Skip to main content

Urban poverty, pollution: Have Smart City mission, JNNURM made living sustainable?

By Ipsita Mishra*
Rural to urban migration is by far the major component of urbanization and is the chief mechanism by which urbanization trends have been accomplished. This has given rise to outgrowths and urban agglomeration and has added to the burden of resources by contributing to several challenges.
As we have witnessed in the recent past, the floods in Chennai and in North India in Mumbai and Bihar, including North Eastern Assam etc have created havoc in these regions. The drains are clogged, embankments broken, spread of diseases, no arrangement of sanitation and hygiene, lack of drinking water etc.
Who is responsible for this loss of life and property? Isn’t it normal that one should be prepared during rainy season? We witness urban poverty, polluted air due to Diwali in Delhi, lack of employment etc. We have Smart City Mission today, but the question is how sustainable our cities are?
A major initiative launched by the Central government was the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) in 2005 for focused and integrated development of the urban infrastructure. It focused on urban poor, housing, water supply and sanitation, urban transport etc. The Rajiv Awas Yojana was launched in 2011 for creating slum free India as a pilot project for two years. In spite of these initiatives there are several challenges faced due to urbanization.

Challenges faced and remedies

There are several challenges faced but those are not without solutions.
First, urban planning mechanisms need an overhaul to unify land record keeping, integrate land use with transport planning, and embed municipal plans into district and regional plans. The areas are vulnerable to the extreme weather conditions. Houses are very congested and buildings are constructed in low lying areas which makes it prone to manmade disasters. State planning departments and national planning institutions lack qualified planning professional.
The need of the hour is to expand the scope of planners from physical to integrated planning-Land use, environmental sustainability, social inclusion, risk reduction, economic productivity and financial diversity. For example, In Chennai floods, the airports also were submerged. It was evident later that airports were built in such land areas where they were not supposed to be constructed.
Second, due to lack of preparedness, there is lack of use of technology applications and municipal corporations are not working efficiently in metro cities. There should be catchment areas to conserve rainwater and water harvesting techniques along with filtration system should be developed.
Disaster management units should be well built and managed with better prevention, recovery and rehabilitation. Holistic revival of the river systems and early warning systems for those living along their banks is essential. Buffer stocks and food, with medical aid should be present for emergency situations. 
Third, major challenge is with the Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) is that of revenue generation. Since the goods have private characteristics, so charging user fee will be feasible which will improve the revenue of ULBs. They can easily get loans from the banks henceforth. For financing urban projects, Municipal bonds which work on the concept of pooled finance which will be really helpful. 
Urbanization has its impact on all aspects of day-to-day life. Sustainable and equitable urban development is possible and should be catered to
Fourth, the roles of the regulators should be clearly defined. We need regulator, which can make level playing field and will be instrumental for affordable housing. For example Central Water Commission (CWC) does not forecast urban flooding but only for river. Hence this distinction should be clearly demarcated. 
Making cities climate change resilient, preparing local bodies' to handle disasters and not depend on National Disaster Response Force (NDRF)/ State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) every time should be the motto.
Fifth, there are other challenges of ecological balance, urban crime, poverty, employment, spread of diseases etc. The mega cities are facing increased criminal activities on account of unchecked migration, illegal settlements and diverse socio-cultural disparities, professional criminals etc. The gap between the rich and the poor is widened in urban areas.
Sixth, a paradigm shift is required in case of embankment management. The responsibility of these embankments should be deregulated and devolved to the community and the ownership right should reside with the state.
Seventh, vacancies should be filled up as soon as possible in local bodies. Policies and plans should not be done in haste but should reach logical end. Hybrid technology and Private partnership projects should be encouraged. Project management skills along with time management is important.
Eighth, models cities and villages should be looked up to. The ‘Kudumbshree’ model of Kerala built around three critical components, micro credit, entrepreneurship and empowerment, has today succeeded in addressing the basic needs of the less privileged women.
The Okhla Municipal Solid Waste Management project is the first commercial waste-to-energy facility in India that aims to convert one-third of the Delhi garbage into the much-needed electricity. Delhi Metro is one of the best in the world which is efficient as well as has earned green carbon points from UN.
Urbanization has its impact on all aspects of day-to-day life. Sustainable and equitable urban development is possible and should be catered to at any cost. We should leave this planet in a better condition for our future generations.
--
*Lawyer based in Sambalpur, Odisha

Comments

TRENDING

'Flawed' argument: Gandhi had minimal role, naval mutinies alone led to Independence

