Delhi government's ambitious Bhagidari programme — citizen participation in governance — has won accolades from policy makers and experts at the second edition of the ongoing World Cities Summit in Singapore. But Delhi still has a lot of catching up to do with cities like London, New York, Tokyo or Singapore when it comes to providing world class urban infrastructure.
The Bhagidari programme was among the top four finalists at the Lee Kuan Yew World City prize announced on Tuesday at the summit.
Spain's Bilbao City, which houses the famous Guggenheim Museum, became the first recipient of the Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize instituted last year. The other three finalists were Delhi, Melbourne in Australia and Curitiba in Brazil.
The Delhi government launched the Bhagidari programme in 2000 with the aim to involve citizens through Resident Welfare Associations (RWA) to find solutions to civic problems affecting them.
"We started off with 11 RWAs and today we have 2,300 of them working with us. With our support these RWAs have taken up projects such as rainwater harvesting and maintenance of parks," said Keshav Chandra, special secretary, Delhi government.
But Delhi could learn a lesson or two from Bilbao city. Bilbao was an industrial
city and was badly affected by floods in 1983. But the city government refused to give up and prepared a road map of urban regeneration.
"We not only rebuilt hard infrastructure but also undertook projects like setting up the Guggenheim Museum, theatres, sport centres and promenades along the restored Bilbao river front, etc.," Dr Inaki Azkuna., mayor of Bilbao.
"From an industrial city we transformed it into one rich in art and culture. The award is important to us as it highlights the fact that a city should continually undergo rejuvenation to remain relevant. We undertook various urban infrastructure and renewal projects over the last 25 years to transform the city," said Dr Azkuna.
Another finalist Curitiba was selected for its efficient public transport network. The country was the first to introduce the Bus Rapid Transit System which was replicated in several countries, including India.
"When we started the BRT a decade ago, we had 27,000 passengers travelling in the bus every day. Today we are carrying two million passengers a day. It's a system which is not only sustainable but also environment-friendly," said Jaime Lerner, former Curitiba mayor.