Sustainability of Smart Cities

Vijaylakshmi Suman

The popular imagination of monsoon is that of lush green surroundings and pleasant weather, but the monsoon scenario in Delhi is not always the same. Water-logging and floods are becoming an annual phenomenon. This year Delhi received 64.5-124.4 mm of rain, and according to the India Meteorological Department (IMD) was classified as ‘heavy rainfall’. Consequently, many parts of the city faced water-logging issues, and the office of the Public Works Department (PWD) was flooded with complaints. Besides Delhi, monsoon floods have become a regular occurrence in many other metropolitan cities or even small cities. When looking for the cause of such nuisance and disturbance, one of the most cited reasons is heavy and unexpected rains; it is never the lack of proper city planning. Generally, drainage systems or plans to channel excess water and sewage out of the city are missing in most city planning projects.

The above-stated monsoon scenario of Indian cities raises questions on the vision of the ‘Smart Cities Mission’a Government of India initiative which has been in place for the past six years. This mission aims to develop cities for its people, seemingly, a novel idea. This project also aims to improve the core infrastructure of cities by making them economically vibrant and environmentally sustainable. However, according to reports, out of 5,196 projects, 49 per cent of the work remain unfinished.  There are several shortcomings associated with the project, including lack of transparency in sharing information and details of projects in the public domain, limited powers allotted to local governments in managing the project, and insufficient financial support. In addition, there is less or negligible involvement of local agencies that are in more control of the department and efficient in getting the work done.

Image: Kolkata is a city that is being developed as a ‘smart city’ Image Source: Wikimedia

Furthermore, in addition to all the above-stated issues with the ‘Smart Cities Mission’, it also lacks an understanding of sustainability, ignorance of factors that may lead to disasters (flood, earthquake, etc.) and inadequate focus on the processes which would make the city resilient. The flood and water-logging incidents of the present and previous years monsoons indicate the need to make our cities sustainable before labelling them as ‘smart’. The mission should also focus more on making cities sustainable where ecological concerns of pollution and efficient use of resources are addressed.

The annual occurrence of floods and water-logging in the city during the monsoon indicates the lack of planning and management to deal with such incidents. Such unpreparedness reflects the lack of planning in making a city not just smart but also sustainable, something which, ideally, should go hand in hand.

Cover Image by digitalsirpy

About the Author
About the Author

Vijaylakshmi completed her M.A in Environment and Development from the School of Human Ecology, Ambedkar University Delhi (AUD). Ever since, she has been specifically interested in Restoration Ecology, and also completed a dissertation on the restoration and recreation of the Dheerpur wetlands in the Yamuna floodplains of Delhi, by focusing on ecological and social referencing. She is currently pursuing her PhD in Human Ecology from AUD.

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