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Coimbatore
The significance of participation exercise in inclusive planning was highlighted by Mr. C.R. Swaminathan, President, Residents Awareness Association of Coimbatore, during his keynote address. It was mentioned that Coimbatore is a very progressive city and open to ideas for city development. The inaugural session also offered an overview of the urban policy progression in India and the smart cities mission. The challenges faced in smart city proposal implementation were particularly highlighted, including key aspects such as capacity building of the Special Purpose Vehicles (SPV), financial sustainability of the ULBs, PPP modelling, structuring and ring fencing of projects following a consortium approach that ensures end to end tying up of projects to ensure their financial sustainability (Manvendra Deswal).   The session on inclusive cities brought out the need for careful evaluation of city plans and proposals with respect to city needs and the need to strengthen the democratically elected local government that offers a responsible governance structure (D. Dhanuraj). Capacity building of ULB officials as also the elected representatives was particularly highlighted (N. Muthuswamy). Concern was also expressed over the delay in the conduct of municipal elections in Coimbatore that adversely impacts democratic governance and stalls the city development efforts (Rumi Aijaz). The session also brought out city redesign ideas through appropriate density planning and redevelopment of old areas (abandoned industrial areas). Emphasis was given on planning land use based on work-living relationships and creation of open breathing lung spaces within the city core (Nirmal S.J. Britto).   The next session focussed on resource management. Efficient waste management by segregation and composting and at the same time transitioning to a circular economy (integration of rag pickers and financial sustainability) was given emphasis (Chitra Mukherjee). The gender concerns and aspect of equity was specifically discussed with respect to urban water systems. The need for understanding exclusion factors was pointed out to be important (Dipesh Suvarna).   Several methods of eco-friendly treatment of wastewater at various levels, including river, lakes, wetland and household wastewater, were discussed. Some of the methods described included vetiver technology; reed bed system for landfills and effective microorganisms activated solution (EMAS) (Selvakumar). The need for reducing urban energy consumption was particularly stressed upon to achieve energy efficiency and contribute to sustainable environment. It was suggested that small measures including terrace gardens, sky rise greeneries, basement car parking and green spaces in setback areas within the high rise residential apartments can go a long way in reducing urban heat emissions (Bhuvanasundar).   Smart resource management is also about smart integration of services that can significantly lower the operations cost and achieve efficient maintenance. For this, the need for connected infrastructure and information networks was pointed out (Siddharth Ravikumar). A video on Coimbatore’s journey towards resuscitating its water bodies was shown by “Siruthuli” — an NGO based in Coimbatore. The importance of people’s participation in increasing urban green growth, waste management and recharge of water bodies was highlighted. The need for synergising innovative solutions and people’s participation to bring out smart and sustainable urban development was particularly emphasised (Vanitha Mohan).   The final session on smart infrastructure and mobility brought out aspects related to smart transportation and power infrastructure with specific reference to Coimbatore. Emphasis was laid on smart power grid management that focussed on information centralisation, energy supervision, correct cost assignment and preventive maintenance planning through smart transformers and programmable devices for quality monitoring (M. Sundaram).   An overview of urban development of Coimbatore was given with particular emphasis on its regional interactions with other cities such as Tiruppur, Madurai and Palakkad. The need for establishment of an urban development authority was emphasised for planned development of Coimbatore. Key routes for improving intercity and intra city transportation were discussed (Arun Prasad). Further, the urban built environment of Coimbatore was discussed with reference to its lakes and water tanks. The initiative within the smart city proposal to establish green connectors (non-motorised transport corridors and pedestrian skywalks) around the lakes as a mechanism to remove/prevent encroachments on natural water channels and contribute towards smart mobility was discussed (Sarfaraz Syed Yaseen).
Posted on 17 Oct 2017
WORKSHOPS ON SUSTAINABLE URBAN DEVELOPMENT
The inaugural session focussed on the conceptual understanding of the idea of smart cities. The smart city programme was described as an “evolving idea” that has been built upon previous reform measures and includes creation of specialised entities such as Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs), Smart City Advisory Forum, etc., and use of digital technology for improved service delivery and governance. Specific emphasis was laid on looking at the paradigm difference in interpreting the concept (subjective vs. objective) of smart cities, and the governance challenges in implementing the smart city plans. It was reiterated that the smart cities mission should be seen as an “opportunity to reorient ourselves” through redefining the idea of smartness, prioritising what is smart (natural vs. man-made) and by integration of local wisdom with global knowledge and technology. The session on ‘inclusive cities’ reiterated the need for understanding city needs with respect to its people and the urban poor (Bhawna Bali). Specific example of a slum clearance measure in Dharamshala was shared and its negative impacts on the lives of slum dwellers were highlighted (Manshi Asher). Stress was given on inclusive planning for poor neighbourhoods and migrant population. Also, it was suggested that the socio-economic profile of the slum population be considered in planning rehabilitation. A presentation on big data and command control centres was made to draw attention to possible negative impacts (Leon Morenas). This showed how cities are being viewed as a collection of numbers and their issues being delinked from their history and political economy. The possible misuse of sensitive information in the name of surveillance was also pointed out. Further, various aspects of education (such as the curriculum, learning outcomes, enrolment) to be considered in the making of a smart city as also smart citizens were highlighted (Shruti Taneja). Integration of ICT into school curriculum as also for teacher development and management was pointed as an important enabler to create smart schools and responsive education system. ‘Smart infrastructure and mobility’, the second session, critically examined affordable housing programmes and pointed out that the end user and their needs be considered in planning for affordable housing (Abhijit Datey). Other aspects discussed included use of local building material and technology to construct housing that is sensitive and responds to its natural landscape (Dhruv Sud). However, given the enormity of the housing shortage in the country, the need for cost effective solutions and alternative construction management technology was highlighted. Discussion also took place on building resilience in hill cities for disaster management and integrating the same with sectoral planning (Komal Kantariya). It was mentioned that settlement structure should be responsive/sensitive to its natural conditions (topography), local culture and belief systems (through involvement of people) (Sugandha). Further, due to the hilly terrain, it is important to take into account the proximity to infrastructure and resources while planning settlements. With reference to Shimla, it was said that the urban design should be such that it helps the city rediscover its identity while becoming progressive and modern in technology use (Anshu Dadwal). Emphasis was laid on local economic development and improved tourist infrastructure. Smart urban mobility options were also discussed in this session especially with respect to hill cities, including the need for: (a) alternative transport modes such as rope ways and dedicated walking and cycling tracks; (b) traffic management measures through route planning (one-way/lane segregation); and (c) use of IT for traffic management and accident response (Deepti Jain, Hitanshu Jitshu). The use of alternative technologies for building construction especially in cold climates for achieving energy efficiency (G. Kanagraj) was discussed during the third session on ‘smart resource management’. Innovative green solutions for mobility (solar power operated transportation), clean water (waste water  recycling, recharge water bodies)  and air (low carbon emissions through national voluntary program to reduce greenhouse emissions, green building and green product development, and creating waste free societies) were particularly highlighted (Shalini Sharma). It was emphasised that common ideas need to be debated to manage common resources (Abhishek Taneja). The session on ‘smart governance’ again emphasised the need for provision of ICT driven citizen-centric services. The significance of evolving guidelines/policies accommodating the concerns of the hill cities and imposition of penalty to ensure rule compliance was also discussed. SMART was interpreted as Sustainable-Measurable-Achievable-Resilient-Transformation of cities. The session also brought out larger urban management issues such as citizen participation in urban governance, non/partial-implementation of important urban reforms including 74th CAA, gaps in planning and implementation of key infrastructure, non-addressal of issues such as peri-urbanisation, regional development and spatial planning (A.N. Gautam). Further, a detailed presentation on Smart City Proposal of Shimla city by Prashant Sirkek (Joint Commissioner, Shimla Municipal Corporation) brought out key concerns requiring attention, such as ropeways, environment conservation measures (including ban on felling of trees), innovative waste management through waste to energy plants, etc.
Posted on 17 Oct 2017
HCSA/SAI at the IACFS Annual Conference on Comparative Federalism
Heidelberg Centre South Asia and the Branch Office of South Asia Institute in New Delhi participated in and supported the International Association of Centres for Federal Studies (IACFS) Annual Conference on „The Value of Comparative Federalism: The Legacy of Ronald L. Watts”. The conference was hosted by Centre for Multilevel Federalism (CMF), Institute of Social Sciences (ISS), and took place between 16-18 November, 2016.

