How Can Smart Cities Be Built on ‘Dumb’ Development Plans?
Our daily experience tells us that Indian cities are not well-planned. They are designed for failure. We can see a real life failure happening in slow motion right now. 
 
In 2016, Maharashtra State Road Development Corp Ltd (MSRDC) declared their intent to develop 71 villages along the Mumbai-Pune Expressway into a special planning area (SPA). Accordingly, MSRDC was designated as the planning authority and it created a development plan for this SPA. It is a classic case of a plan designed for failure. You may download it from the MRSRDC website.
 
The draft report for the development plan (DP) was ready in November 2018 but was uploaded on the MSRDC portal only in December. MSRDC sent intimation to various gram panchayats by end of December 2018. It wanted feedback on the draft DP by 14 January 2019. This means, in just 18 days all the villagers and experts were required to review the draft DP plan assumptions and submit their objections. 
 
As we shall see below, the DP has so many shortcomings that it is bound to create a spate of litigations. It is impossible to review and file objections within 18 days to a 123-page DP with many assumptions built in. 
 
When the disputes reach the High Court, many judges point out how no one objected when the DP was released. This itself sets the stage for delays in execution. Today, none of the development plans, at least in Maharashtra, has been implemented to design and within the time frame contemplated in the plan.
 
The draft DP has been developed after consultations with the stakeholders. The stakeholders should be landowners, residents of the plan area, residents of adjacent areas, job creators, various infrastructure providers etc. I doubt if So ideallyanyone was consulted except builders and developers. If MSRDC truly wants stakeholders’ input, they should upload the details of suggestions received for public scrutiny.
 
Nevertheless, let us turn to the DP itself.  It is impossible to understand the development plan without a proper context. So, ideally, the DP for an Indian city should compare the plan area with statistics from tier-I Indian cities such as Mumbai, Delhi national capital region (NCR), tier-II cities from the same state, such as Pune and Nashik, and developed cities in the world, like New York, London, Paris and Asian developed cities like Singapore, Hong Kong, or Shanghai (which is a favourite comparison used by the government). 
 
It may be desirable to compare it with the DP plans of these cities (for future targets). On this count too MSRDC's DP fails the test. But we should not fault MSRDC as none of the DPs gives these figures.
 
The population data used for drafting the plan is based on the census data of 2011, which was collected between 2005 and 2009. This is dated information to plan for 2041; it needs to be augmented with fresh surveys or advance data collected for Census 2021. We also need comparable data from other areas with 'induced growth' such as City and Industrial Development Corp (CIDCO). 
 
A mere mathematical guesswork will not suffice, unless it is augmented with scenario analysis (low-median-high estimates). The report severely underestimates the population growth of the region and, thus, all other amenities are grossly underplanned. The DP section on physical infrastructure is too short to be acceptable. It does not have enough detail and is not designed properly.
 
The problem with population projection percolates to planning of ALL the amenities. All amenities have been under-budgeted, and this will result in future constraints. 
 
For example, the proposed power requirement is 1.5KW per house-hour (HH) for low-income group (LIG), 3.0KW for middle-income group (MIG) HH and 4.0KW for high-income group (HIG) HH. However, a shop which should be running air-conditioners and refrigerators for most of the working hours, has power consumption equal to an LIG house and this seems to be grossly inadequate. 
 
Further, comparable numbers for developed countries are higher—US has per capita requirement of 12KW, Switzerland of 5KW. Singapore has 2KW today. Globally, there is a plan to reduce power consumption to 2KW per household. We must note that household size is also different in other countries.
 
Water demand is estimated at 150 litres per capita per day (lpcd) which seems  below the norms. Indian Bureau of Standards recommends 200lpcd as norm; realities are between 70 to 120lpcd in various cities. The underestimation of population may further affect the demand estimation. 
 
The supply too seems to be underestimated. It is estimated that supply and distribution losses will be at 28% and recycling will be around 33%. If we consider non-revenue water (water supplied but not paid for), the figures vary from 7% to 15% in the developed world. 
 
In the developing world, the figures vary from 35% to 80%. A comparable analysis from various cities listed above should help. The global goals for recycled water as a percentage of demand are at around 50%. Here, the 33% recycling rate at the planning stage itself seems to be quite high. Further, comparable data of industrial and commercial water usage are also required to assess how effective this plan is going to be. 
 
To add to this, there are no identified sources of water in this draft DP that can achieve even the 150lcpd demand with 33% recycling. At this stage, DP is too ambitious and the new city is going to be a great opportunity for water-tanker operators.
 
