Sustainable smart cities need skilled workforce

Published: April 13, 2015 12:03:59 AM

We need more such colleges that have programmes integrating architecture, engineering, management, GIS, economics, sociology, environment, geography and urban governance.

With the increasing cost of agriculture and better employment opportunities available in urban areas, more and more people are migrating to cities. A 2011 UN study estimated that, by 2050, about 70% of world population will live in urban areas. The government’s high-powered expert committee for estimating the investment requirements for urban infrastructure services projected that India’s urban population will be close to 600 million by 2031.

Currently, majority of urban development in India is concentrated in centres such as the National Capital Region (Gurgaon, Delhi, Ghaziabad, Noida, Faridabad), Bangalore (Whitefield, Electronic City), Hyderabad (Cyberabad), Pune (Hinjewadi), Chennai (OMR, Ambattur) and Mumbai (Bandra Kurla Complex, Northern Suburbs). Such concentrated development led to increased trip lengths and reduced travel speeds, leading to wastage of millions of productive hours.

The Union urban development ministry will finalise the list of 100 smart cities across the country by the end of April. As there are no specific guidelines on what makes a city smart, there is a need to debate and discuss the subject—smart cities can decongest existing city spaces and decentralise development through integration of surrounding habitations and eventually become regional growth centres.

While the government has added that there will be a “City Challenge” competition for developing urban centres into smart cities, the questions that need to be asked are: How do we reduce the pressure on existing urban agglomerations? How do we reduce the remoteness of numerous Indian districts? How do we discourage migration to urban agglomerations? How do we reduce pollution levels in our urban areas? And do we have sufficient skills to manage these future cities?

Future cities need to integrate rural areas while estimating infrastructure requirements. To determine the needs of rural areas, we require accurate and timely information regarding physical, socio-economic environment, services and amenities. For example, majority of rural and urban areas in India still do not have base maps, which can further be digitised for holistic development by identification and efficient allocation of resources.

Few institutes in India have new-age programmes that integrate architecture, engineering, management, geographic information systems, environment, economics, sociology, geography and urban governance.

The Institute of Town Planners, India (ITPI) is the only apex body of professional town and country planners promoting urban planning education and research activities. During 2011, the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) in coordination with ITPI developed a model curriculum for post-graduate courses, which has been modified and adopted by individual institutes as per local conditions and affiliated university requirements.

There are about 40 institutes offering 60-odd courses in urban planning, producing about 1,000 graduates every year. As per Census 2011, India has 7,935 census towns (4,041 statutory towns, 3,894 census towns including 475 urban agglomerations and 981 outgrowths), an increase of 2,774 towns compared to Census 2001. There are numerous rural areas, industrial belts and ports that need to be integrated with surrounding areas. The number of urban areas is growing. Each of these areas requires a development plan including a transportation plan with a vision for 20 years. Considering the huge demand, we are not producing as many skilled urban managers as required. And the course content of many of these institutes does not reflect recent trends in urban growth, technological advancement, sensitiveness to environment and finally industry requirements.

The author is founder & promoter, Swarnabhoomi Academic Institutions

By GRK Reddy

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