A Comprehensive List Of What Bhubaneswarites Want From their Smart City!
In the last few months, Bhubaneswar has been hogging the headlines all around. Be it for bagging the number one spot in the smart city challenge, the staggering heat, early onset of monsoon or for being certified as one of the best places to do business in India, the capital has been attracting attention, particularly in the social media circuit.
Few weeks back, My City Links therefore decided to talk to denizens from across the capital to find out what they expect from their smart city in the next few years. Experts feel that issues like drainage and sanitation, traffic and transport, housing and infrastructure, disaster preparedness and climate resilience, governance and civic engagement need to be addressed on priority basis within the next decade or so. As city-based Urban Planner Dr. Piyush Ranjan Rout puts it, “We should not be getting smarter only on pen and paper. Reality check is the need of the hour.”
Drainage & Sanitation:
The drainage system is one of the major drawbacks for the city, a problem that seems to have no solution! Every year during rain, many areas inside the main city are water-logged. Immediate but sustainable action needs to be taken by authorities concerned to address this issue. “I feel qualified and experienced agencies should be given this work and transparency needs to be maintained to solve our drainage woes,” says Rosalin Patsani, social activist and founder, Parichay Foundation.
“In the unscientific growth of Bhubaneswar, adequate attention has not been paid to the construction and design part. It’s not easy to solve the drainage problem when the city is full of wrongly designed drains, roads and new flyovers which are blocking the flow of water. While the smart city plan is now aiming to clear the existing drains, instead of adding more concrete layers in the drains, the authorities must work on reviving the natural drainage system of the city which is now almost lost due to unplanned constructions,” adds Dr Rout.
A concrete plan of action on connecting the existing drains and reviving the natural water flow is essential. It is high time the municipal authorities rebuild and clean the existing drains and reopen the flow of Gangua Nullah which will facilitate storm water evacuation. Massive engagement activities must be created with ward level sanitation committees to check the regular blockage by initiating immediate action.
The next big issue the city is facing and will continue to do so in future too is poor urban transport system. Despite the huge widened roads, the traffic situation is chaotic. Some feel that the city needs a solution like Metro where lakhs of people can use public transport. Regulation has to be imposed on number of new registration of huge vehicles which are now a status symbol. The city cannot accommodate that and we need to come up with immediate solution so that after 10 years, life on roads would not be difficult.
Recollecting his childhood days, Raj Kishore Pati, a senior citizen says, “People used to walk through the city which is not possible today. Because of unplanned infrastructure, even for a short route of 3-5 kilometres, people are using cars. This needs to be checked immediately and the city bus service needs to be real quick in the city.”
Sujit Mohapatra, founder of Bakul Foundation has another suggestion to make. “More and more people must start cycling in the city and cycling tracks should be cleared of street vendors. BMC must take strict action against these vendors and encourage people to cycle. Our city must unlock its grid so that people can easily commute from one place to another without depending much on personalised vehicles. Cycling, walking and public transport should be the preferred modes of communication,”
Currently, the public transport system in the city isn’t satisfactory. “The bus services aren’t up to the mark. Our buses don’t run during late evening and night. Even during day time, there is no guarantee of getting a bus as and when desired. Besides, the maintenance should be in such a way that all class of people should feel comfortable travelling by a city bus. The maximum waiting time for any passenger while waiting for the bus should be five to 10 minutes. Due to the absence of such a system, people prefer to travel in their own vehicles and that leads to traffic congestion. I think all government officials, including those at the Secretariat should set an example by coming to office by cycle. The existing corporates should also follow the same path,” opines Dr. Rout.
The growing urbanisation in the city is encouraging more and more malls to crop up in the city. Currently, there are over ten malls in the city and most of them have added to the parking woes of the city which in turn has led to traffic chaos. “Most of these malls do not have enough parking place to accommodate vehicles and hence, they are parked on the road. This calls for serious action,” says, Dr Chayanika Mishra, medicine practitioner by profession.
To this, Dr Rout adds, “Malls and shopping complexes cater to lifestyle needs so with the expansion of the city, they are a necessity. But there must be proper enforcement of rules for creation of parking places. The situation near Unit I market, at Master Canteen Square, near Pantaloons and also at Rajmahal Square during evening hours is atrocious and it is because of poor management by authorities.”
