Smart cities: Facts to consider
It is very important for planners to understand the capacity of any city to hold the population, suitability for urban activities, geographical location, proximity to different hazards, present vulnerability and future risks to develop smart cities
Nepal is a least developing country in the world and it is ranked as one of the fastest countries in urbanization according to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Welfare.
It is observed that urbanization in Nepal is more focused on developing medium and large cities according to the size of the population living here.
Migration of people from rural places to cities is considered as a major pulling factor for urbanization in Nepal.
Residents of Kathmandu city do not feel like living in a metropolitan city as it does not offer quality services and facilities.
People in Kathmandu are facing the problems of water supply, poor drainage system and noise pollution and problems of dust and wastes.
A recent data published by Numbeo.com has ranked Nepal fifth in the pollution Index. In terms of water supply, government data indicates severe water scarcity in Nepal as demand of water is more than 360 million liters each day while the supply is only 90 million liters per day in the dry season whereas it is 140 million liters in the wet season.
This helps to us to understand the bleak picture of urbanisation in Nepal.
Generally, limited data are available on the impact of climate change, urban pollution, water quality degradation and cities restoration capacity which lead the urbanized cities to vulnerabilities.
The administration of metropolitan cities does not have sufficient data on how many buildings were constructed following the standards of the Building Code. In such a situation, it is very difficult to understand the status of vulnerability and prepare plans to minimize future risks.
It is observed that political instability and poor economic condition are the factors responsible for hindering urban development. Proper planning and execution, inter-governmental coordination, sustainable private-public partnership are also important while developing smart cities.
It is very important for planners to understand the capacity of any city to hold the population, suitability for urban activities, geographical location, proximity to different hazards, present vulnerability and future risks to develop smart cities.
Availability of such information and data can help to minimize risks. Inadequate data increases vulnerability of cities and leads to failure of most of the initiatives taken for developing smart cities.
Nepal adopted federalism in 2015. The report of the Local Bodies Restructuring Commission has divided the country into 753 local level.
The MoUD, the ministry for urban development, has developed and implemented the National Urban Development Strategy (NUDS), 2017 aiming to make a balanced and prosperous national urban system. Recently formed local bodies are entrusted to design their local area and they have an opportunity for planning new smart cities.
Their minimum effort on studying the existing situation of the cities in terms of building proximity to hazards, population holding capacity, geographical location would help them to make the proper planning for the smart cities.
These plans with sufficient information and data would support planners to understand the holistic picture of the area and provide clear guidance for developing the modern smart cities or revitalizing the old cities to new ones.
Thus, each municipality needs to develop such plans considering the present demand of the urban people.
The Constitution of Nepal has guaranteed the newly formed local governments with all the power to decide for better planning and execution of the development plan in their area. The constitution has entrusted the local units with the powers to plan for local roads, rural roads, agriculture-roads and irrigation projects, which used to be decided by the central or district level.
In fact, it is an opportunity. The local governments are well equipped with rights to identify their necessity, collect revenue, plan projects, layout budgets and implement these at the local levels.
Likewise, the Government of Nepal has opened the door to develop smart cities on the outskirts of Kathmandu Valley by taking the decision through the Cabinet in 2016. These past initiatives need to be institutionalized and carried forward through newly elected local representatives, which will be a milestone in developing smart cities in Nepal.
There is general concept that cities in Nepal have rural characteristics. Urban is defined in terms of population, their economic activeness and population density. Similarly, strong leadership in each local government would help to make real change in developing a smart city.
There is a hope among the local people that the newly elected representatives have an opportunity to develop smart cities as these bodies understand the needs of the people without deteriorating architectural and cultural aspects of the respective area.
For the achievement of such targets of the local government, it is very important for the central government, non- governmental organizations and urban experts to facilitate elected bodies in the process of developing a master plan and execution of the plans for the development of sustainable smart cities in Nepal.
The writer works in Oxfam