Azadi Ka Amrut Mahotsav: The Centre to document 75 smart cities initiatives

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New Delhi: An all-abilities public park, redevelopment of heritage areas, a digital library, smart traffic management system are among the 75 projects selected as part of the Union housing and urban affairs ministry (MoHUA)’s initiative to document the important work done under its smart cities mission. As part of the Azadi Ka Amrut Mahotsav celebrations, the ministry will launch a compendium of 75 urban projects in June 2022, a ministry official said.

For the initiative, Smart Cities and Academia Towards Action and Research (SAAR), the ministry has roped in the National Institute of Urban Affairs and 15 premium architecture and planning institutes, including the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Roorkee, the Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology (CEPT), Jamia Millia Islamia, for documenting the projects.

Kunal Kumar, joint secretary and mission director (smart cities mission), MoHUA, said, “The initiative is a bridge between the academic world and practical work carried out by agencies in urban areas under the mission. This will help students get a real-time understanding of what goes on the ground and get hands-on experience. These projects are case studies and every aspect will be documented by various institutions.”

The institutes have selected five-six projects each from the work done by 100 cities the smart cities mission.

For instance, the School of Planning and Architecture (SPA), Vijayawada, has selected projects such as an all-abilities park, floating solar power plant, semi-underground bins executed in Visakhapatnam.

Adinarayanane R, dean of planning and development at SPA Vijayawada, said, “The all-abilities park is a step toward inclusive development. It has infrastructure which is disability-friend. Similarly, the underground bins are aimed at addressing the problem of overflowing bins often seen in cities. The bins are partially underground and fitted with sensors. The initiative by the ministry will help students understand the ground realities of implementing projects. We will document the entire process, potential benefit to the stakeholders and also give our recommendations.”

Urban planners at these institutes said that this initiative has provided an opportunity for students to learn. Saswath Bandhopadhyay, professor at faculty of planning at CEPT in Ahmedabad, said, “We have eight students and four faculty members working on the SAAR initiative. This is a good opportunity for students to learn from various projects being implemented in various cities and understand what’s working for the city and the challenges in executing urban infrastructure projects.”

CEPT will be documenting the work done by agencies in Ahmedabad, Surat, Vadodara, and Dahod. It has selected projects such as waste management in Dahod, smart parking solutions in Ahmedabad, and conservation of treated water in Surat.

Experts said that some of the projects can be replicated in other cities. For instance, the Chappan Dukan project executed in Indore is an example of rejuvenating an old market area by bringing all stakeholders together, said Rahul Tiwari, professor of architecture and planning at Maulana Azad National Institute of Technology (MANIT) in Bhopal.

One of the biggest problems faced by most city administrations in redeveloping an old area is building consensus among stakeholders and getting them to participate in the process.

Tiwari, who along with his team, will be documenting the redevelopment of Chappan Dukan in Indore, said, “It is an old informal market with several eating joints. The entire area has been rejuvenated and the infrastructure upgradation work here has been carried out in collaboration with the shop owners. The streets are pedestrian-friendly, space has been created for sitting, open green areas have been developed etc. This is something which can be done in other cities as well.”

Another important project selected by the institute is the land monetisation project in Bhopal.

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