Pradeep Misra, chairman and MD, REPL, talks about urban planning challenges
Praggya Guptaa | May 10, 2018
Most of our big cities were built during the British era. They were meant to accommodate a certain size of population and last for a certain period. However, due to rapid urbanisation, these cities have become overcrowded with an unbearable pressure on civic amenities including water and sanitation. In an interaction with Governance Now, Misra talks about urban planning challenges while working on the Smart Cities project.
What is the status of Smart City projects in Varanasi and Bhopal? Did you face any major challenge?
Challenges may arise due to absence of a master plan, environmental loss and area expansion issues. For example, the Madhya Pradesh government had to change the original location of the Bhopal Smart City project because of local resistance. Now in the new location, the Smart City project will be implemented in an area that is less than half of the original.
How do you ensure that these cities are not only smart but sustainable too?
Economic factors are crucial to the success of a smart city. So, we focus on laying out a clear plan of vibrant economic growth of the city, based on multiple growth drivers. We also identify the potential for job creation. The focus is not only on primary economic jobs but also on service jobs. The city also needs enough skilled manpower to run its services and maintain infrastructure.
A smart city must also have a reliable, affordable and sustainable transport system. Along with a robust public transport system, last-mile connectivity is necessary for optimal utilisation of mass transit systems. A new city’s mobility system must be integrated with the regional transport system.
There are cities in China that were once developed as satellite towns, but now have turned into ghost cities. Do you see such risks in India?
We should not indulge in such alarmism. But we must ensure that smart cities offer affordable houses and affordable transportation system besides economic sustainability. No city can be habitable unless it attracts investment and creates jobs. Smart cities will also have to offer a sense of security to its residents if they are to become attractive habitations.
The government has planned to transform Varanasi into a Kyoto-like city. Do you see this happening?
Varanasi is beset with problems like traffic congestion, electricity wires hanging on poles and potholed and semi-encroached roads, which are major put-offs for the local and foreign tourists. However, these will be things of the past once the city gets key facilities of a smart city project – integrated smart traffic management system, smart roads and smart buildings. The traffic system would help the city in overcoming chronic traffic congestion. The city’s major roads will have heritage lights, and its buildings [will have] murals depicting the essence of Varanasi and life history of its legendary figures.
(The interview appears in the May 15, 2018 issue)
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