Strengthen villages to solve urban issues

All India Institute of Local Self-Government (AIILSG) along with Raipur Municipal Corporation (RMC) and Raipur Smart City Development Ltd organised ‘Urban Dialogues: Mor Raipur’ on November 20, 2019, at Sayaji Hotel, Raipur. The conference brought into light developments under ‘Smart Cities Mission’ in Raipur and advancement made by the city in the fields of environment, water and overall sustainable development

Dr Charan Das Mahant, Speaker of the Chhattisgarh Legislative Assembly, was the chief guest of the conference and began the dialogues by lighting the lamp. Pramod Dubey, Mayor of Raipur Municipal Corporation (RMC), Lokeshwar Sahu, Additional Commissioner, RMC, Ravi Ranjan Guru, Deputy Director-General, AIILSG, DP Tiwari (Retd IAS), Former Deputy Commissioner, Raipur, SK Mishra, Former Chief Secretary, Chhattisgarh, Abhilash Khandekar, Senior Journalist, and Ashok Wankhade, Managing Editor, Urban Update were also present at the occasion.
The dignitaries then proceeded to share their opinions on the developments in Raipur and the issues faced by the city. Ravi Ranjan Guru welcomed everyone on behalf of the AIILSG and briefed the conference about the objective of Urban Dialogues. “We visit various cities across India and try to understand and bring forth the various issues of that particular city to the various stakeholders of the city. The aim behind this is to ensure an all-inclusive future for the city.” He highlighted that AIILSG has been doing extensive work in capacity building in the state of Chhattisgarh. The organisation has launched 220 training programs which have seen participation from over 10,000 municipal officials of the state. Along with this, AIILSG has also developed the smart city plans for Bilaspur, Raipur and two other smart cities of the state.
Dr Mahant began his address by pointing out, “By seeing Raipur, we “Chhattisgarhis” expect to see glimpses of the traditions of the state encompassed in the city. This is the city of dreams for every resident of Chhattisgarh and the city authorities are bringing it close to reality.”
He expressed that although issues of pollution and sanitation amongst many others have been adequately addressed, there is still room for improvement in the inculcation of civic sense in the people of Raipur. More discussions should take place on this in such conferences. Expressing the hope of a productive discussion, he concluded his speech.
Pramod Dubey began his speech by thanking AIILSG for exceptional designing of the Raipur Smart city. He then highlighted some of the initiatives taken by the city authorities to improve Raipur’s ranking from 127th to the 7th cleanest city in the Swachh Survekshan of 2019. He spoke briefly about the initiatives taken by the authorities to conserve the small waterbodies, which were also lauded by the National Green Tribunal (NGT). He also told delegates that oxi-zones, spanning a total area of 200 acres were established in the city. The authorities are also working to ensure a better life for the citizens of Raipur. “We have installed tap water systems in each house of Raipur”, ensured Dubey. The city also treats 800-950 tonnes of its daily waste itself. Yet, the rehabilitation of Sarona trenching ground is a major challenge for the city and various government houses need to come together under a single roof for smooth and efficient work.
He also detailed the bus stand project where the authorities have positioned stands at the outskirts of the city to minimise traffic congestion within the city. Yet, he further said, the city faces considerable traffic problems as stray animals often disrupt free flow of
the traffic.
Lokeshwar Sahu briefly spoke about how he began his career in municipal governance after undergoing training for the same under AIILSG in Bhopal. According to him, the major problem that the city faces is the inefficient utilisation of land resources in the city. “Optimal land utilisation is quintessential for the progress of Raipur. We won’t become ‘smart’ without bettering our land use,” he said. He encouraged town planners to implement a development plan for Raipur that accommodates small-scale businesses in such a way that they flourish at a good pace. He further outlined the program of saving the river Kharun. He said that the city authorities are currently working on the installation of four sewage treatment plants for the proper correction of waste water that is being released in to the river.

