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This article originally appeared on WRI-India.org
How can Mumbai become a Smart City that the nation is proud of? The recently published Draft Development Plan (DP) for Mumbai was so poorly received by various stakeholders that Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis scrapped it on the 21st of April, 2015. It has to be reworked in just four months – an opportunity to bring in much needed change in the planning discourse.
Since the DP followed a traditional process of proposing land uses and development control regulations, it is no surprise that the plan did not deliver on the local needs, sentiments and aspirations of citizens. This process of development planning is mandated by the State’s Town Planning Act, a remnant of outdated British laws, which were made when the current complexities of large metropolitan cities were not yet imagined.
Previous development plans for Mumbai too, have faced challenges, such as prolonged delays of up to 15 years, indicating clearly that they are no longer realistic or nimble enough to respond to a changing city. These generalized plans typically did not respond to local variations and needs, did not have infrastructure plans linked to them, and did not manage to implement several reservations such as open spaces, local roads, dispensaries etc.
If the future of the city is pegged on a plan that is open to comments from citizens only once in 20 years, then this is a recipe bound to backfire. What then is the alternate that the city can explore? The answer lies in strategic spatial planning.
Strategic Spatial Planning separates the visioning tool from the regulatory tool. It envisions the city’s future while formulating strategic decisions and projects that will help leapfrog over the current and potential challenges of the city. This tool is not legal in nature, and serves as a platform for various stakeholders to freely express opinions, conduct negotiations and arrive at agreements without the fear of repercussions. This negotiated planning method brings together various government departments (planning, physical and social infrastructure, and funding agencies) along with local businesses, religious groups, resident welfare associations, NGOs and citizens themselves.
While the process could be messy to start with, it results in a ‘co-produced’ vision for the city. Strategic Spatial Planning provides a long term vision, alternate future options and strategic projects that are linked to clear budgets. These strategic projects bring about a collective structural change to the city addressing the real needs of stakeholders, irrespective of the number of departments that need to be co-opted to manage implementation.
Typically anchored by a strong government agency, or a mayor in international contexts, such a paradigm shift in planning is critical to prevent large metropolises from succumbing to becoming diseconomies. The traditional regulatory land-use plan could continue to be used for giving out building permissions and sanctions as well as providing a legal certainty for actionable inter-sectoral projects rolling out of this visioning tool.
Actionable projects are to be realised at the smaller disaggregated scale of the Local Area Plan (LAP). These LAPs need to be mandated to ensure participation of local stakeholders in the plan making process to incorporate local knowledge, dynamism and local values. Due cognizance of these local area priorities, at regular intervals, should go back upward to inform the strategic plan and the regulating plan to ensure realistic planning and budget allocations.
Mumbai being the largest and most populous city in Maharashtra has a plethora of agencies helping to run the city. The instrument of the local area plan must serve as the common platform for the planning agencies and the services provisioning agencies to come together in a coordinated manner.
Agencies and experts in international cities, such as Europe and South America for example, have chosen strategic spatial planning and local area plans as a real alternative to static land use, regulatory control and statistical extrapolations. It is time Mumbai followed suit.
This article was originally published in The Economic Times.
Today, Prime Minister Narendra Modi formally launches the government’s ambitious Smart Cities initiative, which aims to tackle key issues resulting from India’s rapid urbanization.
In addition, the ‘Atal Mission’ and ‘Housing for All by 2022’ will also be announced. Both initiatives are very welcome for the development of the country as they will kick-start the process of building new smart cities and rejuvenating existing urban centres to become more sustainable, thriving cities.
A first in many respects, the new process of launching a competition where cities bid for smart city funding is inspiring. This has worked well at helping gather thoughts and ideas towards defining smart cities, and innovative approaches towards how these can be implemented. The competition idea has also meant that key stakeholders have been involved quite early on in the planning, and see themselves as ready partners in the process of building cities.
