All India Institute of Local Self-Government (AIILSG) in collaboration with United Cities and Local Governments Asia Pacific (UCLG-ASPAC) organised a two-day South Asian Cities Summit on May 6-7, 2016 in New Delhi to explore the new avenues of urban development in evolving urban agglomerations in the South Asian Region. The theme of the Summit was ‘Smart Cities—Aspirations and Challenges
In the wake of rapid urbanization and emerging allied problems in South Asian countries, city leaders and urbanists from South Asian Countries and beyond came together to discuss problems cities are facing and how local bodies and governments can handle them.
Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, the Chief Guest, inaugurated this third edition of South Asian Cities Summit. In her inaugural address, Mahajan said that our cities are facing many challenges and we need to empower local bodies to build smart and sustainable cities. The NDA government has initiated a range of urban rejuvenation programs and these programs will not only improve our cities for the better but also provide a platform to Urban Local Bodies to take a lead in developing city plans as per the aspirations of the local populace.
She reiterated: “Planned cities are not a new thing for India. Even ancient India had them. I am sure all of you will discuss how to plan cities in the backdrop of present situations. A city is not just concrete structure. A city must have open spaces, water bodies, parks, cultural and religious spaces. South Asian Countries are similar in many ways. Our thoughts are together. We can live with nature. We must protect nature then only nature will protect us. Now we are talking about climate change. I think in smart cities we should think about all these things. Things should be done ecologically, religiously.”
Other dignitaries who graced the inaugural session included: Won HEE-ryongm, President, UCLG – ASPAC; Dr Jatin Modi, President Emeritus, AIILSG; Ranjit Chavan, President, AIILSG; Capt. Anant Modi, Director General, AIILSG; Bernadia Irawati, Secretary General, UCLG-ASPAC; Kewal Kumar Sharma, Chief Secretary of Delhi; and Satya Sharma, Mayor of East Delhi Municipal Corporation.
Ranjit Chavan, President of the All India Institute of Local Self-Government, said that South Asian Countries are developing new Smart Cities to rejuvenate their urban settlements. The increasing population in cities is demanding better civic amenities, employment opportunities, novel public transport systems, improved physical and IT infrastructure, efficient waste and water management, affordable housing, etc. We need to ensure all these facilities are provided to one and all. He added that AIILSG is committed to provide all possible support to local bodies in their endeavour to make cities better.
KK Sharma, Chief Secretary of Delhi said that India and other South Asian countries can better utilize opportunities that urbanization provides them to transform their economies to join the ranks of richer nations. The launch of three mega urban schemes in India, i.e., Smart Cities Mission, Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT), and Housing for All in urban areas, will set in motion the process of urban transformation to enable better living. The missions are new, innovative and focused on pressing needs to improve the quality of life for citizens today, and in the future. He also talked about the Odd-Even scheme for private cars in Delhi and said that creating a safe urban environment that is healthy for citizens to live should also be a priority for city leaders and the governments. The Summit convened a high profile gathering of international, national, state and local government officials, utilities, policy makers, financiers, technologists, non-profit organizations, business leaders, academicians, researchers and community organisations – all with a common goal of working together to develop and build a better future for cities and their citizens. The 3rd South Asian Cities Summit witnessed the participation of over 300 national and international delegates, and over 70 city mayors and commissioners from India and other South Asian countries.
Ambassador of Afghanistan to India Shaida Mohammad Abdali during an interview with Urban Update said that South Asian countries are facing similar urban issues. “We can learn from each other in many ways. Our local bodies can share their experiences to widen each other’s understanding of feasible solutions.”
Bernadia Irawati, Secretary General, UCLG-ASPAC, said, “the national governments in the South Asia region have begun started fixing several bottlenecks holding back our cities, it has become apparently clear that the time has come to focus on planned development of our cities where inclusivity, sustainability and liveability for all is a prime concern.”
Capt. Anant Modi, Director General, AIILSG, said, “The current state of affairs in our cities presents a challenge and an opportunity to promote urban development that is sustainable, equitable and a catalyst for economic growth. I am quite hopeful that the South Asian Cities Summit will play a constructive role in achieving this goal.”
Panelists at the conference highlighted that the recently released World Bank Report ‘Leveraging Urbanisation in South Asia’ says that the region’s urban population grew by 130 million people between 2001 and 2011, and it is forecast to rise by almost 250 million more in the next 15 years. The region has already started to see the economic growth and poverty-reduction benefits associated with urbanization; if managed properly, further urbanization offers the potential for more prosperous and livable cities.
