BEYOND A SMART CITY

BEYOND A SMART CITY
Jul 2019 , by , in Latest News

In an endeavor to accommodate increasing urban population and upgrading the infrastructure of existing cities, investment and technology intensive 100 smart cities have been envisaged all over
the country. But does being Smart means being humane as well? Kartikeya Sarabhai, Founder & Director, Centre for Environment Education feels, the cities today lack social spaces for the citizens. “GIFT city is a Greenfield project but, what about the existing cities. How do we ensure citizens wellbeing, while making our cities technically advanced?” According to Paresh Sharma, Chief Town
Planner- Gujarat, Government of Gujarat, livability in a city has not been given emphasis over a period of time. “It’s time we realize what is livability. From the layout on a paper and actual streets to social groups and society – the role of each person living in the city needs to be recognized.”

Ar. Parul Zaveri, Co-Founder & Principal Architect, Abhikram contended that unfortunately in India, people have no say in the design of their city. “Traditionally, Indian cities grew organically with
various communities participating in the design and use of spaces as per the social needs. Today we do not have that freedom. This lack of citizen participation has also led to lack of sense of ownership of the
city by the citizens.” Ar. Jagrut Patel, Founder and Principal ArchitectJagrut & Partners emphasized that city cannot be designed in isolation or at one point of time. “City design is a continuous process that keeps evolving with time. There are many forces that come into play from social, economical to cultural. Cities keep on changing the way they function and cannot be frozen into one model.”

A city provides for social and economic fulfilment of its citizens. Therefore, citizen participation is a must if we want to build ‘good cities. Focus on sustainability, environment and humanity in concurrence with utilizing technologies is the way forward.

Dipesh Shah, Head – Business Development & Chief (IFSC), GIFT City citing the example of new cities like Gandhinagar in Gujarat, Chandigarh in Punjab and Navi Mumbai in Maharashtra
pointed out that new developments take time to get settled and for residents to adopt new way of changing infrastructure. Prof. H.M. Shivanand Swamy, Executive Director, Center for Excellence in Urban Transport, CEPT University brought forth the important aspect of meeting people’s aspirations through the city’s design and infrastructure planning. “People need economic prosperity, social connection and emotional wellbeing through their city life. We need to rethink how to rebuild our cities rather than building more cities – the balance is missing.”

THE LONG ROAD TO LIVEABLE CITIES
A smart city means that the infrastructure and utilities from housing, commerce and transportation to utilities and waste management will be automated in some form and monitored from a central system. But will the technologically advanced infrastructure help increase liveability of the city?

Ar. Parul Zaveri said, “Natural elements of the climate and heritage of the people are part of the city development. Once you combine all these with technology and consumer’s participation it’ll become successful.”

Paresh Sharma stated, “Pluralism tends to trump over individualism. The parks and open spaces are now getting restricted to clubs and ‘Garba’ grounds in Gujarat. Society’s interaction with the city planners is absent. The major concern is that the smart cities should not end up being gated communities.” Prof. H.M. Shivanand Swamy concurred that there is a need to distinguish between
individuals and communities. “We as people and the cities, need to design for community living and not individual living.”

Dipesh Shah pointed out that city infrastructures need to keep pace with rapid urbanization, industrialization, job creation and quality of life. “Problems such as air pollution due to manual waste collection, plastic water bottles for drinking water etc. can be addressed with smart city systems like automated waste collection or drinking water supply in taps. This would also need change in people’s
way of interaction with infrastructure.”

Smart City Mission’s intention is good by way of setting guidelines for new developments and improving the existing urban settlements. However, they should not end up being micro urban centers instead of
vibrant communities.

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