For Delhi to become a Smart City, it must solve the problems we face regarding traffic, mobile connectivity and public utility services. One of the major flaws I see in the Smart City proposal is that it seems to be a copy of a western construct, with wide boulevards and big roads. These are not necessarily the main facilities we need. If you go to smaller towns or villages, you see narrow streets allow for more shade and are cooler in summer. This is what we should aim for.
I believe a Smart City is one where the public transport system is the primary mode of conveyance. Like the Mayor of Bogota famously said, ‘A developed nation is not where the rich ride in fancy cars but where they use public transportation’. We need to design our transport system to suit our cities and climate. Metro trains are eco-friendly but very expensive and take time to set up. We need electric rickshaws or cycles that can help contain vehicular pollution and provide last-mile connectivity. We also need to make it easy for residents to walk to markets and recreation centres.
A smart city needs smart governance. We need the government to be pro-active on pollution, waste management and water supply. If there are high levels of pollution in the air, there should be a mechanism to inform people about it so that they can take measures to minimise the adverse effect on their health (like wearing masks or avoiding going to certain areas).
Drinking water is becoming more scarce day by day. Delhi receives little rainfall and has to largely rely on nearby states. One of the key components of a Smart City should be water harvesting, thereby decreasing dependence on others. Last but not the least is smart waste management. We produce tonnes of solid waste everyday that has to be collected manually from each house. This process should be mechanised. Do away with incineration and dump sites or at least move them out of the city.
Delhi’s Smart City plan is a challenging task, but cooperation between the people and government agencies can definitely make it work.
The writer is the founder and director of Jamun Collective, a hub for Digital Filmmaking