Smart Cities should satisfy certain basics, without which other smart elements established at whatever cost would not be sustainable. The Central Smart City project plan should detail the strategies to achieve the basics and other smart elements. Some CSOs are reported to be working on this and are awaiting the 100 Smart City project plan, which is to be released by the Urban Development Ministry shortly. It should be recognised that every city, smart or otherwise, forms part of a watershed/river basin. Proper resource and effluent/waste management is a must for environmental and ecological health of both the city and its downstream areas.
The Basics should include: the interests of slum dwellers and migrant workers; the safety of women and children and, importantly, gender justice and child rights; the availability of affordable good quality drinking water; the provision of affordable and effective health care and education for all; the ensuring of nutritional security through an efficient PDS, to support the urban poor; the upgradation of the quality of government and municipal Schools; and the opening of many more Central schools and polytechnic colleges. In a Smart City, all the traditional water tanks should be rejuvenated, pollution of every kind removed and at least 20% of the city should be under green cover.
Other important elements are:
Segregation of domestic waste at source into different coloured bins (bio-waste, recyclables such as paper/card board/packaging, rigid and flexible plastics and non-recyclables for safe disposal), a waste collection system and transportation of the waste directly to the recycling units. A special system for the collection and transportation of hazardous waste (chemicals/medicines, CFLs, glass, electrical and electronic items, mobiles and related accessories, old air conditioners, refrigerators, water/air coolers, etc.) to recycling units should be given priority. We should follow the policy of Reduce (use of resources), Recycle and Reuse.
Enhancing domestic energy and water efficiency:
Interest free loans on attractive repayment terms should be given for replacing old, inefficient electrical and gas based appliances. Well trained teams should visit every home for suggesting appropriate measures for enhancing domestic energy efficiency. School children and college youth should be educated on resource and waste management. There should be insistence on a low flow rate for tap heads in kitchens, wash rooms and domestic gardens and garages, in order to help drastically reduce water wastage. Recharging of groundwater, roof-top rain water harvesting and efficient storm water drainage systems should be prioritised. Pedestrian safety, with timed pedestrian crossing signals, and requisite infrastructure, with special focus on children, physically challenged and old people, helps make a city smart.
Most of the above mentioned measures form the joint responsibilities of citizens, corporates, municipalities and State and Central Governments. Transportation, power, construction (individual, commercial, industrial, institutional) and e- governance need to be addressed separately. Civil society needs to address all of these aspects on a priority basis before our government finalises anything.