Category Archives: General

Sustainability of Smart Cities

By Sakshi Saini, Senior Program Officer, PRIA

Living anywhere in the world has its own ups and downs, whether it’s a metropolitan city where we have infrastructure, opportunities, traffic, and stress, or a village, where there is no infrastructure, no traffic, but proximity to nature and environment. It depends on how and where we want to spend our lives. Development with technology is a very attractive phenomenon. It keeps us involved and busy with our lives, but has always struck with a direct effect on nature, environment and our health. Today, when nature is looking back at us with vengeance, we are coming up with innovative ideas for development that claim to least effect our environment with increased human comfort. Smart city is one such concept.

Let’s get to the definition and characteristics of a smart city, A smart city uses digital technologies to enhance performance and wellbeing, to reduce costs and resource consumption, and to engage more effectively and actively with its citizens. It creates its own water source with the help of rain water harvesting techniques, electricity with the help of solar panels and windmills. Smart homes and smart offices will generate and use its own electricity, and will use smart technology and appliances that consume lesser electricity and are smart enough to automatically switch to power savings mode. With smart governance everything will be connected and can be monitored with the help of sensors and internet with the click of a mouse, thus saving a whole lot of human effort. People will use eco-friendly vehicles and public transport to commute. With innovations such as Smart Phones, GPS tracking, parking space locater, our transit systems will become more comfortable and reliable. The ultimate aim of a smart city is to make our lives more simple and our development more sustainable.

Now, imagine a Monday morning rush hour scenario outside your neighbourhood where all the traffic lights are green with a Boeing 777 waiting outside. Such was depicted in a famous Hollywood movie where a Firecell devastated the entire financial, transportation and defence systems of a whole country.

All these concepts of smart city look really tempting and promising on paper although there practicality and sustainability is questionable. History has shown that such ideas usually crumble beneath their own weight when abused by human nature and behaviour. With the ever increasing population and our growing dependence on technology, will such “smart” cities be able to provide infrastructure and resources as and where required, will the network bandwidth not choke with a majority of population online, will the government and utility systems not collapse as a result of vulnerable internet backbones, will the “Cloud” not burst under the weight of its own information are questions that remain unanswered.

These smart cities aren’t just some far off futuristic abstract twinkling in the New World Order’s eyes, these are being built as you read this paper. Think privacy and freedom are limited commodities now? Try having either of those things living in a smart city control grid where everything you do is tracked, traced, chipped and monitored. There isn’t enough manmade global warming hoax propaganda and green guilt in the whole wide universe that should make any of us want to step one foot into this Orwellian nightmare!

Think about those dumb down brain dead citizens trapped in a smart city producing stuff that is not required or Robots doing your daily household with power sources capable of auto-generation and protocols that can be changed with a laptop. Compassion lives or dies in human heart. Compassion can’t be forced. Yes, we are interconnected naturally but I don’t think that we can compare that given interconnectedness to a man-made technological “smart” connection of all things and humans because the man-made one reduces you to the level of a machine. Machines don’t have a soul, feelings, intuitions, can’t be compassionate, can’t pray and can’t be aware of signs and miracles. Machines are dead matter which process information. I could be wrong but prevention is better than cure.

I write to explore the solutions by going back to our roots and traditional know how. This indigenous knowledge has helped our human race sustain for ages. Smart cities will be smart only when people learn to live peacefully, with limited resources and live in harmony with nature. In order to do so, there is an imperative need to enhance capacity of people not only in terms of technology but awareness and knowledge about the burgeoning issues pertaining to sustainable development.

Congress launches 24-hour helpline for slumdwellers

The Delhi Congress has decided to follow the do-or-die mantra of party vice-president Rahul Gandhi after he said on Thursday that he will stand in front of bulldozers if anyone tries to demolish slums without giving the slumdwellers their due.
The party has launched a helpline for the slumdwellers who have been removed illegally or have received notices to vacate their huts. The 24-hour helpline will help the party in tackling the issue. People who need help on the matter can contact +91 8595595595.

Smart Cities – Convergence of design and governance

Renowned architect Rem Koolhaas recently spoke about Smart Cities and reflected on how more than ever do we need to converge the field of design with good governance! He argued against smart cites at a High Level Group meeting on Smart Cities, Brussels, on September 24, 2014. Summed up, Koolhaas argues that “by calling it smart, our city is condemned to being stupid.”

