Thursday, July 16, 2015

Making the Smart City dream a reality!

“You take delight not in a city's seven or seventy wonders, but in the answer it gives to a question of yours.” … Italo Calvino.

Calvino was an Italian journalist and writer of short stories and novels. His best known works include the book “Invisible Cities’ & in so perfect words he has described what a citizen expects from the city they live in! Pune city especially PMC i.e. our governing public body always gives me surprises & very rarely does they turn out pleasant for me & on one such is when I read the news about competition PMC announced for the citizen for sharing their ideas about Smart City, they want to be! The topics were as follows & going a step ahead PMC has appealed that citizens can add also the topics which they feel needed to be included in above list! Now it’s up to citizens to respond as smart city can be made only by the participation & understanding of the concept by the citizens! Here are the topics published by PMC…
Topics That You Can Write on

1) Affordable Housing
2)     Citizen Participation
3)       Education
4)        Electricity
5)   Environment
6)   Garbage Management
7)       Governance
8)   IT connectivity and digitization
9)   Health
10) Solar Power
11) Toilets and Sanitation
12)   Traffic management
13) Water Supply
 As a citizen & an engineer with construction as my profession & the subject is very close to my business i.e. real estate, here is something I thought of my views about my Smart City…

1. Affordable Housing.

Well I think for any city first job is to provide the citizens a decent home & affordable to them. Affordable means not cheap which is unfortunately considered so in our country. Affordable is a multidimensional term, to me it means not just on the price part but entire life time maintenance front also. And we have different income groups as well life styles so the homes also should be affordable according to all such classes of the society. In the DP there should be reservation for affordable housing with special FSI as well norm of the homes designing in this zone also should be fixed. The planning as well design should be in standard pattern & PMC can auction these reservations in open tender so the developer will sale them to PMC at a fix rate & then PMC can allot to the needy people & rest FSI developer can use it at his will yet not to be sold above a certain price in open market! Here the entire infrastructure including arrangement of public transport too drainage treatment plants should be provided by the developer only. There won’t be any premiums but all should be adjusted against the numbers of home PMC getting. These zones can be planned all around the city especially in new merged villages.

2. Citizen Participation
By declaring this competition PMC has already taken first step in citizen participation, what’s important is what happened to the outcome of such participation? What’s need is make a separate cell for data collection of all such suggestions from citizens’ participation & giving them feedback about what happened to the same! As many people prefer to keep away as they think whatever they suggests goes to drain! So keeping people in loop not just for sake of the suggestions they give isn’t important but the action on those suggestions needs to be delivered to the concerned then only people will come forward for participation with PMC or any public body. Provide a full time available person for this & team trained in communication!
Start an award for best citizen of the year for the person who has contributed most in making the city a better place by his acts in whatever field it may be & we can have categories in this. And see that the award is been given without any partiality!

3. Education
Most neglected front in front of all popular needs of the city like water & traffic; the tag line “padhega India tabhi to badhega India” is just for advertisement! Visit any PMC school & see the scene & you will know why no sane parents send their kids here. Rather ask any of “mananiya” i.e. elected members or class one officers of PMC where their kids goes for schooling & you will get the answer what situation PMC schools are in! First thing make a role model school on infrastructure & then make a plan for converting all the PMC schools as per role model. Also make it compulsory for PMC election nomination that the kids must be in PMC School only. Similarly this criteria must be considered while giving promotions or writing CR’s i.e. confidential reports of every PMC employee! That will make all of them to pay more attention towards their responsibility on school as well education front. Also give tax benefit for those whose kids are in PMC schools! Make business houses as well corporate companies to adopt each school & the adoption must not be only funding but their employees should mix amongst the teachers as well students of this school so they also can benefit with such exposure of outer world! As to make good students you need good teachers first & for that constant training of teachers is a must!

4. Electricity
Again good that the city civic body accepted that power supply is their responsibility also & not just MSEB”s i.e. MSEDCL’s! First of all sit with MSEDCL officers & work out city power need present as well future. And then jointly mark all the infrastructural provisions like transformer, receiving stations, cable sizes & their paths. In coming years we will have more battery operated vehicles which will need charging so the charging stations as well their power requirement also should be considered. Public parking places can be made as public vehicle charging stations too! At the same times try to consider use of alternate sources of power generation like solar or gas to reduce conventional energy use.