Going forward, it will be interesting to witness the growing levels of engagement from the public in general, and from planning agencies in particular, in the implementation process of smart cities. The Center encourages planning and public participation in the process; city and state authorities will need to champion the effort to make it a success. The Smart Cities effort also provides the platform for strategic planning.
It is very important for people to work from a vision for the future, rather than be limited by the legalities of a master plan. We need to move from compliance-based incremental changes, to starting with a big vision of what the city needs, coming up with strategic projects, and support that vision and plan with strong laws and processes to achieve sustainable change.
Ahmedabad is a great example of how a city, having outlined a long-term vision for itself and anticipated how to get there, has overcome several obstacles to ensure smart development. The key is to envision the desired change right from the start and strive towards it.
For example, Ahmedabad has been using the unique Development Plan, Town Planning Scheme (DP-TP) approach of creating a vision through the DP and ensuring local area implementation that engages the local population through the TP scheme.
The bus rapid transit system, Janmarg, is now 88 km and ensures trunk connectivity in all major city roads.
Launched in 2009, the system includes features of the highest global standards and is considered a best practice of BRTs in south Asia. Bengaluru is another example of a city having implemented sustainable public services. The country’s largest bus system, operated by the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation, was transformed by the introduction of the Bangalore Intra-city Grid (BIG) system in 2013.
This integrated system optimizes routes for improved efficiency, quality of service and capacity. Still in its early stages, BIG currently serves over 1,50,000 passengers a day. When fully implemented, the network will improve public transport experience for 2.5 million commuters daily. Bengaluru has also seen community participation in its planning processes.
In March 2013, World Resources Institute (WRI) experts partnered with the community at Hosur Sarjapur Road Layout, a fast-developing area in Bengaluru, to pilot a neighborhood improvement plan using this bottom-up approach. Key urban issues, including mobility, accessibility, signage, place identity, biodiversity and public spaces were studied at the neighborhood scale.
Through various stakeholder meetings, the community was encouraged to come forward with their ideas, challenges, fears, hopes and aspirations for what they wanted their neighborhood to look like.
The community was mobilized to not only define clear areas that could be improved, but also to create and test a sustainable, implementable vision for the area.
Acknowledging that the government’s 100 Smart Cities initiative is ambitious, it is important to build capacity to meet this ambition. We will require a revision and reoriented strategic planning processes, as well as pulling together a ready pool of specialists, technical experts, professionals and private players to participate.
There must also be a strong political will to implement the changes required to make our cities healthier, liveable and smarter.
Cities exist in a region and cannot be defined by their geographic or municipal boundaries alone. The future trajectory of urban growth is often defined by migration patterns from surrounding regions, which in turn, is substantially determined by the relative socio-economic opportunities. It is therefore critical to understand the economic geography of land, water, and energy resources of the region, to be able to properly plan urban growth. People living outside urban areas face livelihood limitations, which is why they migrate to cities in the first place.
These limitations are most often linked to the poor management of natural resources. Smart growth planning therefore needs to take into consideration the restoration of these resources in rural or peri-urban areas – the birthplace of urban migration. So which is the best way to go about planning for a future India that is largely urbanized, and growing in unprecedented ways? Here are my top 3 suggestions. I believe that each strategy will ensure urban growth that is both sustainable and efficient.Limit Urban Growth
India’s urban expansion doubled from 222 million in 1990 to an estimated 410 million in 2014. In 2000–11, one-third of India’s new towns sprung up within a 50 km neighborhood of existing cities containing more than one million people. Urban areas have become substantial contributors to the national gross domestic product (GDP). This pattern of urbanization in India is lopsided, because there is rapid growth occurring in sprawling peri-urban areas, and on the periphery of existing big cities.
Meanwhile, nearby agricultural or fallow land is being rapidly converted to commercial, industrial or residential uses. These landscapes and their resources, such as forests and water, become rapidly degraded and growth becomes unsustainable. We have evidence that the economic, social and environmental cost of unstructured urban growth outweighs the benefits of urbanization. Analysis by WRI, compares two possible futures for the urban expansion of Ahmedabad city, projected to have 13 plus million residents by 2040. The larger the sprawl, the worse the impact on citizens in terms of road fatalities and emissions from road transport.
