Japan to assist in making Chennai, Ahmedabad and Varanasi Smart Cities

8/1/2017 772 Geography | Urbanisation | View Recent Current Affairs

  • Japan has decided to be associated with the development of Chennai, Ahmedabad and Varanasi as smart cities.
  • So far, leading countries have come forward to be associated with development of 15 smart cities. These include: United States Trade Development Agency (USTDA) –Visakhapatnam, Ajmer and Allahabad, UK-Pune, Amaravati(Andhra Pradesh) and Indore, France-Chandigarh, Puducherry and Nagpur and Germany –Bhubaneswar, Coimbatore and Kochi.

About Smart cities project:

  • The concept of smart cities originated at the time when the entire world was facing one of the worst economic crises. In 2008, IBM began work on a 'smarter cities' concept as part of its Smarter Planet initiative. By the beginning of 2009, the concept had captivated the imagination of various nations across the globe.
  • Countries like South Korea, UAE and China began to invest heavily into their research and formation. Today, a number of excellent precedents exist that India can emulate, such as those in Vienna, Aarhus, Amsterdam, Cairo, Lyon, Málaga, Malta, the Songdo International Business District near Seoul, Verona etc.
  • The India Smart Cities Challenge is a competition designed to inspire and support municipal officials as they develop smart proposals to improve residents' lives. In 2015, cities competed in the first round – with the best proposals receiving funding from the Ministry of Urban Development.
  • Smart Cities focus on their most pressing needs and on the greatest opportunities to improve lives. They tap a range of approaches – digital and information technologies, urban planning best practices, public-private partnerships, and policy change – to make a difference.

Analysis:

  • Rapid and poorly regulated urbanisation has overwhelmed urban governments, rendering them incapable of providing even basic services such as clean water, sewerage, pedestrian-friendly roads, public transport, uninterrupted power, street lighting, parks and recreational spaces. So weak and uncoordinated is governance that commercial entities have wilfully violated building regulations and put up unauthorised structures — with severe impact on congestion, air quality and flood management — and governments have gladly regularised the violations later.
  • The smart city plan proposes to intervene and bring some order by upgrading the physical infrastructure in select enclaves, and incentivising the use of information and communication technologies
  • Technologies such as GPS to inform passengers in real time on their mobile phones, and common ticketing, increase the efficiency of transport use.
  • Universal design in public buildings and streets would help all people, including those with disabilities.
  • The challenge for Smart Cities is to provide proof of concept quickly and make outcomes sustainable. Care also needs to be taken that the effect is not to create gated communities of best practices and civic upgrade in a wider landscape of urban distress. It is crucial that these urban enclaves cater to the housing, health, education and recreation needs of a wide cross section of society, and that the convergence of the Smart Cities programme with existing urban renewal projects countrywide be smooth.

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