The situation of sanitation and drainage is appalling. The sewage is estimated at 80% of the water demand. So underestimating water demand will complicate sewage design too. The DP does not tell us the capacity of storm-water drainage. It merely states that storm-water drainage is a concern area because of topography. 
 
However, the DP has made some cost estimates for storm-water drains and water harvesting. Without proper estimation of the required capacity, these figures seem to have come out of a hat. Even if a normal factor of safety is used in design, it will not be able to meet the requirement of this planned area. 
 
We need to have maximum rainfall data for the past century, adjust it for global warming and then estimate the required water evacuation capacity. This capacity should help determine storm-water drainage capacity. The DP also needs to provide for the means for disposing this excess storm-water—ideally into the sea.
 
The problems of water supply and storm-water management have some complementary aspects. If there are provisions for water reservoirs that can accommodate rainwater run-off through storm-water drainage systems, it may off-set water supply. Leaving water harvesting to individual societies and buildings may not suffice.
 
The plan for waste management is a big blunder. World Bank municipal solid waste (MSW) estimates range from 1.2kg to 1.5kg per capita. The draft DP provides for 600gms per capita. The report clarifies that the calculations are based on the Central Public Health and Environmental Engineering Organisation (CPHEEO) manual of 1999. The question is WHY?
 
We are in 2019 or more than 20 years from the day, this manual was written. We are planning for 2021 to 2041. The plan also assumes this figure of 600gm will remain constant over the 20-year period. No wonder, we have waste disposal problems! 
 
The next problem with waste disposal is reliance on landfills. There is no consideration for waste processing technology and recycling mechanisms. We need to identify appropriate technology for waste processing and reducing the landfill area.
 
Finally, we come to transportation design. MSRDC claims this is a transport-oriented development (TOD) scheme and, therefore, the transport section is well detailed. But the transportation design is flawed and without logic and, thus, wasteful AND inadequate. 
 
The transportation, including bus rapid transit system (BRTS) and metro do not seem to connect population centres with industrial and commercial centres. Similarly, there is no proper description of transportation connectivity of industrial clusters in the DP. It appears that the commercial transport will be routed through residential areas.
 
There is no map showing how the LIG housing, residential areas and the areas of commercial activity will be connected using public transportation. The street design templates and road intersection templates have not been compared with those in other developed cities which have adequate foot paths and street level amenities. If such design is executed, it will cause massive inconvenience to the people travelling to their places of employment, i.e., industrial and commercial centres.
 
Thus, the DP is an exercise in wastage. There is no scientific approach to planning and development. There is no phasing of the development in relation to the development of support infrastructure. How can our cities succeed if the future cities are designed with this approach? We must remember that no smart city can survive dumb planning. Our cities are being designed for failure. It is time to set it right.
 
(The author is a lawyer and author of two books – Subverting Capitalism and Democracy and Understanding Firms. You can read his e-book “How Cities Develop?” on his website. He can be reached at [email protected] or at his website www.rahuldeodhar.com.
 
Comments
Shrik S
3 years ago
india is governed not by realist patriots but dreamy wannabees who have no inclination to work but only earn themselves a name to throw around.such false egos dont get satisfied unless they subject themselves through SSP but on ground they really are not having any goal of the larger context.
imagine those who came to power on fictitious issues and agendas having no practical idea how to implement, Monkey with scissors, will go about jumping around simply destroying than any constructive generation.
seriously we are living at our own risk in this nation. we soon will run out of valuable resources which will be wasted away by such monkeys.
Vastavikta Gandhi
3 years ago
This article and your analysis are amazing. For my final year project my group and I are trying to come up with better development solutions to avoid traffic congestion due to construction of urban transportation systems (flyover, highway, metro, etc) which are meant to reduce traffic congestion in the first place. But I'm not sure that even my guide understands the problem so if you've any suggestions or tips on how to go around with this, please any advice would be welcome. Thank you.
shadi katyal
3 years ago
Has anyone thought that such plans are to fool [people and let them dream of achey din. Has any of the planners even thought of our lnd acquisition laws and slowest moving courts?
It is unfortunate that such plans are not given enough time to hear what the local population has to suggest,
Meenal Mamdani
3 years ago
This is an abomination and an inexcusable waste of tax payer dollars.
The person responsible for this gross mismanagement should be held responsible publicly and tarred and feathered. Sorry, I got carried away. This particular punishment was used in the 1700 and 1800s in England, not applicable here. I think in the time of the Peshwas a person could be punished by blackening his face and sent around town on a donkey facing backwards. Even that is not feasible today.
All the same, this individual should be reprimanded publicly and demoted from his job as he is obviously not capable of the most elementary thinking.
No wonder India is in such trouble if this is the caliber of the public servants.
Free Helpline
Legal Credit
Feedback