If we limit urban sprawl through smartly designed and cost-effective urban systems such as the transit infrastructure, cities will yield both environmental and social benefits. Citizens can travel safely, quickly and comfortably, they can become healthier and boost their productivity, and the natural resources supporting the city can be put to better use. Limiting urban sprawl means that cities will become compact, efficient, and have a reduced carbon footprint.Invest in Natural Infrastructure
In 2011, only 71 percent of urban households had access to tap water and 61 percent to treated tap-water. This number falls to less than 50 percent in small and medium cities. Nationally, some 27 percent of urban households depend on frequently contaminated groundwater sources through wells and hand pumps, contributing to the nationwide pressure on declining water tables. It is evident that in a rapidly urbanizing India, groundwater over-extraction, pollution of fresh water sources, inefficient and unsustainable water management and a lack of integrated centralized mapping of India’s aquifers all pose a high risk to water security.
Investments in integrated water management policies is thus critical. Results of a WRI study of a watershed development project in Kumbharwadi, located in a drought prone district in Maharashtra, showed an increase in net present value of nearly $ 2.5 million over 15 years. Other benefits included improvements in agricultural and livestock income, as well as savings related to traveling for fuel and government-supplied water tankers.
Like water, forests too provide resilience to agricultural and urban landscapes. They perform a number of eco-system services by acting as recharge zones, increasing agricultural productivity, water filtration, flood mitigation, coastal protection and improving air quality through carbon sequestration. In fact, the World Bank estimates conservatively that ecosystem services contribute 3.6 percent to the nation’s GDP.
WRI estimates that tree planting efforts in Kumbharwadi resulted in carbon sequestration benefits worth $1 to $1.4 million. In addition, it led to several market and non-market benefits to the community, such as improved fuel wood and fodder supply, improved diet, as well as improved resilience to droughts. Greening India’s urban growth clearly means solid investments in natural infrastructure. This must occur within urban spaces and their surrounds, as well as at a regional level so that urban life can be better sustained by its surrounding forest and water resources. Restoration of degraded landscapes and watersheds through the Government’s Green India Mission will provide multiple benefits toward better livelihoods and environment.Clean Energy
While 90 percent of urban India now has access to electricity, the low quality of energy access and irregular power supply continue to be of concern – especially in smaller and medium-sized cities. This means that India must address the large-scale inefficiency in the supply chain of energy services in all sectors of the economy. Energy efficiency is the most cost-effective way to utilize limited energy resources, and national investments in this approach would be a good first line of defense.
The Bureau of Energy Efficiency’s programs for energy efficiency standards for vehicles, appliances and buildings need to be pursued aggressively to deliver significant reductions in urban India’s energy consumption, local air pollution and carbon emissions. However, accelerating investments in renewable energy sources will have a game-changing effect on the energy landscape, ensuring a rapid transition for cities and their surrounds towards low-carbon growth.
The Indian government’s push toward 175 GW of solar and wind power through private sector engagement is a welcome strategy. Cleaner energy supplies imply preparing the market for structural transformation. We also need to support innovations that also secure social and economic benefits to nurture growth within the sector. Not least, we must help citizens recognize the value of choosing clean energy. Already, through WRI’s electricity governance initiative in Tamil Nadu, TEGI, consumer and civil society groups are demanding this in support of efficient market mechanisms for energy.Combined Potential
India has one of the slowest rates of urbanization for its income levels. This gives us a bit of time to choose the right model of urban growth: one that creates well-coordinated, energy and resource efficient cities with the regional capacity to sustain economic growth and well-being for all its citizens. The three strategies I just described have the potential to combine into a model of growth that cities in India can adopt in order to modernize sustainably and efficiently. They will have a positive impact on urban form, as well as the quality of life, for years to come.
