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Thursday, Dec 12, 2019

Our smart city model fails the collective needs of NCR

The concept of urban agglomeration is more suited to urban growth in and around Delhi. The fact that Gurugram, as well as other cities like Faridabad, Noida and Ghaziabad border Delhi and are seen as part of the National Capital Region (NCR) makes this a very large urban agglomeration.

gurgaon Updated: Apr 04, 2019 08:10 IST
Kalpana Viswanath
Kalpana Viswanath
Hindustan Times, Gurugram
Urban agglomerations are a contemporary form of urban growth, comprising of continuous urban growth around a large city encompassing many smaller bordering cities.
Urban agglomerations are a contemporary form of urban growth, comprising of continuous urban growth around a large city encompassing many smaller bordering cities. (HT Photo )
         

People from outside India often ask if Gurugram is a suburb of Delhi. The Cambridge dictionary defines a suburb as “an area outside a city but near it and consisting mainly of homes, sometimes also having stores and small businesses”. The common usage of the term more often refers to a residential area just outside a city from where people commute to the city for work. The United States model of urbanisation has largely been one of cities with a central business district (CBD) and suburbs for residences. This has meant each of these areas are single use and not mixed usage like most Indian cities.

While many people from Delhi have shifted to Gurugram to live, the city is also home to many commercial enterprises and businesses. In fact, the rush hour sees traffic to Gurugram in the morning and away from the city in the evening, making it different from a usual suburb as it is equally known for its residential areas, businesses and retail. Gurugram therefore is not really a suburb of Delhi.

The concept of urban agglomeration is more suited to urban growth in and around Delhi. The fact that Gurugram, as well as other cities like Faridabad, Noida and Ghaziabad border Delhi and are seen as part of the National Capital Region (NCR) makes this a very large urban agglomeration. Delhi is now the second-largest global agglomeration in the world after Tokyo, with 29 million inhabitants, and is predicted to become the largest by 2028.

Urban agglomerations are a contemporary form of urban growth, comprising of continuous urban growth around a large city encompassing many smaller bordering cities.

An urban agglomeration is seen as an important carrier for economic development. The economy of a city like Gurugram is closely tied to the economy of Delhi, as we see so many people commuting between these two cities for employment.

A city of this size and complexity needs to address governance as well as service provisions in innovative ways. Delhi itself has such fragmented governance with a multiplicity of agencies. Some of the roads come under the purview of the Public Works Department (PWD), others are part of the municipality, as yet others under the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI). Add to this the Municipal Commission of Gurugram (MCG), HSVP (Haryana Shahri Vikas Pradhikaran) and now the GMDA (Gurugram Metropolitan Development Authority), and we are left with an extremely confusing and fragmented model of governance.

The problems we share are common and connected. Air pollution, which has become one of the biggest concerns of NCR residents, does not follow administrative boundaries and therefore we will be ineffective in dealing with it if we are not able to move out of defined boundaries and methods of problem-solving.

The different cities need to work together to plan a public transport system that truly allows residents to be in the region seamlessly, while also encouraging people to shift from personal car usage, as the traffic in the NCR is reaching a breaking point.

We need to think beyond administrative boundaries in addressing these growing concerns. The smart city model does not address this complexity and size, rather focusing on smaller areas within the city. Neither does privatisation of public services offer the solution as these will tend to be localised to a small area with very limited objectives.

The solution has to keep the big picture of the massive scale of the urban agglomeration in mind, as well as harness this to strengthen governance rather than see it as a problem.

@SafetipinApp
(Co-founder and CEO of Safetipin, the author works on issues of women’s safety and rights in cities)