Smart City, Utopian or Real? Where Are We Heading?

Smart city in India

Smart city in IndiaAnshu Sharma, who serves as the director of a Delhi-based organization named Sustainable Environment and Ecological Development Society or SEEDS, feels that the cities in India show very little evidence of planning. Even if some cities are planned, the manner in which it has been done is rather impractical. This is the reason he feels that the Smart City project might not be successful in the long run.

He has gone so far as to say that the very vision of the project could prove to be a far-fetched one considering the ground reality. According to Sharma, there exists a chasm between concepts such as Smart Cities, which are taken from the West, and the urban planning and development that is actually being done.

The Indian reality

Sharma has called for the gap to be bridged. He feels at the moment the Government will not be able to properly adapt the Western concept in the Indian context owing to infrastructural issues and differences. According to the SEEDS director it will be quite hard to execute the global vision in the local reality that is India. This is the reason, he feels, that the cities should be planned in such a way that they are compatible from the point of view of resources as well as environment.

Sharma points out that Srinagar, which was a city of lakes, was heavily inundated along with the habitation during the floods in September 2014 and it was all washed out, perhaps implying that it could have been saved with some planning. The situation was much worse at Karnaprayag when it was devastated by flash floods in June 2013. He reasoned that the mountains over there were destroyed owing to unscientific and disorganized construction.

Konark, which is primarily a collection of six villages, has recently been declared a city. According to Sharma, the fact that it is only at a distance of 50 metres from the sea could prove to be potentially dangerous for the city.

Varanasi, according to him, is also in a chaotic condition as it lacks any proper planning and most of the traffic signals in the city do not work. The city also lacks a proper drainage system as such and, according to Sharma, it is factors like these that will make it very hard for it to be converted into a smart city. He sees that it is in the last 20-30 years that planning has gone awry.

What is the basic presumption?

In order to substantiate his argument he points out that how the older houses in Karnaprayag have stood the test of time.

Rajashri Rohatkar, who heads the architecture and planning department of VNIT, shares an opinion similar to Sharma. Both feel that planning and execution need to be different for each level. They also feel that nowadays only the rich and affluent have access to basic facilities, which has meant that the price of these commodities have gone up sky-high.

They opine that planning should be need-based. For example, all urban settlement and development plans should take into consideration the issue of local resources such as energy, sewage, transport, waste and water. The common people also need to be made a part of the development process.


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