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Smart yet sustainable cities the road map ahead

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“An advanced city is not a place where the poor move about in cars; rather it’s where even the rich use public transportation”

The above quote famously said by Enrique Peñalosa, former mayor of Bogota, Colombia, reflects what an ideal city should be like. He is an advocator for sustainability in the cities of future and had been the driving force in the late 1990s to transform Bogota plagued with traffic congestion and unplanned urbanization, to become a model for other cities globally by incorporating several ‘green’ initiatives for city planning that helped in sustainability of the environment as well. The issue of rapid urbanization faced by Bogota is not confined to Colombia, but is evident to all cities globally. The steps taken by Enrique were the initial steps towards building sustainable advanced cities; the next steps would be to leverage technology to build smarter cities that have less carbon footprint on the environment.

Statistically, across the world more people live in cities than in the rural areas; and the same is true for India. According to the McKinsey report, India’s urban population is projected to increase from 34 crores in 2008 to 59 crores in 2030. With India’s economy being on the rise, the influx of population from rural areas towards cities will continue; and by turn of this decade the number of Indian cities with million plus population will cross the 100-mark. Such massive surge in population growth will put Indian cities to myriad of pressures ranging from scarcity of resources, financial instability, degradation of environment and most importantly unmanageable urban population. This is where PM Modi’s initiative of building 100 “smart cities” assumes relevance. It’s a well thought futuristic project to meet the challenges of rapid urbanization by making the cities ‘smart’ yet sustainable and efficient.

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Leveraging technology as the mainstay, the concept of smart city is influenced by the idea of developing the urban centres to provide better amenities in terms of electricity, water supply, sanitation, traffic and transport management systems; and thus improving the quality of life for the citizens.Environment is the key-word while thinking of a smart city; therefore concepts of sustainability have to be closely tied to the building of smart cities. This requires that the urban planners use low energy housing materials for construction, newer water harvesting techniques and renewable source of energy. Concomitantly, the concept of “internet of things” with extensive use of IT systems on cloud has to be at the core of the city’s infrastructure. The “internet of things” is the concept of having network of sensors that interconnect all objects to one another. With the wireless sensor network citywide monitoring for pollution, traffic movement, weather condition, air and water quality etc. can be achieved. This information can be delivered in real-time to appropriate authorities to deliver public services to citizens in enhanced manner.

Even at Panasonic we are committed towards contributing to the society and environment with technological innovations. Fujisawa Sustainable Smart Town is one such initiative to build a sustainable, self-reliant and smart city in the vicinity of Tokyo. The innovations in sustainability and advancements in technology will result in evolving and reinventing Indian cities to become world-class sustainable townships, which will not only improve the quality of lives for residents, but have very less negative environmental impact too. There is time-factor consideration also as creating smart cities could potentially take upto 10-20 years and not only requires government’s initiative but citizens involvement too. Considering the urbanization challenges, India has taken the right path to manage its urbanization better by the initiative of creating 100 smart cities.

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Manish Sharma
Manish Sharma
Executive Officer, Panasonic, President & CEO, Panasonic India & SA, Chairperson FICCI Electronics Manufacturing Cmte


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