‘Pune-The Most Livable City in India’. That is the Vision of Puneites for their City. Citizens were indeed overwhelmed with joy as their city was ranked second out of 97 contestants in the Stage II of the smart cities challenge
Pune is known for its remarkable strengths as a city with a thriving art, cultural and historical base, an excellent hub for primary, secondary and higher education, strong scientific human capital, and a vibrant manufacturing sector. It is one of the most preferred destinations for the IT and BPO sectors among both Indian and foreign investors. The city is blessed with a salubrious climate almost round the year. The Pune Municipal Corporation has enviable figures in most service delivery areas, be it population covered by tap water connection, per capita water supply, solid waste segregation and collection, or per capita expenditure on service provision.
With all these strengths, the City always appeared to stand a good chance in the smart cities challenge. The Corporation submitted its proposal to the MoUD, Government of India after intense citizen engagement using what it called the ‘5S’ approach, signifying speed, scale, structure, solutioning and social audit. The effort reached out to over three lac households in the Visioning phase, the first of nine phases.
The above citizen engagement process as well as desk research brought out the most pressing issue faced by the city, namely mobility. The Local body has proposed a combination of solutions to address this issue including new options of public transport like BRT and Metro, augmenting existing options namely buses, and enhanced use of non-motorised transport (NMT) namely walking and bicycling. These measures are expected to increase the average commute speeds of puneites from the current 18 Kmph to 30 Kmph. In order to make the existing public transport system more reliable and citizen friendly, the City proposes 100% real time tracking of all buses with the aid of GPS and a central control room to monitor service levels. In- bus CCTV cameras and Wi-Fi enabled entertainment, on-line vehicle health monitoring system and more friendly bus stops are some other measures that will go towards building a more efficient public bus transportation option. Since traffic congestion hinders mobility and increases commute time, the administration has proposed a slew of measures including intelligent signaling systems, multi-level parking and mobile apps for traffic information and forecasting.
Among other parameters, the challenge mandates addressing public utilities service delivery. Here the City has set a target of providing 150 litres per capita per day of treated water to each citizen on a 24×7 basis. While Pune is blessed with adequate water resources, meeting the above target will require some effort. The Smart City Plan has proposed among others, augmentation of the dams’ storage, reduction in leakages and non- revenue water from 30% to 15%, 100% recycling and 100% smart metering across commercial establishments.
While the above are all part of the Pan-City initiatives, the administration has chosen Aundh-Baner-Balewadi (ABB) for Local Area development. In close proximity to the Hinjawadi IT Park, this bustling upmarket neighbourhood lends itself well to technology based solutions. Being among the newer parts of the city only makes things better. The authorities propose to deploy all the 24 smart city features to make ABB ‘Future Ready’ in order to meet the dramatic four fold growth expected in the population by the year 2030 from the current 40,000. To leapfrog the mobility challenges of this area, the city plans to press into service 100 e-buses, e-rickshaws, and build an elevated BRT extension. These measures are targeted to jack up the share of public transport to 50% from a measly 18% now. 27 Kms of dedicated bicycle tracks and 60 Kms of redesigned footpaths will help improve NMT share to 8% from a negligible 1%. While the above address many of the physical infrastructure needs, attention has also been given to the social infrastructure by proposing 3 new international schools, several hospitals and public toilets. Specially designed pathways for the differently abled and socio-economic transformation of slum dwellers will make the whole initiative socially inclusive. Some innovations on the liveability front aim to change the landscape of ABB dramatically; riverfront promenade with entertainment, large open spaces, and open air vegetable markets and so on. Extensive use of ICT is proposed in local service delivery, governance and grievance redressal measures.
While many more measures are proposed by the authorities, one aspect that requires special focus in all smart city plans is Citizen Engagement. Inspite of all the infrastructure and ICT use, no smart city plan can succeed without the active participation of and a sense of pride among the citizens for their City and Area. Traffic discipline is an area which needs urgent and concerted participation. Public cleanliness and sanitation is another area. Smart cities need to engage citizens in a variety of ways and on all aspects of the smart cities mission to ensure that they achieve success in their efforts.
Active participation of the student community can help in large measure in promoting traffic discipline, public cleanliness and on measures like water conservation and waste management. Small meetings in community settings and housing societies with the participation of prominent personalities, screening of short films in movie halls and city TV channels will all help in building awareness and pride among citizens and create a strong urge in them to contribute in their own way towards making their city and area smart. While many smart city proposals address the issues of local government effectiveness and efficient service delivery, i.e. the top-down aspect, there is need for greater focus on citizen participation and ‘smart’ behaviour, i.e. the bottom-up aspect. Then and only then can we see cities that are truly ‘smart’ and sustainable. And Pune too can realize its vision of becoming ‘the most liveable city in India’.