Will India’s ‘smart cities’ be climate resilient?

India’s ‘smart cities’ programme needs to reinvent its entire urban planning process even if only for the reason that its fallacious to assume that creating assets an owing assets make a city smart.

When the government announced a roster of 20 ‘smart cities’ it had shortlisted for development, it was beaming about how they’d someday come to boast top-notch IT connectivity, smart-parking, and health and education, but quietly sidestepped any details of how they’d cope with natural disasters. The Chennai floods in 2015 and Srinagar floods in 2014 are grim reminders of the need to factor in extreme events that are predicted to increase with climate change while Delhi’s smog highlights the perils of pollution.

The ‘smart cities’ mission’s objective is to promote cities that provide core infrastructure and a decent quality of life to its citizens. The core infrastructure elements include adequate water supply; assured electricity supply; sanitation (including solid waste management); efficient urban mobility and transport; affordable housing; robust IT connectivity and digitalisation; good governance, especially e-governance; sustainable environment; safety and security of citizens; and health and education.

And its ‘smart solutions’ envisage a slew of electronic options such as electronic service delivery, video crime monitoring, smart parking meters, intelligent traffic management and telemedicine, among others.

It is not spanking new infrastructure but economic diversity that could help cities adapt to the impacts of global warming such as intense rainfall spells and flooding, Ulka Kelkar, fellow, climate change, at the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE), Bangalore.

And then there is pollution. “Information in hand makes us smart,” says Sarath Guttikonda, director of Urban Emissions. “And environmental information in hand makes us environmentally smart.”

Guttikonda says that “the current monitoring and information dissemination system in India is weak and needs a complete overhaul,” in order to reach the level of transparency and accuracy required for implementing  clean air programmes.

Read the full report on “Will India’s ‘smart cities’ programme be climate-resilient” by me in The Wire:





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