India Requires Resilient Cities More Than Smart Cities

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Growth in the Indian perspective has taken place in an organic manner except for a couple of cities. Each city has evolved in different eras and have inhibited different cultures making them unique, their challenges towards urbanisation are unique and so are their solutions. Urbanization requires our cities to be resilient, adaptive and ever evolving. Tackling the very nature and concept of urbanisation for cities is nothing less than re-innovation, opines Engineers India Limited (EIL).

“Building urban resilience requires looking at a city holistically: understanding the systems that make up the city and the interdependencies and risks they may face.”

The concept of SMART Cities was conceived with an objective to provide convenient living solution to its citizenry. The thought leaders presented multiple ideas and carried out brain storming to arrive at specific solutions leading conceptualization of a Smart City. The focus for the cities was also on creating a resilient infrastructure to inculcate the evolving technologies for betterment of citizens.

Emerging countries view urbanisation as a major attribute to revive their economies. The constant migration from villages is creating immense pressure on the already stranded infrastructure of the cities. The rapid urbanisation leads to high density in urban population, load on physical and social infrastructure, unauthorised settlement, pollution (air and water) etc, thereby creating a chaotic scenarios at city level as well as State level.

In the cities that are amongst the most livable and declared Smart Cities of the world such as Melbourne, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Adelaide etc, the Smart city concept was imposed in cities only after they became livable with all basic infrastructure and amenities. Most of the cities around the world practiced implementation of this concept on the similar lines. However, the same is not the case with our nation as most of our cities have had an organic growth.

Resilience helps cities adapt and transform in the face of these challenges, helping them to prepare for both the expected and the unexpected. Building urban resilience requires looking at a city holistically: understanding the systems that make up the city and the interdependencies and risks they may face. Therefore, by strengthening the underlying fabric of a city and better understanding the potential shocks and stresses it may face, a city can improve its development trajectory and the well-being of its citizens.

International Scenario

The World Bank’s Resilient Cities Programme reflects the conceptual shift in transformation of the cities and aims to help cities adapt to a greater variety of changing conditions with abilities to withstand shocks while maintaining essential functions. Resilient cities are identified generally on five categories of vulnerability (climate, environment, resources, infrastructure, and community) and five categories of adaptability (governance, institutions, and technical capacity, planning systems, and funding structures).

Indian Context

The Indian subcontinent is vulnerable to droughts, floods, cyclones and earthquakes. Among the 36 States/ Union Territories in the country, 22 are multi-disaster prone. As much as 40 million hectares of land in the country has been identified as flood prone, and on an average 18.6 million hectares of land is flooded annually. A total of 18 per cent of country’s total area and about 68 percent of total sown area is drought prone, affecting approximately 50 million people. India has a long coastline of 7,600 km, which is exposed to tropical cyclones and tsunamis. As such, almost the entire country is prone to disasters for which preparedness and preventions are necessary.

Issues and Challenges with Smart Cities Mission

The major issues and challenge for the Smart Cities concept in general and specifically the Smart Cites Mission, in India are:

  • Selective area based development/ non-inclusive approach
  • Livability and Sustainability Concern
  • Financial Plan Feasibility
  • Funding Strategy for Smart Cities (Tier-II & tier –III cities)
  • Project Implementation plan along with institutional framework
  • Good Governance Agenda

Benefits of a Resilient City

The resilient city provides enormous opportunities for the citizens to grow in the parlance of sustainable infrastructure, cohesive community and thriving economy.

A few tangible advantages are:

  • More Livable Communities
  • Economic Growth and Job Creation
  • Social and Human Gains from Disasters

EIL’s Perspective of SMART Resilient City

EIL during the preparation of SMART city proposal, focused on creating a resilient city that would enhance the safety of the citizens and imbibe a sense of belongingness amongst citizens.

EIL also encapsulated the disaster management proposal along with other projects relating to public health services, resilient infrastructure facilities, etc. A River front development project with a total of 7km of retaining wall is proposed in Moradabad, with the prime objective of avoiding flash floods in the city.

Indian cities suffer from the lack of basic minimum services. There is a strong relationship between the size of the cities and availability of civic services. The access to civic services/amenities is much lower in smaller cities as compared to larger cities. The challenge is to induce resilient infrastructure for creating a sustainable city.

At EIL, we believe in bottom up approach for uniform development and growth of the city. We strongly believe in holistic approach for development of the project/ cities. The project should be proposed in creating a resilient city, understanding the fabric of the place/ neighbourhood, geographical features, availability of resources and morphology.

The projects identified should be feasible enough to implement within the given time frame. EIL with its five decades of service to the nation believes that it could play a prominent part of a programme manager for the cities in the transformation process.

(The article has been written by Adnan Ahmad, Atiq Khan, Dr. Ranjit Rath, Snigdho Majumdar, Corporate Strategy & BD, Engineers India Limited)

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