5. Environment
Actually Environment comes in every field so instead making it separate front make every aspect right from Education too Governance environment savvy. And for that most important is making every individual aware about his role towards environment. Remember no environment can be conserved by effort of one department of industry or NGO but each of our efforts are going to matter. So make agenda of every city front accordingly that’s what will work instead treating environment as individual front!

6. Garbage Management
Carrot & stick is the only way. Stop lifting wet garbage from the societies where vermiculture NOC has been given or was a criterion while giving completion. Make a garbage generation as well collection measuring scale of every ward, road or society & monitor it. Right now we don’t know how much & what type of garbage is generated from which locality because there is no scale or record. Unless we don’t know how much volume is to be monitored how we are going to monitor it?
Shut down all the open garbage beans on roads & make a separate design for the same as this flooding garbage on road from the beans is shame of city face! Let’s take a design competition for garbage beans. And the monitor it as presently there is no time table at any public garbage bean to when empty it; so mark a electronic board near it like timing of next train coming on platform is displayed! Make business houses adopt garbage beans & allow them advertize the same as well if any company is buying the garbage allow them so by open tender! Similarly small garbage treatment plants in every ward is a must & reserve places in the DP for same & see that its designed in such way that there is no nuiscense to adjoining areas but with proper landscaping it can be turned in beauty spot.
Arrange school trips of every school in our city rather make it part of their syllabus, to the existing garbage depot so every kid will know the seriousness of this problem & will understand his role also in fighting the same!

7. Governance
This is the weakest link of entire system as nobody believes in governance of PMC is a bitter truth! First thing is make citizens believe in PMC & for that we need to make everything transparent to the public! Make an app on mobile by which entire system right from PMC Commissioner to a mukadam at ward office, with information about whose job is what type data available & their contacts. Presently no one knows who is responsible for what & that make people distrust on PMC’s governance! And then action taken against every law breaker has to be transparent as well impartial. There has to be a mechanism which will ensure all are same in governance.
Make every department staff work for some time span in other department to make them understand importance as well working of other departments.

8. IT connectivity and digitization
Make a virtual web site of PMC with every single office available virtually on the site in specified time & manage it properly. Avoid human interface as much we can as there only lays the success of digitalization. Make connectivity available at every square via interaction centers & get all day to day transactions like complaints too various payments & noc’s on this web site. Make across the counter payments a bit costly to promote online payments. Data is key to most of the problems & PMC should have best data bank about everything related to the city right from numbers of stray dogs in city too schools in the city too numbers of public vehicles i.e. PMPML busses on road & make this data available to every citizen on a click. Let every citizens creates his user id & his page on the web site & avail this data. Make a separate data collecting & analyzing team at PMC which will be like special force making this data available to every real needy one by confirming the intentions.
Also the DP should be in virtual 3D form, displaying the images of the use of the land or the zone so every citizen can read it!

9. Health
This has to be called as health & population control. As population is the main curse or cause of failure of our every policy & has to be controlled. Like PMC schools PMC health centers condition is too bad & needs to be looked after. Promote use of public health centers by making them people friendly & same make PMC corporaters as well staff to use them compulsory. Instead a citizen coming to public health center make health center people move out & reach out to the needy ones.

10. Solar/Alternate Power 
Make compulsory solar water heating at every existing as well new development whatever it may be. Include it in DC rules as well make provision of solar farms of rooftops of the building & in open spaces & on hills! Make all the bus stops like establishments with solar roof & utilize every such sq ft including PMC buildings terrace for solar power generation.

11. Toilets and Sanitation
Mark public toilets as reservation in DP. As well make ladies & gents public toilets compulsory in every new building & accessible to public. Tie up with every business house in city for adopting public toilets & allow them advertising as well their offices property tax bills at different rates who have adopted such toilets. Take a design competition for standard design of public toilets as well best maintained toilets every year!

12. Traffic management
Probably the star of all issues! The only solutions are strengthening public transport & then apply vehicle tax to demoralize people using private vehicles! CC TV cameras & control room for keeping control on the same. The people have to come on roads for minimum purposes such should be the city planning. Convert every amenity place acquired for just two purposes i.e. biodiversity or paid parking as we have enough malls & commercial places.