Counterview Desk Reacting to a Counterview  story , "Rewiring history? Bose, not Gandhi, was real Father of Nation: British PM Attlee 'cited'" (January 26, 2016), an avid reader has forwarded  reaction  in the form of a  link , which carries the article "Did Atlee say Gandhi had minimal role in Independence? #FactCheck", published in the site satyagrahis.in. The satyagraha.in article seeks to debunk the view, reported in the Counterview story, taken by retired army officer GD Bakshi in his book, “Bose: An Indian Samurai”, which claims that Gandhiji had a minimal role to play in India's freedom struggle, and that it was Netaji who played the crucial role. We reproduce the satyagraha.in article here. Text: Nowadays it is said by many MK Gandhi critics that Clement Atlee made a statement in which he said Gandhi has ‘minimal’ role in India's independence and gave credit to naval mutinies and with this statement, they concluded the whole freedom struggle.

BSF should take full responsibility for death of 4 kids in West Bengal: Rights defender

By Kirity Roy*  One is deeply disturbed and appalled by the callous trench-digging by BSF in Chetnagachh village under Daspara Gram Panchayat, Chopra, North Dinajpur District, West Bengal that has claimed the lives of four children. Along the entire stretch of Indo-Bangladesh border of West Bengal instead of guarding the actual border delineated by the international border pillars, BSF builds fences and digs trenches well inside the Indian territory, passing through villages and encroaching on private lands, often without due clearance or consent. 

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Students, lawyers, professors detained in Delhi for demonstrating in support of farmers

By Our Representative  About 25 protestors, belonging to the civil rights network, Campaign Against State Repression (CASR), a coalition of over 40 organisations, were detained at Jantar Mantar for holding a demonstration in support of the farmers' stir on Friday. Those detained included students, lawyers and professors, including Prof Nandita Narain and Prof N Sachin. 

Social justice day amidst 'official neglect' of salt pan workers in Little Rann of Kutch

By Prerana Pamkar*  In India’s struggle for Independence, the Salt Satyagraha stands as a landmark movement and a powerful symbol of nonviolent resistance. Led by Mahatma Gandhi, countless determined citizens walked from Sabarmati Ashram to Dandi in Gujarat. However, the Gujarat which witnessed the power of the common Indian during the freedom struggle is now in the throes of another significant movement: this time it is seeking to free salt pan workers from untenable working conditions in the Little Rann of Kutch (LRK).

How GMOs would destroy non-GMO crops: Aruna Rodrigues' key submissions in SC

Counterview Desk The introduction of Bt and HT crops will harm the health of 1 billion Indians and their animals, believes Aruna Rodrigues, who has made some 60 submissions to the Supreme Court (SC) during the last 20 years. As lead petitioner who filed Public Interest Litigation in 2005, during a spate of intense hearings, which ended on 18 January 2024, she fought in the Apex Court to prevent the commercialization of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in Indian agriculture. 

Jallianwala massacre: Why Indian govt hasn't ever officially sought apology from UK

By Manjari Chatterjee Miller*  The king of the Netherlands, Willem-Alexander, apologized in July 2023 for his ancestors’ role in the colonial slave trade. He is not alone in expressing remorse for past wrongs. In 2021, France returned 26 works of art seized by French colonial soldiers in Africa – the largest restitution France has ever made to a former colony. In the same year, Germany officially apologized for its 1904-08 genocide of the Herero and Nama people of Namibia and agreed to fund reconstruction and development projects in Namibia. .

Interpreting UAPA bail provisions: Is Supreme Court setting the clock back?

By Kavita Srivastava*, Dr V Suresh** The Supreme Court in its ruling on 7th February, 2024 in   `Gurvinder Singh v State of Punjab’ held that its own well-developed jurisprudence that "Bail is the rule and jail the exception" will not apply to those charged under the UAPA.

Will Budget 2024 help empower city govts, make them India's growth engines?

By Soumyadip Chattopadhyay, Arjun Kumar* Cities in India are envisioned as engines of growth. Any meaningful long-term vision for India would be incomplete without planning for the cities and quite rightly, urbanization is considered as one of the country’s top developmental challenges. Realization of full potential of cities depends crucially on their ability to provide ‘enabling’ environment especially in terms of sustained provision of a wide range of urban infrastructure and services.

A 'distorted narrative' of Indian politics: Congress failing to look beyond LS polls

By Prem Singh*  About 15 days ago, I told a senior journalist friend that there are not even two   months left for the Lok Sabha elections, Rahul Gandhi is roaming around on a delectation (tafreeh). The friend probably found my comment exasperating and replied that he is not on a delectation trip. The conversation between us on this topic ended there.