Class is out, smart is in

For a city like Delhi to become truly smart, there must be focus on essential systems like transport, power, water procurement, distribution and disposal and the management of the city’s refuse

By Manoj Misra
Published: Friday 20 February 2015

For a city like Delhi to become truly smart, there must be focus on essential systems like transport, power, water procurement, distribution and disposal and the management of the city’s refuse

There was a time not very long ago when the city planners wanted Delhi to become a world ‘class’ (whatever that meant) city. But today talk is of having a ‘smart’ (again whatever that might mean) city. Let us attempt a common sense understanding.

Smart would be something that looks great and works great. For a city to look great would obviously need an ambience that is pleasing to the senses and to work great it would need enhanced systemic efficiencies with low energy needs and zero pollution. It might be tempting to see as to how could this possibly play itself out in AAP ki Dilli (AAP’s Delhi)?

There is what could be termed ‘essential’ systems and then there are ‘dependent’ systems that go to make a city, smart or not.

‘Essentials’ would include systems like water procurement, distribution and disposal; citizenry’s means of transportation; power (procurement and distribution) to brighten up as well as to move man and materials and finally the management of the city’s refuse (solid and liquid). The ‘dependent’ would include systems that subsist on the ‘essentials’ like the residential, commercial, industrial, institutional, heritage and the recreational spaces within the city. 

Clearly for a city like Delhi to become truly ‘smart’, focus must start from first making smart its ‘essential’ systems.   

Which in practical term means ‘smarting’ Delhi Jal Board (DJB) as the city’s waterman, Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) and Delhi Metro as its transporters, the various power utilities as its power producers, procurers and suppliers, and the three MCDs as its managers of refuse?   

Once ‘smarted’ enough what would Delhiites expect?

Adequate piped and stand posted (where pipelines do not exist) fresh water to each household and treated gray water for non house-hold facilities; total separation and efficient management of city’s sewerage, industrial and storm drainage; efficient and comfortable public transport on roads where pedestrians and cyclists have as much freedom to move; electric power increasingly sourced from renewable (solar) with fossil fuelled backups a thing of the past; swaccha (clean) Dilli (Delhi) which by implication is also a swasthya (healthy) Dilli.  

It is efficient, transparent and participatory management that would usher in smartness. Something that is hard to achieve no matter computerisation and mechanisation due to the unmanageable sizes of the facilities mentioned before. They have to downsize and decentralise their operations.               

Small is indeed beautiful, efficient, accountable and sustainable. While an overblown city like Delhi cannot be reversed to a small stature, its parts can certainly be broken up into smaller autonomous units in planning and in implementation terms with a seamless thread of continuity and contiguity remaining in place to ensure that no part is allowed to remain a laggard and break the city’s overall smartness.

Only time will tell, whether the city’s new ruling political dispensation, viz., AAP’s concept of mohalla sabhas (ward committees) can translate itself into the drivers and catalyst of the said process of decentralised planning, accountable implementation and enhanced efficiencies of its ‘essential’ systems and realise the swaraj (self rule) dream of its popular chief minister often written large on his cap and hopefully embedded deep in his heart and head? But if that happens, the nation shall get not only its smart capital, but also a replicable smart model. AMEN.         

Manoj Misra is the Convener of Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan.  


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