Session 1: Municipal Governance, Cleanliness and Solid Waste Management
The first session of the conference focused on devising solutions for the betterment of municipal governance, sanitation and ecological system of Raipur. Pashim Tewari, Technical Director, AIILSG chaired the session and briefed about the bullet points around which the discussion would be centered. He also brought forth some of the key issues impeding the further development of the city. One such issue, according to Tewari, is the problem of duality between Old and New Raipur. Both cities compete with each other for development projects and this, to an extent, slows down the progress for both. With this, he invited SK Mishra, former Chief Secretary of Chhattisgarh.
Speaking from an administrative perspective, the former CS felt that growth management is a major challenge that Raipur city authorities face today, as the city is expanding rapidly. “It is upon us to ensure adequate infrastructure to incorporate this influx of population,” Mishra said. He also highlighted that there is a need of developing a new masterplan for the capital city as the current plan has been modified so many times that it has become less effective for the current scenario. He further said that empowering of RMC is a must as currently the authority faces budget constraints, and lack of bureaucratic independence mars its efficiency. He also proposed the establishment of a system for citizen feedback which will make it ‘Mor Raipur Corporation’.
Amit Shrivastava, a senior town planner, followed him and highlighted the changing sanitation standards in Indian cities. He highlighted the importance of sanitation, “If Water is life then Sanitation is dignity.” He pointed out that 6.4 per cent of the GDP is lost annually due to the lack of a proper sanitation system. In order to improve the situation, dialogues on open defecation are necessary. He suggested public awareness campaigns to be launched in Raipur to change the attitude of citizens towards the issue.
Biraja Kabi Satapathy, WASH Officer, UNICEF, Chhattisgarh discussed on how a smart city could be planned keeping in mind the needs of various demographics of the population that inhabits it. She said that the water supply system needs an upgradation in Raipur to make it more clean. “Intermittent water supply and unregularised water distribution systems are two of the major problems in developing cities like Raipur,” she said.
Alok Katiyar, CEO, Chhattisgarh Renewable Energy Development Agency, addressed the importance of implementation of energy efficient methods in the formulation of smart city plans. He expressed that incorporation of clean energy alternatives, specifically solar, must be incorporated in smart city development of Raipur. “Energy conversion of waste must be prioritised,” he said.
Ranjan Panda, Convener, Combat Climate Change Network, India, said smartness for cities lies within the development of sustainable green and blue infrastructure. “Green spaces must be provided in cities as ensuring this would somewhat reduce the extent of effects of climate change,” Panda said. He also pointed out that villages and cities need to work together for a sustainable future of the entire nation.
‘Bunch of fools’, an organisation which independently conducts cleanliness drives in Raipur, co-founder of the organisation Prashant Kochhar spoke about improving people’s interaction with their city. He said that the implementation of the concept of smart cities would be somewhat futile if the citizens are not sensitised about basic civic sense. “The main motive behind Bunch of Fools is to instill civic sense in the people,” Kochhar said. Session 2: Intelligent solutions to Urban woes
The second technical session of the conference was aimed at identifying problems of Raipur and devising probable solutions to them for the consideration of city stakeholders.
The session was chaired by Abhilash Khandekar, who remarked that a liveable city can only be developed if the basic amenities in the city are ensured. He questioned, “Can technological means be used to rid cities of problems like traffic, energy, green services etc.?” And opened the discussion for the eminent panel of experts.
The first speaker of the session was Dr Sewa Ram, Professor at School of Planning and Architecture (SPA), New Delhi.
He outlined the mobility needs of a smart city as simplifying the transit of a city makes it more accessible.
He emphasised that city planners must take lessons from the mistakes made in the development of road networks in other major metropolitans of India and then develop a transit network which ensures smooth and clean mobility in Raipur. Local bodies must also be heavily involved in the process of developing Raipur’s transit model.
DP Tiwari, the former collector of the city, mentioned that Raipur is now the fastest developing city in India and expects further rapid development and better life for Raipur’s citizens. He then further elaborated the pace at which the city is developing essentially puts forth a roadmap for the coming 50 years of Raipur.
Mansee Bal Bhargav, Founder, Environmental Design Consultants, said that the conversation, in the case of most Indian cities, should not be centered around building more unnecessary infrastructure for the city, but on re-development. Construction of excessive infrastructure, which is not essentially required, ends up damaging the city’s environment and hence, degrades the progress of a city.
Dr Sanjay Sharma, a senior Neurologist based in Raipur, highlighted the most common diseases plaguing the regional population of Raipur in his address. Diseases like Malaria, Diarrhea and Leprosy were found to be the most common in the city of Raipur.
“The spread of the diseases can be massively owed to contaminated water, lack of sanitation and proper hygiene and alcoholism,” he said. He further suggested that conversion of dense forestation, which are mostly untouched, could be converted to air pockets for Chhattisgarh.
Zahid Ali, Chairman, Institute of Town Planners India, Chhattisgarh gave a presentation on local area based and town planning schemes and policies and how they could be used in the better development of growing cites like Raipur.
Valedictory Session
Bhupesh Baghel, Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh, graced the valedictory session of the conference. Baghel said, “There are a host of problems our cities are facing today.
The major reasons of urban issues are uncontrolled growth of urban population and lack of employment opportunities in villages. If we can provide better job opportunities in rural areas, then people will not migrate to cities and it will help in deburdening urban centres.” He then stated that over 1.5 lakh people have made the move back to their villages to pursue farming due to the state government waiving their agricultural loans.
The Chief Minister also said that society needs to go to basics and learn from our ancestors how they developed ponds for water recharging and planned habitats accordingly. He added that many cities are facing water problems and these problems can be solved if we respect our natural ecosystem and do not pollute our rivers, lakes, ponds and other water bodies.
He further criticised the concretisation of cities as it depletes the groundwater tables of the region. He then announced that Chhattisgarh government will be implementing a water rejuvenation plan in the state and has selected 1028 of over 3000 waterbodies for the program. Ravi Ranjan Guru, Deputy Director-General of AIILSG, released Raipur Declaration in front of the Chief Minister. The declaration highlighted the key points discussed during the conference and the way forward.
Sunil Namdeo, senior journalist, thanked all the dignitaries, stakeholders of the city and speakers for their valuable inputs during the conference and a fruitful discussion. On this high note, he concluded Urban Dialogues with a hope that the points raised during the conference would be considered by the city stakeholders and would contribute towards a better future for the city.

