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Vol. XXVI No. 04, June 1-15, 2016

What to expect from Smart Cities

A. Shankar, National Director, Head: Urban Solutions, Strategic Consulting, JLL, India
There are 10 Things Citizens expect out of 20 Smart Cities of India

Access to better public transport: The growing urbanisation has increased the number of private vehicles thereby creating traffic congestion in almost all the cities of India. Hence all the cities have taken a huge step in developing or strengthening the public transportation network to encourage citizens to use them and to reduce use of their private vehicles. As part of smart cities, proposals aim to have easy access to public transport and enhance mobility with the cities by use of ICT solutions. Since public transport will take citizens faster, easier and cheaper to their destinations, the modal shift from private transport to public transport is expected to be huge and congestion within city centers is expected to reduce to a great extent. Of the 20 cities, cities which are focusing on ICT solutions for urban mobility are Pune, Jaipur, Surat, Davanagere, Indore, Belagavi, Udaipur and Chennai.

Putting pedestrians first: Pedestrianisation and Non-Motorised Transport are part of smart city visions of cities like Pune, Belagavi, Udaipur and Chennai, being the first city to implement Non-Motorised Transport Policy in India as well. Citizens will enjoy wide pathways with street furniture at regular intervals with easy mobility to differently abled. Car-free Sundays that will make streets available for citizens to interact and do lot of activities on streets. Major accidents on roads are caused to pedestrians; hence in order to ensure pedestrian safety on-street parking will be managed and organised. Adding to it, cycle sharing system and feeder system will help citizens resolve their last mile connectivity as it is the major pull factor that hinders the successful functioning of public transport. Citizens can use the cycles to commute to their destination from the public transport mode.

Availability of adequate parking: Intelligent parking management, a part of many of the winning Smart City proposals, will help citizens to find parking at ease and even pre-book their parking slot along with online payment modes. On-street parking management is a reliable revenue for the cities, which can be used to further strengthen public transportation system in cities. Managing the on-street parking will reduce traffic congestion, increase the effective carriage way width available for vehicles to commute, reduce fuel, reduces pollution, etc. Cities which identified this as a prime winning proposition in the smart city contest are Bhubaneshwar, Davanagere, Indore, Udaipur, Guwahati and Chennai.

Less traffic congestion: Intelligent Traffic Management Systems to manage city traffic through the use of various ICT solutions are considered by Bhubaneshwar, Surat, Ahmedabad, Davangere, Indore, Udaipur and Chennai. Citizens will have an ease of finding their transport mode, route and also estimated travel time to reach their destination by Passenger Real Time information on arrival of Buses/Trains/E-Rickshaws on a Smart Phone App, Traffic Signalling Prioritization of BRTS buses and video surveillance to ensure safety and prevent traffic violations.

Safe and sound living: Safety is another aspect that is assured in Coimbatore, Kakinada, Udaipur, Guwahati and Chennai. Initiatives such as LED street lighting to ensure pedestrians safety, video surveillance to monitor crime in the city with a common control centre, also to monitor the traffic violations and to ensure efficient on-street parking management.

Hassle-free civic services: The next big initiative that the cities are targeting is e-governance, with a single platform where citizens can know any detail and also get all their services done in the same platform. Most importantly, this will enable citizens’ engagement in all aspects of city functioning as the data sharing or transparency between government and citizens will be a forum for citizens to understand the know-how of their city. Some of the smart solutions under this are integrated fare card, smart unified city governance, one city one website GIS mapping, wi-fi hotspots, which are considered by Bhubaneshwar, Kochi, Ahmedabad, Vishakapatnam, Davanagere, New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC), Belagavi, Ludhiana and Bhopal.

Safe against natural disasters: Disasters are inevitable, however human interventions in taking up precautionary measures will help in minimising the loss to a great extent. Cities in the coastal areas are badly affected due to cyclones and flooding. Chennai and Vishakhapatnam cities concentrate on ICT based disaster management techniques like sensor, weather forecasts, zero flooding zones, storm water management in the city, etc., making it a safe place to dwell in.

Clean and healthy neighbourhood: Solid waste management through smart solutions to make roads clean and to ensure a healthy environment is considered as an important factor by cities of Jaipur, Jabalpur, Indore and Kakinada. Recycling of waste will produce renewable energy, ensures safe disposal of solid waste, prevents soil and environmental pollution and reduces depletion of resources.

Easy access to all basic infrastructure: Smart cities aim at maintaining the basic infrastructure with best quality and 100% efficiency. The efficiency of the utilities in one thing that is not achieved till date due to inadequate monitoring. Electricity, sewerage, storm water drain and water supply are the components that will be strengthened and a smart layer with ICT applications would be applied to ensure its efficiency. Citizens in Pune, Kochi, Solapur, NDMC, Kakinada and Belagavi will be benefited by some of the ICT-enabled initiatives such as zero loss monitored by Smart Meters, bright lit streets with LED street lighting, 24×7 water supply by source augmentation, waste water recycling, and sensors to detect leakage in sewer system. Pune is focusing on healthcare for low income households and providing training in digital literacy, and Solapur is incentivising conservation of water. Chennai aims at creating water source using desalination plants and recycling water to use for various purposes.

