New Delhi(06/12/2019): The Special Centre for Disaster Research, Jawaharlal Nehru University organised a three day Symposium on ‘Disaster Resilient Smart Cities’ from 4th -6th December 2019 at the Institute for Studies in Industrial Development (ISID), Vasant Kunj, New Delhi.
The Symposium was organised in collaboration with the Smart Cities Mission, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, Government of India. The Symposium aimed at holding deliberations on realising the gaps in current Smart City Policy of Government of India, which was launched in 2015 to fulfil Prime Minister’s vision of developing 100 smart cities across the country, making them citizen friendly and sustainable. The symposium deliberated upon the persisting gaps in the current policy as it continues to ignore the crucial components of disaster resilience, citizen participation and policy for non-human species. The sole focus on Information and Communication Technology (ICT) makes the policy non-inclusive and ultimately increase the inequality in urban areas, making them unsustainable.
The International Symposium involved participation of experts from Public Sector Undertakings, UNESCO Netexplo Smart City Accelerator Group- Paris, National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM), National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), industry and academia experts from across the globe. Prof Amita Singh, Founder Chairperson, Special Centre for Disaster Research highlighted that the continued ambiguity around the definition of Smart City needs to be addressed through collaborative governance. Releasing the ‘Disaster Resilient Smart City’ declaration, Prof Singh and Marcus Goddard, President, Netexplo, highlighted that the sustainability of present urbanisation process needs citizen participation at the core. The Disaster Management Act 2005 and Smart City Policy continues to ignore the vital leadership of Urban Local Bodies, which are the first line responders from the government machinery in case of any disaster. Lack of power of implementation with these decentralised bodies and continuing ambiguity around penalising power with the State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA) and the District Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) to regulate unauthorised encroachments and buildings in violation of building bye- laws, remains unaddressed, even in the current policy framework of smart cities. The sole focus on ICT in the policy makes it technology centric. Prof Jaishri Jethwaney, ISID recommended that the policy should institutionalise committed call centres, with representatives from Resident Welfare Associations (RWAs), Urban Local Bodies and civil society to make it citizen centric and participative. The sole focus on humans, ignoring the non-human species such as livestock, street dogs etc. , not only increases the vulnerability of humans post disaster (due to widespread epidemics), but the loss of lives of these non-human species remains un-accounted in post disaster loss assessment. “The stakeholders beyond the vote bank also needs to be taken into account for a holistic disaster management policy” Prof Amita Singh said.
Involving declaration over wide aspects ranging from Institutions, Leadership and coordination, and Resilience of Built Environment, the symposium proposed that the Smart City policy budget also needs to take into account disaster budgeting, along with focus on marginalised communities such as women, differently abled, senior citizens etc. Ecosystem approach needs to be integrated into the present development process by allotting a proportion of health budget for ecosystem conservation.