperous environment and not just by making it a digital city no matter the population is left with conditions of stress, depression and anxiety. A smart development is such where the whole settlement system is planned altogether in a state of harmony and unity. The things which are being tried to look after in the so-called smart cities are pretty sectoral and surely it doesn’t guarantee long-term efficiency.

Histories are built and shaped as we are acting today and the government has to understand that India’s history is on a critical point as its population is increasingly getting urbanized and that it has a bigger role to play than to just focus on the physical infrastructural growth of the country. The concept of smart development is quite good but on a sad note it has been widely misunderstood by the concerned fraternity themselves and India should really look again for the path which it has yet to begin. Cities should be made IT-friendly but keeping in mind the inter-dependent nature of the system in which we are living in. Cities should be made smart but a proper vision is also needed to make them likewise after understanding the progression which our settlements are experiencing at a rate never experienced before. 

Image by lokchetna