India has the highest number of accident fatalities in the world. But the pressing issue of road safety is rarely taken seriously. This is particularly apparent, given the high frequency and intensity of risks that motorists, pedestrians, and cyclists take on a daily basis.
Statistics of road fatalities and injuries are often publicized with the intention of encouraging responsible behavior on the road. At the same time, the conversation about road safety generally centers on individual behavior—like following traffic-rules, using of helmets and seat belts, and avoiding drinking and driving. However, the root of the problem—and solution—is elsewhere, as collisions are the result of a combination of individual behavior and physical infrastructure.
Addressing physical infrastructure and urban design is necessary to improving road safety in our cities. To close out the third UN Global Road Safety Week, let’s take a look at a comic strip that creatively engages with road safety in India:
Collisions often lead to a blame-game between pedestrians and motorists, rather than a discussion of how we can design our streets for safety. The comic strip—produced for Equal Streets—embodies this dilemma. It tells the story of an average pedestrian and driver in India who are involved in a collision. Both the pedestrian and the motorist are portrayed as equally responsible for the incident. But as we examine their individual perspectives, it becomes clear that their behavior is influenced by the roads they have to navigate.
The comic strip ends as a call for safe streets for all. The red line that divides the two perspectives emerges as a graph of the deaths resulting from traffic collisions. The narrative reminds us that these numbers are avoidable, if we design our cities and roads to be safe places.
Comics, because of their visually compelling form and long history of social critique, can be a powerful medium for promoting road safety. The story represented here makes us pause, and consider how our streets can be safer for all.
In January, 2013, a city emerged on the banks of the Ganges and Yamuna rivers in Allahabad, India. Temporary bamboo and fabric structures appeared on a floodplain that had been underwater just weeks before. Metal plates were laid down for roads, pontoon bridges were constructed, and health facilities were erected. From January 14 to March 10, as many as 34 million people are estimated to have passed through the festival, which occupies an area larger than that of Athens, Greece. And then, as March came to a close, everything was taken down and recycled, not to return to Allahabad for the next 12 years. The settlement vanished.
This gathering is called the Kumbh Mela, a Hindu religious festival and pop-up city like none other in existence. Beyond its magnificence and scale, Kumbh Mela has many lessons for urbanists on how to create and maintain a city that works for people.A Place of Public Ritual
The Kumbh Mela has been called the largest gathering in the world. It is a pilgrimage destination that rotates every three years between the four cities of Haridwar, Allahabad, Nashik, and Ujjain, the dates determined according to Zodiacal calculations on the positions of the Sun, Moon, and Jupiter. The festival always occurs on a river or confluence of rivers where, it is believed, Lord Vishnu spilled a drop of amrita (the nectar of immortality) as he flew away from a battle. Pilgrims, at a predetermined time, wash themselves in the river to remove themselves of sin. In addition to the primary ritual of bathing in the waters, attendees also engage in devotional singing, a mass feeding of holy men and poor, and assemblies where religious doctrine is debated.
All of these people, however, must also have water, food, and places to sleep. The gathering demonstrates exaggerated versions of the problems cities face, but has also been the driver of many potential solutions to these problems.A Valuable Site for Learning and Innovation
The sheer size and temporary nature of the gathering make it an unmatched laboratory for urban planners and designers, who can watch urbanization (and de-urbanization) occur at a fast-forward pace. A team from Harvard closely documented the 2013 event from beginning to end, and has recently released their findings as a book. They highlight that the process is necessarily tightly controlled and administered, and planned for months ahead of time by a centralized team. The construction included 35,000 toilets, 340 miles of water infrastructure and 95 miles of roads, all in the duration of a few months. The temporary settlement takes the form of a planned grid, and has 14 sectors with height limits, dividing walls, and even gardens.