Abhaya Mohanta also raises a valid point of improper use of infrastructure in the city. “The newly built Rajmahal overbridge is hardly being used. The Rasulgarh to Barmunda overbridge is not used by the long route buses during evenings, which causes massive traffic issues at Acharya Vihar and Vani Vihar square. To get passengers, these buses are violating traffic rules which no authority pays attention to. Strict action needs to be taken to ensure people use infrastructure, the right way.”
Green and Clean Bhubaneswar:
The massive plantation activities we read in the newspaper with celebrity photos are just a myth. Bhubaneswar is losing its greenery and more and more number of trees needs to be planted. For infrastructure work, trees are being cut and hence, the city is facing such heat waves during summer.
Sujit Mohapatra also reiterates increasing the green cover of the city and stresses on the need to bring about a cultural change among city people to have connection with trees. He suggests promoting the concept of memorial avenue plantation which will connect people with trees. He also believes maintenance of the trees has to be taken care of by the civic bodies.
The medians in the city roads are vacant now. These should be planted with trees that can provide shade during summer and also help in ground water recharging.
That apart, Sanitation is also going to be a major concern for the city in future. “The 436 slums we have in the city are prone to open defecation. Measures should be taken towards making the city open defecation free with a proper planned campaign and the city must prepare itself to treat the sludge it generates every day,” says Dr Birupakshya Dixit, a development professional.
“The first and most obvious approach would be to avoid creating waste in the first place. Then the waste, which could not be reduced, reused, recycled, prevented and processed (composting, energy production, fuel pallets etc) should be disposed of at scientific based landfill. While designing landfill sites, it is always advisable to consider regional approach. The regional approach will reduce the financial cost and land requirement for waste management,” explains Dr Rout who has been working in this domain for long.
“The open defecation and improper use of faecal sludge from the household toilets are also a major concern. Bhubaneswar must have huge treatment plants so that, the waste generated can be treated and reused. If the waste management can be done at household level, then it would be beneficial for all and proper waste treatment can happen,” says Dr Dixit.
Women and Child Friendly City
Like many cities, Bhubaneswar has grown but amenities have been created more for the male workers rather than the females. The one-sided growth of city has led towards more exclusions, lack of opportunities and kind of infrastructure and services which impact women’s life. The poor connectivity through public transport or wrongly designed zebra crossing or poor access to public toilets in the city has an impact on women, girls and children in the city. It is only over the past few years that there has been an increased focus on women’s safety in public spaces and cities.
One of the first steps that need to be taken is strengthening the public transport as women use them on a regular basis. “The pink autos are not serving their purpose and the city buses are not very convenient and women-friendly,” says Sumitra Mohanty, a housewife. Adyasha Jena, a student is of the same opinion as she insists that she can never rely on the existing city bus service. “There are very few number of foot overbridges and medians are not very safe at places like Jaydev Vihar,” she adds.
It is estimated that 80 percent of the world’s largest cities are currently vulnerable to severe impacts from earthquakes and 60 percent are at risk from storm surges and tsunamis. Bhubaneswar has already witnessed two to three tremors in the last two years. To make it climate resilient, an action plan needs to be prepared keeping in view the rapid growth in urbanisation.
To have a liveable city, one must look at the future energy needs of the city. From being energy surplus, the city is facing frequent power cuts these days. “The corporates and huge housing projects must look at use of roof top solar panels. At least 50 per cent of the energy requirement needs to be taken care by alternate and green energy in future. The government must impose such rules for all new infrastructures in the city including private housing projects,” says Sanjit Kumar Behera, a development practitioner and renewable energy expert.
Pic Courtesy: smartcitybhubaneswar
Looking at the overall crisis the city is facing, many suggest for implementation of such a tax to have a check on people’s attitude and lifestyle. “Such kind of tax should be imposed when consuming things which are causing threat to the overall environment. These can be imposed on people using petrol and diesel cars; corporates not using green energy; on every new purchase of air conditioner; people using vehicles more than 10 years old and so on,” opine both Dr Rout and Patsani who strongly believe that if we are using these services, we need to be prepared for the loss or damage we are causing to the ecological balance.
The bigger question is how to move without repeating past mistakes or how quick our city can jump into the league of world’s best cities? “That requires a mindset which can understand how the world’s best-governed cities grew! These cities did not grow overnight; rather they struggled over years to reach where they are now. We are looking at a smart city. Collective action and having new innovations to challenge the problems the city is facing right now is the only solution. Public and government must join hands to make Bhubaneswar a liveable city in the next ten years,” sums up Dr. Rout.