Raipur Declaration

  • We aspire to see the village in our city and the city in a village.
  • All the tiers and departments should be on the same page while planning for the city.
  • The city faces transportation problems much of which could be owed to the mismanagement of stray animals roaming on major roads. Better plan to manage these could improve the traffic flow of the city.
  • Civic sense among citizens and public participation is important for the successful implementation of government initiatives. Individual Social Responsibility should also be enforced.
  • Efficient land utilisation is a big hurdle in the development of Naya Raipur. Land hoarding should end in order to make the city truly ‘Smart’.
  • The town planners of Raipur must move forward keeping in mind the interest of small time businesses as all sections must progress uniformly in order for the city to flourish as a whole.
  • The Municipal Corporation must be empowered adequately. The Corporation must be given more bureaucratic independence and financial stability to improve its functioning.
  • The original masterplan of Raipur has been modified several times over the years, making it ineffective. Various stakeholders of the city need to work together and redesign a more consolidated masterplan for the city.
  • The developmental tussle between Naya Raipur and Old Raipur ultimately hinders the growth of both. An integrated developmental approach for both the cities must be undertaken.
  • The cities surrounding the capital must also come up in order to ensure sustainable growth across Chhattisgarh.
  • Authorities must look into the faults made in the designing of transit networks of other Indian metropolises and avoid them to ensure a smooth, clean and safe mobility network in Raipur.
  • Developing green and blue infrastructure and implementation of clean energy alternatives in Raipur could reduce the pollution levels of the city.
  • In order to preserve the depleting water bodies of the city, sewage should not be routed into them. Other than this, more efficient water preserving steps like rain water harvesting and water recycling should be enforced.
  • Chhattisgarh has a considerable tribal population in India. They must be represented at every level of discussions and deliberation for planning of the smart cities. We should focus on making our cities inclusive with representation of all sections of society.
  • From a medical standpoint, issues like air pollution, lack of sanitation and water contamination end up costing the citizens of Raipur the most. Working on these problems is necessary to better the quality of life of Raipur’s residents.
  • Unused land could be reused to develop green areas, which would serve as lungs of the city and hence, effectively bring down the air pollution problem of Raipur.
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