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Smart Cities need to be futureproof too

February 21, 2015
Ducks snorkeling in Ganga (The Ganges) ©NitinKaushal/WWF-India

Ducks snorkeling in Ganga (The Ganges) ©NitinKaushal/WWF-India

Cities around the world are continually growing as they attract people, resources and ideas, and are drivers of global and national development. This is most evident in countries like India, where by 2030, 70% of the GDP and 70% of new jobs will come from cities.

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Prime Minister, Mr. Modi government’s ambitious “100 Smart Cities” plan is making urban planning lucrative. India has been plagued by rapid and haphazard urbanization. People are migrating to the cities at an unprecedented rate. This creates problem, which is two folds. It makes the rural population dwindle and impacts the agriculture, eventually threatening food security. On the other hand, the migrating population increases pressure on the limited urban resources such as housing, water, wastewater management systems, electricity, transport, communication and so on.

India is estimated to have over 400 million urban inhabitants by 2050.  This is more than any other country in the world. Managing such growth will require unprecedented levels of planning and investing in housing, infrastructure and utilities especially water supply and wastewater management.

Payment for Services:

A leaking wastewater pipeline

A leaking wastewater pipeline

People believe that amongst other utilities, water should be free in a city and expect that government and utility providers should take care of maintaining them.  Water systems cost $3-$6 per month per household, in countries like India. At first glance it does not seem a lot, however when people make only $1-$3 a day, it can be a lot. When water supply  and wastewater management systems fail, poor people suffer the most in the cities. Urban poor, especially women and girls, do not get any return on their money or time invested.

Futureproofing Smart Cities’ water systems:

Cities will be smart if  water and wastewater services are planned based on the below criteria:

Smart cities do all the above mentioned and more by:

  • Integrating data from a wide range of sources–surveys, closed circuit cameras, utilities, public works and services, citizen reports and service providers to aid informed decision-making by policy makers, businesses and citizens.
  • Adapting continuously in the face of rapidly changing urban landscape, both in chronic (traffic, infrastructure, public utilities) and acute or long term events (upcoming neighborhoods, natural disasters) etc.
  • Building utilities and systems around the needs of population.
  • Providing essential infrastructure and services that make cities liveable.
  • Putting people at the center of all planning processes and projects.
Solar Powered water ATMs in Ahmedabad, India ©

Solar Powered water ATMs in Ahmedabad, India ©

Way ahead:

“Creative cities”, “sustainable cities”, “eco-cities”, “resilient cities” and “liveable cities” and now “Smart Cities”.  Doesn’t matter what name you call it, India, in order to sustain the growth of its robust economy and provide for growing needs of its urban populations, needs to recognize the value of its natural capital/resources and biocapacity in the planning process. It needs to develop strategies and policies to promote innovative solutions to foster efficiency in the use of limited urban resources, disposal of wastes and wastewater management and create opportunities for urban growth among others by

  • Maintaining water resources and wastewater systems over long term
  • Enabling reasonable support to issues that impact large urban population especially marginal and poor
  • Identifying costs and financing mechanisms for addressing these issues for present and future

This article has been adopted from the original sources. To read the original content, please click on the hyperlinks in the article.

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