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Let’s make our cities liveable first

As India is marching towards becoming the largest country in terms population in the world, every town or city in the country is also growing in terms of its population, housing, traffic and so on, with each passing day.

The exponential growth of the cities, over the years, has resulted in several problems facing the people here like overcrowding, traffic congestion, shortage of drinking water, erratic power supply, inadequate sanitation facilities, failing sewerage systems, inadequate waste management and increasing pollution. In addition, they also face seasonal problems like flooding during rainy season.

Therefore, efforts of the government should be primarily towards reducing the hardships of the populace who even after seven decades of independence are struggling to get basic amenities like comfortable mobility, clean water and hygienic environment. Though the government has many programmes aimed at improving the quality of life, most of them are designed based on the principle of ‘one size suits all’ which always may not be true.

We need to fix our priorities first and these priorities may vary from city to city and region to region. India being a vast country, its always prudent to have localised programmes. Cities are still struggling to provide basic amenities and therefore, efforts should be to provide them on priority basis before thinking of making them smart ones. There is no point of conducting a plastic surgery first on a patient suffering from cancer as he will have to be cured of his disease first before being treated for his physical appearance.

No doubt under smart city programme the government has an ambitious plan for selected 100 cities to provide with core infrastructure, give a decent quality of life to their citizens, and apply smart solutions to improve services and infrastructure. But no smart solutions and infrastructure can solve the basic problems of the city when substantial portion of the city lives in slums. Switching over to LED street lights may save some power but they wont guarantee safety of the people at night. Providing taps for every home is an excellent idea but it should be supplemented by sufficient supply of drinkable water.

Some of the plans under smart city programme may fail to produce results as most of the cities lack sufficient technical and managerial capacity required for its proper implementation. Due to lack of staff, in some cities programme implementation has been slow which may also hinder the overall functioning of the city.  Though the preservation of heritage is one of the major components of the project lack of expertise for the staff in this field may endanger our precious heritage sites.

All said and done, who doesn’t want to live in a smart city? Everyone would like to live in such cities provided they improve our standard of living and provide comforts. But there is no point in calling a city smart city if half the population lives in slums, vehicles have to pass through the pothole filled roads and depend upon packaged mineral water for drinking. Massive transformation of our cities is needed before we can call them smart cities.

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