Forget smart, make cities livable…

Blogging has been absent for many days as ME was on a summer break. Blogging going to be more regular from now on.

Anjuli Bhargava of BS has a piece on Smart cities saying make our cities livable first. This is what ME has been arguing ever since the idea was first espoused:

All of last month, newspapers have been full of news aboutpollution levels in Delhi and how we are losing years of our lives due to the air we breathe. The expats in India have been warned, sales of air purifiers are on the rise and I’m sure hardship allowances of diplomats in India will go up. Even the early morning walks at Lodi Garden – as one of our columnists has informed us – are no longer as fresh as they felt before.

If the Cabinet looked beyond its noses and Lutyens’ Delhi, it would quickly see what a menace the traffic in the city has become – this despite the Metro taking a huge load off the roads. Start at 9 a m from Gurgaon and try and reach Noida or Greater Noida. It is easier and faster to reach Mumbai, which is 1,433 km away – aerially, of course. Senior government officials need to take a ride crossing south Delhi during peak hours for a reality check on what can happen and how long and frustrating it can be.

Driving within Gurgaon – the Millennium City – has become a challenge. As the city tries to regulate its ever-increasing traffic, roads are made one way and back the other way without any warning. Cybercity – the hub of corporate Gurgaon – resembles a large construction site, with uneven large craters (akin to the moon, I suspect) on the road. There are forks and U-turns that everyone regularly misses. Cars are often backing up into a steady stream of traffic as they realise they have missed some turn or the other – they are so poorly sign-posted, if at all.

The traffic situation in several other cities – be it Bengaluru, Pune, Hyderabad or Kolkata – is steadily deteriorating as well. Traffic peak hours in all these cities are dreaded and cases of road rage are no longer unheard of even in these relatively less aggressive cities.

This idea of smart cities smacks of complete ignorance of reality by our politicos. Most cities do not have basics and those that had basics are increasingly losing them. Top cities do not have things like water, electricity and roads. Yet we are talking about all kinds of fancy things like provide smart technology to so called netizens.

The team which is responsible for these smart cities should tour the cities first and get a reality check.

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