Highlights of the transcript of a talk given at the High Level Group meeting on Smart Cities, Brussels, 24 September 2014 is below. Read the full article at: https://ec.europa.eu/commission_2010-2014/kroes/en/content/my-thoughts-smart-city-rem-koolhaas Continue reading

Urban Age conference gives a wake up call to Delhi!

Over 60 experts and policy-makers from 22 cities across 10 countries gathered here to explore the links between urban governance and the future development of cities at the 13th Urban Age conference that began on Friday. The experts compared Delhi’s urban dynamics to other Urban Age cities — London, Bogota, Lagos, Tokyo, New York, Istanbul and Berlin.

They found that despite the Capital’s relatively low-rise urban landscape, it has an extremely high average density of build up area, nearly twice the levels of the New York metro area and Tokyo. As a result, Delhi only has two square metres of green space per person, significantly lower than London (36 sq metres) and Berlin (39 sq metres). This increases the challenge of tackling Delhi’s average PM10 pollution levels, which are significantly higher than other Urban Age cities.

Delhi, like other cities in rapidly growing economies, has a high level of income inequality (measured by the GINI Index — the lower the value, the greater the level of social equality; and vice versa). While London has an index of 0.36 and Berlin 0.29, Delhi has a relatively high figure of 0.6, which is lower than Lagos at 0.64 and many African and Latin American cities. However, Delhi scores well in having a very low level of violent crime measured by the murder rate (homicides per 1,00,000 people), which is lower than New York and Istanbul.

Protest against Ward Committee and Area Sabha Act and Rules-Wed,26th Nov,10.30AM-1PM, Town Hall,Bengaluru

by CIVIC, Bengaluru

A CALL FOR PEOPLE’S GOVERNANCE IN KARNATAKA’S CITIES
Protest against the KMC (Amdt.) Act and newly gazetted rules on Ward Committees & Area Sabhas led by respected Gandhian & Freedom Fighter Sri H. S. Doreswamy
Venue: Town Hall, Bangalore
Date & Time: Wednesday, 26th November 2014, 10:30 am – 1pm

The 74th Constitutional Amendment, promising devolution of powers in urban areas, was enacted over 20 years ago. Yet ‘Nagara Swaraj’ is a far dream, with even community participation in urban affairs yet to be achieved. Karnataka’s urban citizens have no say in how government services should be provided in their ward, which roads should be repaired, how lakes should be protected or even how their garbage should be managed! The unconstitutional manner in which cities are being administered has resulted in multiple scams, mis-governance and dysfunctional cities.

It was hoped that the Karnataka Municipal Corporations (Amendment) Act of January 2011, brought in to fulfil conditionality under JNNURM, would strengthen community participation in urban areas. However, rules were framed for the Act only after the High Court Directive in December 2012 (while hearing a PIL on the garbage crisis). These rules created ward committees in name only without any real powers. Pressure from civil society led to a public meeting where the government was advised to re-draft the KMC Act itself, as is being done with the Panchayati Raj Act in Karnataka. Shri. Vinay Kumar Sorake, Hon’ble Minister for Urban Development, gave assurances at this meeting that the undemocratic aspects of the Act, such as the veto power for Corporators, would be addressed. Following this, numerous meetings were held with the Secretary, Urban Development, and recommendations were sent in from across the state to revise the rules so that the functioning of ward committees could be improved within the ambit of the Act. Continue reading

Higher, higher we will climb

by Swathi Subramaniam, PRIA

It is an uncommon sight to find a youth living in a high-rise building mingling and interacting with youth living in slums. On 13 November 2014, an attempt was made in B5 Bandhu Camp of VasantKunj, to bring together youth of community and youth of slum to talk to each other.

The Enact us society from SRCC, Delhi University works on social projects through implementation of sustainable livelihood solutions for slums and marginalized, http://www.enactusindia.org/index.php.

This was the very first time where a visit was made by undergraduate students studying in SRCC made an effort to meet the youth in Bandhu Camp B-5 slum. This interaction gave a first time exposure to youths living in the community to share their problems with the youth of their own age from a premier college of Delhi. Continue reading

Panel discussion: India in Future and Book Launch – 11 November, Delhi