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Two Adjectives and a Noun: Smart and Resilient City

Merriam-Webster, the most trustworthy dictionary of American English since 1828 defines adjective Smart as ‘very good at learning or thinking about things’ and Resilient as ‘tending to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change’. Noun City is ‘an inhabited place of greater size, population, or importance than a town or village’.

The start of agriculture encouraged hunter -gatherers to abandon nomadic lifestyles and to settle near others who lived by farm production creating conditions that look more apt for city-like activities.

City planning has seen many different schemes for how a city should look. Grid plan in which city has different dedicated areas, much as is seen in modern city planning. Linear plan for an elongated city formed with a series of functionally specialized parallel sectors and a radial plan, in which main roads converge on a central point, supplemented by ring-roads around the outskirts, and every city expansion would imply a new circle.

Modern cities create their own microclimates due to heat island and underground rainwater ducts. Waste and sewage are two major problems for cities, as is air pollution from various forms of combustion. Other negative external effects also include health consequences such as communicable diseases, crime, and high traffic and commuting times.

Cities also generate positive effects as physical proximity facilitates knowledge spill-overs, helping people exchange information and generate new ideas. Population density enables sharing of common infrastructure and production facilities. In rising population numbers concentrated human activity into one place make environmental damage smaller. However, this can be achieved only if city planning is improved and city services are properly sustained.

There is a debate about whether technology and communications are making cities obsolete or reinforcing the big cities as centres of the knowledge economy. Knowledge based development, globalization of innovation networks, and abundant bandwidth are driving forces for planning towards smart cities that use technology and communication to create more efficient clusters in terms of competitiveness, innovation, environment, energy, utilities, governance, and delivery of services to the citizens. Some private companies are building brand new master planned cities from scratch like Gujarat International Finance Tec-City, India, Putrajaya, Malaysia and Masdar City, United Arab Emirates on greenfield sites.

A smart city is an urban development vision to integrate multiple technology solutions in a secure fashion to manage a city’s assets. The goal of building a smart city is to improve quality of life by using technology to improve the efficiency of services and meet residents’ needs.

Smart city applications are developed with the goal of improving the management of urban flows and allowing for real time responses to challenges. A smart city may therefore be more prepared to respond to challenges than one with a simple 'transactional' relationship with its citizens. Yet, the terms ‘Smart City’ remains unclear to its specifics and therefore, open to many interpretations and subject. A smart city would thus be a city that not only possesses technology in particular areas, but has also implemented this technology in a manner that positively impacts the local community.

A smart city roadmap consists of four major constituents which mainly include identifying community, knowing community, developing smart city policy and engaging community. In short, People, Processes, and Technology are the three principles of the success of a smart city initiative. Cities must study their citizens and communities, know the processes, business drivers, create policies, and objectives to meet the citizens’ needs. Then, technology can be implemented to meet the citizens’ need, in order to improve the quality of life and create real economic opportunities. This requires a holistic customized approach that accounts for city cultures, long-term city planning, and local regulations.

Ignoring alternative avenues of promising urban development, underestimation of the possible negative effects of the new technologies, business model based on capital mobility and high level of big data collection and analytics has given chance to critics to raise questions about Smart city.

Launched under Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2015, the “Smart Cities Mission” is an ambitious multiyear effort to boost economic development, technological innovation, and sustainable growth across 100 cities. India continues to experience rapid urban expansion, hence, public and private leaders at a national, state, and local level should look into ways to better manage larger populations and unlock greater economic potential.

Over period, India has accepted a fragmentary approach to enhance city life, including many individual programs sponsored by the central and state governments. Consequently, such approach did not provide a big enough push to necessarily improve the condition of cities. Smart Cities Mission in unison with Resilience thinking will generate desired results.

Apart from being smart city need to become more resilient to the physical, social and economic challenges that are a growing part of the current century. Each Smart City must support the adoption and incorporation of a view of resilience that includes not just the shocks—earthquakes, terrorism, floods, economic meltdown etc. but also the stresses that weaken the fabric of a city on a day to day perennially. Examples of these stresses include high unemployment; an overtaxed or inefficient public transportation system; endemic violence; or chronic food and water shortages. By addressing both the shocks and the stresses, a city becomes more able to respond to adverse events, and is overall better able to deliver basic functions in both good times and bad, to all populations.

Urban Resilience is the capacity of individuals, communities, institutions, businesses, and systems within a city to survive, adapt, and grow no matter what kinds of chronic stresses and acute shocks they experience. Improving the individual systems that make up a city will increase the resilience of the city overall. Resilient systems withstand, respond to, and adapt more readily to shocks and stresses to emerge stronger after tough times, and live better in good times.

Various City Resilience Frameworks are available to provide a lens to understand the complexity of cities and the drivers that contribute to their resilience, and a common language that enables cities to share knowledge and experiences. Resilience of the city is built on four essential dimensions Health & Wellbeing; Economy & Society; Infrastructure & Environment; and Leadership & Strategy. Know that Smart city is built on four pillars of Institutional, Physical, Social and Economic infrastructure.

Exclusive and independent resources for urban planners, leaders and visionaries, commerce developers and academics that are looking now for solutions to tomorrow’s challenges of adapting legacy urban centres to accommodate future economic and social needs are available to make a city Smart and Resilient.

Smart City should develop a strategic plan for growth with clear goals for basic service upgrading, employment growth and productivity, economic inclusion, and sustainability. Resilient City should develop a strategic plan to survive, adapt and grow in times of crisis arising out of shocks and stresses. Through citizens engagement Resilient City identifies its shocks and stresses, associated risks and prioritising actions. Local Urban Body should take a lead in building strategy for making the city Smart and Resilient by taking all stakeholders together.

Smart and Resilient City is about transformation, rejuvenation and future design and providing the data and resources that planners need to help define goals, design to meet those goals, implement policies, and maintain, administer, and upgrade the results. Smart and Resilient City is about the processes to be followed and evolved not a final destination.

Cities have always thought smart; however, current growth is generating added complexity. Cities are now the main human living environment, and demand resilience to face past and current challenges. The concept of Smart City has recently emerged, often based on ICT solutions, as an appealing response to these challenges. One has to remember that resilience is deeply rooted in cities genes, in their history, their culture, their social legacy and above all in their citizens’ ingenuity. All these remain present and powerful resources. In Indian context Surat, Chennai, Jaipur and Pune are readying themselves writing their smart and resilient strategies.

Our vision is of a smart and resilient city that places citizens at the centre of its projects by including them ahead of project, long-term and continuous involvement of all actors.

Cities could persist, as they have for thousands of years, only if their advantages offset the disadvantages. Indian politicians, planners, city administrators, businesses and people have to work towards creating Smart and Resilient India.

Kamlesh Yagnik,
Chief Resilience Officer, Surat
CRO@100RC-Surat.IN +91-98247-51544

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