KOCHI: Though Kochi can boast of metro connectivity and smart city status, it still falls behind in providing basic living facilities. According to the Ease of Living Index - 2020 published by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs last week, among cities with a population of less than a million, Kochi is positioned at 39, falling behind many Level-II cities, with an overall score of 51.41 points. On the other hand, Thiruvananthapuram and Kavaratti (Lakshadweep) have bagged 21 and 36 positions, respectively.
However, the city topped the ‘governance’ vertical under the Municipal Performance Index by scoring 61.39 points. It is ranked 12 in the overall municipal performance.The report has assessed the city on the parameters of quality of life, economic ability, sustainability, and citizen perception. A total of 111 cities had participated in the assessment done before the lockdown in March 2020.
The report thoroughly evaluates the quality of life and the impact of various initiatives for urban development. The city won third rank under the economic ability category and 52nd rank in terms of quality of life, whereas it was placed in 48th rank in the citizen perception vertical which was assessed through a survey among the public.In the backdrop of this, experts have called for ensuring a collaborative approach involving city residents in all development activities.
“We need a collaborative development model. It must include the active participation of civil society, residents’ associations or business groups. Every project should be conceived after a detailed consultation with these stakeholders to ensure their role till realising the proposals. It takes at least 100 years to set up a similar system in place and many international cities have gone through the process,” said D Dhanuraj, chairman, Centre for Public Policy and Research (CPPR).
“Currently, our agencies are forming a framework and conduct seminars or workshops for civil society interactions. Areas like service delivery can be improved drastically through such an approach. It cannot be realised through one-off seminars. Kochi Corporation should make it an institutionalised mechanism and involve residents on day-to-day basis in all its future endeavours,” he said. According to many, the concept of livability is rooted in the perceptions of the citizens. “Instead of a ceremonial governmental exercise, efforts to improve livability should start from the constant participation of citizens. We have made the ongoing exercises government oriented.
Though there are civil society engagements in the planning, only a few experts hailing from the city are involved. They don’t represent a city that has lakhs of people. Using collaborative platforms like social media, authorities should make all stakeholders participants in development activities. Economic, labour, transport, waste management and other issues should only be discussed through a citizen-centric approach. If we continue with the top-down approach, no city would improve its standards,” added Dhanuraj.Meanwhile, experts are pointing towards the need for better coordination with various agencies to improve Kochi’s living conditions in the coming years.
“The index has assessed through various parameters. A coordinated approach led by Kochi Corporation involving agencies like Greater Cochin Development Authority, Cochin Smart Mission Limited and others is the way forward. They should chart out a portfolio of activities based on the in-depth consultative process,” said S Gopakumar, president, BKRG.
“Kochi is being governed by various agencies without zero coordination. Be it environment, cleanliness or sustainability, the target cannot be met through the efforts of a single agency. A high-level committee should be formed to set the agenda through regular brainstorming sessions to improve the ranking in the coming years,” said Gopakumar.