To start with a couplet from the famous poet “Zauq”
“इन दिनों गरचे दक्खन में है बड़ी कद्र ऐ सुख़न
कौन जाए ‘ज़ौक’ पर दिल्ली की गलियां छोड़कर”
“In dinon garche deccan mein hai badi qadr-e-sukhan
Kaun jaye ‘Zauq’ par dilli ki galiyan chhodkar ”
(Now a days Deccan is very prosperous, but Zauq who wants to leave the streets of Delhi?)
I too am a proud Delhiite (despite being a female living in the so called Rape capital of India and also one of the most polluted cities of the world) and dare I say a responsible one who wishes to see her city feature among the smart and livable world class cities of the world.
What do we mean by a smart city?
A city equipped with the basic infrastructure to give a decent quality of life to its residents, a clean and sustainable environment through application of some smart solutions.
What encompasses basic infrastructure?
It means the basic framework for smooth functioning of a city and better quality of life of the citizens; like
1. Assured water and electricity supply,
2. Sanitation and solid waste management,
3. Efficient urban mobility and public transport
4. Strong IT connectivity, e-governance and citizen participation
5. Safety and security of citizens
6. Health and Education
What are smart solutions?
A smart solution is one that should enable cities to use technology, information and data to improve infrastructure and services and provide better quality of life to its citizens.
Health and Education
With privatization of education, Delhi has world class school colleges and curriculum available to our students and Primary education is still much better than other states .We also have one of the best medical colleges and hospitals that are making path breaking advances in medical procedures and giving boom to medical tourism in India.
In fact the NCR Delhi has grown by leaps and bounds in terms of infrastructure and development in the last decade unfortunately this also means that the city is crumbling under its own weight as increased migration has put an additional load on the city’s limited resources thus giving rise to increased crime, pollution, traffic jams and congestion.
In 2014 World Health Organization released a list of world’s 20 most polluted cities, unfortunately as many as 13 Indian cities figured in the list with Delhi figuring among the top three most polluted cities of the world.
How can we forget the infamous Great Smog of Delhi in November 2016, when the PM (Particulate matter) crossed the 900 mark in some areas of the city, recording almost 15 times the safety limit and several people complained of burning of eyes, cough and breathlessness. It was attributed to colder weather, moisture in the atmosphere and stagnant winds trapping the suspended smoke, burning of garbage and fallen leaves and vehicular emissions and also the bursting of firecrackers during Diwali and burning of crop stubble after harvest in North India .
In fact the PM Level (Particulate matter) in Delhi becomes 10 times higher than the limit prescribed by W.H.O. during every winter which is a matter of grave concern .
Delhi has close to 17 Million registered vehicles & close to 12Million in NCR (highest in the world among all cities).Imagine the amount of congestion and pollution we must be facing every day on the roads.
Luckily the November 2016 smog was a wake up call and some measures have been taken by the local government to reduce the PM levels.
1. Bharat stage emission standards (BSES) are emission standards instituted by the Government of India, to regulate the output of air pollutants motor vehicles. Bharat Stage IV emission norms have been in place since April 2010 and it has been enforced for entire country since April 2017.
It has been proposed to skip BSES V and directly enforce BSES VI by 2020 in accordance with Euro 6 Emission norms to improve the air quality further.
I say let us take a cue from London (one of the worst polluted city in Europe) –starting from October 23, 2017, the city of London has enforced a new law that imposes a fine of £10 ($16.39 CAD), called a “T-charge” (short for Toxicity Charge) for driving cars that do not meet the Euro 4 emissions standard.
We need immediate action against visibly polluting vehicles, carrying out checks of overloaded vehicles, ensuring “No Parking ”in non-designated areas, Intelligent traffic management system ,decongestion of pathways, promoting battery-operated vehicles and considering introduction of flexi/staggered timings to minimize peak movement of vehicles also car- pooling to be encouraged .
2. Closing of the Badarpur Thermal Power Station – The Thermal power plant is the most polluting power plant of India and was temporarily closed during the great Smog of 2016; it has been proposed to close it down permanently by July 2018 .
3. Green buffers along traffic corridors – There is a policy in place for green belts along traffic corridors and I feel corporates can chip in (like Vodafone’s initiative of providing air filters at bus stop so that passengers while waiting can inhale less toxic air )to help in sponsoring the green drive .
4. Alternative and Better transport systems and green fuel – C.N.G. has been promoted and adopted in a big way which has helped reduce pollution .Metro trains operational since 2002 have provided Delhiites world class transport and a safer and cleaner alternative to the D.T.C. and the notorious Blueline bus services .The network is gradually spreading to connect the whole NCR region and reduce the transit time significantly .I specially love the way travelling to the airport has become so much hassle-free and cheaper too .My journey time has been cut down from a long two hours to half without any traffic jams .We need more such green public transports and connectivity .
Water and Power
While smart meters have been put into place to monitor consumption, and reduce thefts of water and electricity, we also need better grid management to help cut down energy losses during transmission since energy saved is equivalent to energy generated.
But the need of the hour is to accelerate the adoption of greener and sustainable energy sources.
Delhi Government’s latest solar policy, aims to make Delhi a “solar city” through generation of 1,000 megawatt of power by 2020 and taking it further to 2,000 MW by 2025.
Solar Energy is a cheaper and safer alternative to conventional sources of energy thanks to lower taxes.The proposed exemption from wheeling, banking and transmission charges for solar energy within Delhi would make it even more affordable for the common man.
The Railways’ has taken a step forward in realizing this dream,they have installed newly acquired solar power plants on the roof tops of Hazrat Nizamuddin, New Delhi, Anand Vihar and Delhi railway stations that will generate 76.5 lakh units of solar power cumulatively per year and shall meet about 30 per cent of the energy requirement of these stations .
I quote Christian Redl of Agora Energywende, a German energy think tank “What has happened in India in solar sphere in five years took 15 years in Germany!”
So let us pat ourselves on the back for coming so far though we still have a long way to go .We still need smart solutions to our waste management problem with our landfills filling up fast. Another area of concern is citizen’s grievance redressal, transparency in governance and safety of and security of citizens specially women and elderly.
Despite the short comings, Delhi still remains the place where Tombs of Emperors rub shoulders with a Chaat walla .A city steeped in history. It is the land that gave us great poets like Ghalib, Nizamuddin, Khusro, Zafar, Zauq, Bedil Dehalvi and Khuswant Singh .It is a thriving ,teeming city of aspirations and opportunities and a promise for a better future .
On that optimistic note, I wish all my fellow Delhiites a Super life and a hope filled future .