The event has also become a laboratory for innovative tech solutions. Ramesh Raskar of MIT Media Lab, along with several partners at Ink, has created Kumbhathon, a movement which has engaged in several “Buildathons,” working with the government, private sector, and civil society in the city of Nashik (the next hosting city) to develop innovative solutions to the festival’s pressing problems. These solutions include cashless and smartphone-less payments for housing and services, bike-sharing, smartphone apps for navigation that show where crowds are thickest, crowdsourcing of location data to find missing people, and data collection to prevent the outbreak of epidemics. These solutions, while created to address the unique circumstances of a pop-up city, all have applications beyond the festival, both in other large gatherings and in everyday city life.
The Kumbh Mela is remarkable for the devotion its attendees display. The rituals, the colors, and the music all contribute to a striking event. Perhaps equally astounding, however, is the fact that the gathering, despite its constraints, is able to function at a basic level, delivering necessities and services to people. The fact that solutions can be found even under these extraordinary conditions is a signal to other city leaders that they can foster learning and innovation under comparatively ordinary circumstances. They can take note of the Kumbh Mela’s progress, learn from it, and bring a bit of this ephemeral city home with them.
From April 15 – 16, 2015 over 300 experts—including government officials, policy makers, urban planners, and transport practitioners—participated in a global conversation about Smart Cities at CONNECTKaro 2015. The conference was hosted by EMBARQ India in New Delhi, and key speakers included Nitin Gadkari (India’s Minister for Road Transport and Highways), Marcio Lacerda (Mayor of Belo Horizonte, Brasil), Manish Sisodia (Delhi’s Deputy Chief Minister), Jeff Olson (Director of Alta Planning), and Suresh Prabhu (India’s Minister for Railways). Here are some of the top tweets, quotes, and discussions that came from the conference’s panelists and participants.The opening session at #CK2015 discussed the role of smart cities for moving India forward:
— Divya Kottadiel (@dkottadiel) April 15, 2015
— WRI India (@WRIIndia) April 15, 2015Participants at CONNECTKaro also explored land management strategies for smart development: retrofits, redevelopment, and green-field development:
— EMBARQIndia (@EMBARQIndia) April 15, 2015And a session on transit-oriented development (TOD) focused on the opportunities and challenges of implementing TOD in Indian cities:
— Lakshmi Rajagopalan (@laksrajagopalan) April 15, 2015
Robin King: Transformation takes time, but its not going to happen on its own. We need creative and transformative policies #CK2015
— Madhuri Dass (@MadhuriDass) April 15, 2015Participants examined potential solutions that Indian cities can use to address women’s safety in public transport:
— EMBARQIndia (@EMBARQIndia) April 15, 2015
— Dario Hidalgo (@dhidalgo65) April 15, 2015EMBARQ India introduced 5 examples of how emerging businesses are innovating urban mobility. Entrepreneurs from Traffline, Zoomcar, Alta Planning + Design, and Personal Air Quality Systems Pvt. Ltd. presented:
— EMBARQIndia (@EMBARQIndia) April 15, 2015
— Sameep Arora (@asli_alsi) April 15, 2015Representatives from Raahgiri Day and Equal Streets sat on the panel about India’s open streets movement:
— Harry (@haristweet) April 15, 2015“Better Growth, Better Climate”discussed how India can benefit from global climate and development platforms, leveraging the smart cities initiative to attract funding and grow sustainably:
— iamglobe (@iamglobe) April 16, 2015An interactive workshop engaged with participants about how to plan, design, develop, and maintain safe access to and around mass transit stations:
— EMBARQIndia (@EMBARQIndia) April 16, 2015
— Jaspal Singh (@jaaaspal) April 16, 2015“Bus Karo” focused on the challenges to improving bus service in Indian cities:
— Jaspal Singh (@jaaaspal) April 16, 2015Another session covered the ways that developers can look at energy-usage patterns within communities to make cities more sustainable and equitable: growing number of road fatalities across Indian cities, a session on road safety focused on how we can adopt a sound design principles for road safety:
— WRI India (@WRIIndia) April 16, 2015
— Lakshmi Rajagopalan (@laksrajagopalan) April 16, 2015
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