13. Water Supply 
Metered water supplies is must & fix the meters of down take lines of over head tanks also as unless we don’t know how much we are using how we can control the use? Collect every drop of rain water through close lines & collect it at various locations treat it & reuse it in rainy days that will curb the supply  of fresh water in rainy season. Make a network of rain water carrying lines not gutters for this! Enforce rain water harvesting in private developments & measure its use in terms of reduced use of fresh water. Rain water harvesting of catchment areas of dams supplying water to city should also be accepted as civic body’s responsibility only. Think of small check dams in river along with making the gorge deep to store more rain water. Here we can think of charging ground water & increasing ground water level also. A continues data of city ground water level has to be maintained for this.
Reuse of drainage is most important aspect & we can urge even smaller societies to come together & have their own combine ETPs’ especially in new development or merged villages.

14. Biodiversity
The city green belts has to be declared as reservations & acquire them by  giving TDR or market rate & plant as much indigenous trees we can & create forests within the city! Don’t allow any private club houses or swimming pools but use the open spaces for biodiversity conservation. Make every citizen plant & survive one tree in his or her life time. Name the tree after the one who has planted it & ask him to look after the same. Form nature clubs in every school & ward & carry awareness programs about various aspects of nature. We need public parks& amenity spaces can be the best place to make it happen. Also river side green belts can play important role in this. Use this TDR   i.e. generated for acquiring green belts & hill slopes TDR for affordable housing only!

15. Aesthetic Values, Culture & Heritage of the City!
This is where city lacks most as look at the sky line & we are ruled by hoardings & dish TVs cables all around. There has to be a specific design pattern for every public utility right from bus stop too pedestrian bridges & keeping utility at front aesthetics must be worked! Creating more & more public places right from river fronts to even open performing arenas in every part of the city should be another target. As backbone of the city is culture & if we conserve culture then automatically right from environment too heath everything falls in place! Let’s understand that no city can become smart if it lacks culture. Recently there was a news in media about 72 old sirens from British times has been discarded as the local body is unable to maintain them! Such old sites or structures or establishments must be listed out & convert them in tourist spots by preserving them with proper information boards near them!
Encyclopedia of the city is missing as no booklet or any map is there which tells us what we should look for in the city which was once famous for its heritages!

16. Safety & Disaster Management
Leave apart PMC even police force too is lagging on this very important front & we need to make common man aware about how to behave in disaster time like fire, earth quake or flood. Also safety measures to be strengthened as a very basic need of a good smart city is safe environment it provides to its citizens!
We can think of Drone Cameras flying over the city main roads as well rivers & congested areas all round the clock for surveillance to monitor disasters as well chain snatching type street crimes! These drone cameras can be used for traffic management also!The CC TV’s has to be of good quality & people should be made aware about location & their use as well their periodical maintenance! Most of the time the footage is of poor quality & of no use, is what recent experiences are!
Reaction time in disaster times is very much important by every person involved & a routine training is a must & a separate cell has to be created for same & we can use Ex Servicemen for such activities!

17. Encroachment Policy & Implementation
Any type of encroachment has to be dealt with immediate effect & without allowing any high profile interference or influence as then only people will trust law & rules! Make a separate court or tribunal to deal the encroachment matters & sort them out & first target should be no harassment to the common citizens; may it be any illegal building complex or even a stall of footpath!

18. Infrastructure to the Public Service Team
Look at the condition of PMC staff colonies or Police colonies & you will know why they are mostly frustrated at work. It’s very important to give proper residences as well other facilities like medical & even recreation to all those personnel who are working with any public serving establishment as then only we can hold them responsible for the job they are supposed to do i.e. serve the common man at their best!

Finally lets believe in our own capacities & make Smart City as our common goal as then only we can make it happen! As this is one dream which one single man might have seen but it should make each of us sleepless then only is any hope that it will be a reality or else it will just one more dream which will be forgotten in the time travels! And we need to be patient yet consistent to see this dream together, so be it!

Sanjay Deshpande

Sanjeevani Dev.

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