Ramesh Negi, Principal Secretary (Urban Development), Delhi, said, during a session on Innovative urban governance and Empowered city leadership – A requisite for urban transformation, that municipal leadership was strengthened through the 73rd and 74th amendments but despite these initiatives Indian cities have not been able to achieve the desired results. He said not only political reforms but also the present system of operating cities needs to be corrected. There is a need to focus on human resource policies and reforms in recruitment policies. Training of municipal staff to upgrade their skills is required to ensure productivity in municipalities.
Kenjiro Hashimoto, Executive Director, CLAIR (Singapore) added that citizens need to gain deeper understanding into local governance. “Provision of services is no longer the sole responsibility of local governments. Voluntary participation, intermediary organizations like civil society groups are also important for effective service delivery.”
The session Sustainable Urban Management: Skill Development-A Key for Better Urban Management discussed how state and local authorities can find a way to train their staff and new workforce. DK Bhalla, Secretary (Lok Sabha Secretariat), who chaired the session, stressed upon how urban management needs to be reformed for optimal utilization of resources and it should be linked with skill development. He added that for smart cities, professional training should be provided to local leaders.
The range of sessions at the summit discussed the problems South Asian Cities are facing and experts suggested a range of solutions to accelerate the sustainable prosperity and productivity of cities. The main sessions during the summit included: ‘Accelerating the Pace of Urban Rejuvenation – Building Efficient Urban Infrastructure’, ‘Leveraging Technology for Smart Cities’, ‘Innovative Urban Governance and Empowered City Leadership – A Requisite for Urban Transformation’, ‘Moving in Cities with Ease and Comfort’, ‘Rural Urban Continuum – The Inclusive Future’, ‘Sustainable Urban Management’, and ‘Clean Cities’.
UCLG-ASPAC Executive Bureau Meeting
The Executive Bureau meeting of UCLG-ASPAC was organized on May 5, 2016. Union Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu was the Chief Guest. Prabhu in his speech said that urbanisation is an opportunity which has led to a significant increase in national GDP. China’s contribution is a successful example of managing the urban scenario with such a large population. We should also learn and unlearn from others. Members also discussed on the role of women in local politics and their present status. It was observed that women are rising to higher positions like mayors and vice-mayors in many Asian cities and many countries like India, Pakistan and Nepal have reserved at least one third seats in local body elections for women.
City leaders unanimously sign Delhi Declaration
On the basis of deliberations during eight sessions held at the two-day
conference, city leaders from South Asian cities along with dignitaries from
national and International development agencies, donor organisations, civil
society organizations and representatives of wider urban development fraternity
signed a 11-point declaration to make cities inclusive, better governed, smart and
The declaration read:
We, the City Leaders, Representatives of International, National and Local
Governments Institutions, NGOs and Civil Society Members, met in New Delhi,
India on 6th and 7th of May 2016 for the 3rd South Asian Cities Summit under the
theme: ‘Smart Cities – Aspirations and Challenges”.
We recall the Declarations adopted during our First and Second Summits held in
Delhi in 2013 and 2015 respectively, where a spirit of partnership for development of
our Cities was established through the framework of South Asian Mayors’ Forum.
We are committed to:
♦ Ensure smart development of our Cities through innovation, improved
management, cutting-edge technologies, institutional reforms, and other
measures towards sustainable utilization of resources by adopting principles of
good governance i.e. transparency, accountability, and participation.
♦ Focus on human-centered development, making sure that local wisdom,
culture, and values, are harnessed and incorporated in local planning and also
investments are made on people, especially the youth.
♦ Inclusive development of our Cities with focus on community engagement,
integrated, coordinated planning and covering the marginalized segment of
population, urban and rural development including women, children, differently
abled persons and the elderly.
♦ Sustainable Development of our Cities by putting in place doable solutions for
providing affordable and quality habitat, integrated transport systems, energy
efficient buildings, optimal water resources utilisation and promoting zero
waste management efforts.
♦ Resilient development of our Cities through envisioning, long term planning
and implementation which will address chronic stress factors and mitigate
the effects of climate change, promote biodiversity and develop capacity to
absorb future shocks and stresses to urban infrastructure systems associated
with climate change and natural disasters
♦ Ensure prosperity, productivity, happiness, and transformative urban
development of South Asian cities through collaboration and knowledge
exchange between local governments at the national, regional and global levels
♦ Collaborative development of our Cities through a system of people oriented
public private partnerships for provision of public infrastructure services while
promoting equitable development
♦ Heritage-based development of our Cities through linkage of urban heritage
management and renewal of historical areas with wider city development
and cross country and regional collaboration, contributing to endogenous
♦ Enhance institutional and sectoral coordinating capacity of our Cities through
human resource development of its executive and administrative branches
♦ Direct political will of decision-makers towards people-oriented development
and right to the city
♦ Collect and share data on urban governance and performance to its citizens
to enable greater urban engagement and civic participation in urban
infrastructure and services, management, planning and policy.