Prof. Balveer Arora, Chairman, Centre for Multilevel Federalism, New Delhi and Prof. Nico Steytler, President, Dullah Omar Institute, University of Western Cape South Africa and the outgoing President of IACFS, were the conveners of this international conference. Prof. Francesco Palermo (EURAC Institute for Studies on Federalism and Regionalism, Bozen, Italy) was elected as the new President. The three-day conference revolved around key aspects of federalism - accommodating diversities, resource and fiscal federal governance, and asymmetrical federalism.

The annual conference paid tribute to the intellectual legacy of Prof. Ronald Watts, one of the founding fathers of the IACFS. Prof. Watts had served as Director of the Institute of Intergovernmental Relations, Queen's University, Kingston, Canada and Senior Adviser to the federal government of Canada on constitutional affairs. He was consultant to governments all over the world. The 2016 IACFS conference in Delhi was a special occasion to commemorate Prof. Watts' pioneering works on the comparative study of federal political systems.

Radu Carciumaru (Resident Representative, Heidelberg Centre South Asia, New Delhi) gave a presentation on Federalism in Bosnia-Herzegovina within the panel on Country Trend Reports, presided over by Prof. Eva Maria Belser (Institute of Federalism, Fribourg University, Switzerland).

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Posted on 02 May 2017

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