Making city beautiful: All Cities are focusing on developing more lung spaces in the city. As part of smart city initiatives, smart components like cycling, street furniture, jogging track, space for hawkers, etc. will contribute a lot in enhancing aesthetics of the city. Green spaces will get a new dimension with new soft and hard landscape with wi-fi hotspots which will an interesting spot for citizens to relax, exercise and interact. It also plays a major role in creating a healthy and a sustained environment.

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Overall the citizens will benefit a lot by the smart cities initiatives if implemented effectively. Implementation through the formation of an SPV is the key to success of the proposal, which might be a challenge if not looked upon carefully and this will also determine the success of Smart Cities Mission as a whole. Now citizens expect that their city authorities and the nodal agency work efficiently towards implementing the smart city proposals as discussed and finalised with them during the citizen’s engagement process at the earliest to make their respective city now compete with other cities in attracting investments. (Courtesy: Our Building & Construction).

Stray thoughts on Smart Cities

Difficult as it is to define “Smart Cities”, there are certain inherent features which differentiate them from the ordinary run-of-the-mill cities familiar to all of us. For instance, smart cities must not merely be a steel and concrete jungle; they must be people-friendly, ecologically satisfactory; they must enable smooth flow of traffic on well maintained-roads, they must facilitate hassle-free purchase of home needs by locating shopping malls within easy reach in every sector.

Not only that. Recreational facilities for the dwellers must get top priority. These include not only theatres, auditoria etc. but, most vitally, parks with a lot of greenery and benches for the senior citizens. The infrastructure – schools, offices, post offices, hospitals, railway and bus stations – must be easily accessible.
Along with these, good communication facilities with airports must be ensured. Suburbs and central areas must be well connected.

Some of the modern cities like Lutyen’s Delhi, Le Corbusier’s Chandigarh, Jayanagar in Bengaluru, Navi Vashi (New Bombay) in Mumbai, Bhuvaneshwar in Odisha were for long touted as model cities. But over a course of time, they have lost that claim on account of apathy among town planners and government.

Smart cities must also be green cities. First and foremost, the buildings must be constructed with environment-friendly materials. Thus, heat can be kept out of the indoors during summer, and cold during winter. A lot of tree cover along both sides of the roads and avenues must be provided.

They must cater to the needs of all segments of society – children, women, youth, old people, etc. Roads that are free of vehicles on some days will be a bonus because people can walk without ear-splitting horns and honking from cars, and bikes. On the whole, lower decibel level tends to improve health.

The use of solar power, wherever possible, must be encouraged if a city is to qualify as ‘smart’ (e.g. solar grids and panels even on house terraces and for street lamps). Thus, smart becomes green. Ultimately, eco-friendly actions on all fronts will reduce pollution.

More than 20 centuries ago, a Greek philosopher said, “It was divine nature which gave us the country, and man’s skill that built the cities.” Later, in the 19th Century, Mathew Arnold talked about “that sweet city with her dreaming spires.” Now, thanks to the march of technology and the ingenuity of man, building really smart cities is within reach of the human family. – (Courtesy: Our Building & Construction.)
T. Rajagopalan

What will a Green City be like?

What will a green, livable and sustainable Asian city look like? Each will be unique but a consensus is forming on some of the key elements, as pointed out by the Asian Development Bank.

Low levels of environmental and climate impact: Developing cities that recycle/manage waste in innovative ways and use renewable energy resources.

Inclusive development and engaged residents: City planning that includes all residents, including the poor and disadvantaged, and mechanisms for people to affect the decisions being made about how their city is developed and managed.

Resilience to disasters and other shocks: City planning and development that anticipates the impact of natural hazards and helps keep people safe and infrastructure intact.

Cultural and historic preservation: The recognition of the value of a city’s cultural heritage and history, and city planning that incorporates these elements.

Green space and walkability: Moving away from developing cities around roads and automatic traffic and creating vehicle-free areas.

Asian cities need to be transformed from sprawling, gridlocked and polluted commercial centres. How can they be made into healthy, livable areas that can be sustained for decades? The transformation of Asia’s cities requires a complete rethink of the way urban areas are developed and managed. The cleanliness of air, water and land need to be pushed to the forefront and ideas about public space needs to include to all residents of a city — including families, children, the elderly and the poor. The Asian Development Bank has developed an operational framework that helps cities in the region realise their aspirations to develop greener, more livable environments.

City planners have to think differently about the way cities are managed, including blending urban planning and environmental management.

The goals can be achieved by the stakeholders formulating Green City Action Plans and new, innovative partnerships.

To make cities more livable, the focus needs to be on improving air, land and water through management of the environment, economic competitiveness and equity. City planners and engineers make good planning and engineering designs, but these have to be balanced with the efficient use of natural resources. In many cities across the region, people and governments are taking the initiative to make the difficult changes needed to improve the environment in which they live. They are making plans, taking actions and sharing ideas and information.

But then the Government of India is focussing on smart cities. Are smart cities different from green cities? The rationale behind green cities is to focus more on environment rather than functional improvements to make smart cities. However, it is difficult to differentiate between these two concepts. But, in a way it is advisable for city planning to mould smart cities in the overall context that govern Green Cities.

— (Courtesy: Our Building & Construction.)

K.R. Thooyavan

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