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Intermediary Cities: Planning with Nature, People and Technology

Feb 2024 | No Comment

The planning of intermediary cities needs to refocus on the emerging issues of sustainability, economy, energy and climate and disaster resilience

A K Jain

Worked as Commissioner (Planning), Delhi Development Authority and as a member of the Committee of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs on the DDA (2015). He was a member of UN Habitat (2007-12). Author of several books, he is visiting faculty in planning and architecture. He was awarded 2nd Urban Professional Award 2014 at World Urban Forum in Medellin, Colombia and IBC Lifetime Achievement Award (2023), Living Legend (2022) by the Indian Institute of Architects (NC) and the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Smart Habitat Foundation (2022)

Abstract

Of the 7935 cities and towns in India, 468 are class 1 cities (each with a population of 1 lakh and above) which constitute 70.30% of total urban population. The Class 1 cities include 65 Metropolitan cities (+10 lakh population). According to URDPFI Guidelines (2014), Medium towns comprise the population between 50,000 to 5 lakh and a large city between 5 to 10 lakh. As such, 403 cities in India fall under Medium or intermediary cities. These intermediary cities, having about 27.57 % of urban population, play a critical role in urban dynamics and act as the link between the urban and rural areas. With much focus on metropolitan cities, these have often been overlooked. The colonial master planning has been slow and often does not address the critical issues of pollution, climate change, environmental sustainability, public health, socio-economic equity and inclusion. The paper suggests adoption of five-year strategic plans for intermediary cities by focusing on the nature (climate, air, water and greens), the people (socioeconomic, gender, informal sector, circular economy, culture, education, health, mobility, community participation) and new technologies (digital planning, smart, intelligent and interconnected processes, SCADA, blockchain, discreet optimisation, algorithm, AI, big data, etc.).

Introduction

The 21.8 km long Mumbai Trans Harbour Link (MTHL) or the Atal Setu built at a cost of Rs. 1,250 crore and inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 12th January 2024 will help the development of a third Mumbai. The 16.5 km part of the bridge is over the sea, which is the longest in India (Fig. 1). It will scale up its economy from existing $ 140 billion to $ 250 billion and enable the development of 323 sq.km in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region.

This takes us back to 1898, that was the beginning of the planned development of Mumbai, when Bombay Improvement Trust Act was notified. In the year 1915 the Bombay Town Planning Act was passed, that was inspired by the British Town Planning Act, 1909. These Acts provided for preparation of the Town Planning Schemes for orderly urban development, land use, zoning, provision of amenities and services, including roads, sewer, and drains. This was followed by Punjab Town Improvement Trust Act (1920), UP Improvement Trust (1919), and Madras Town Planning Act, 1920.

After the Independence several Indian States promulgated their Town Planning legislation based on Town and Country Planning Act (1947) of the United Kingdom. It relegated and devalued the traditional Indian cities and their planning, which manifested a rich variety and unique identity, such as Varanasi (Fig 2) and Jodhpur. By and large, the Indian city was seen as an unplanned slum.

Since 1947, about 120 new cities and 400 odd industrial townships have been planned and developed in India, such as Chandigarh, Bhubaneshwar, Gandhinagar, Bokaro, Faridabad, New Mumbai, New Town Kolkata, Amravati, Noida, etc. The Delhi Development Authority was created in 1957, which took up the planning of Delhi with the help of Ford Foundation and Town Planning Organisation. The Master Plan for Delhi was given a statutory shape on September 1st, 1962. It assessed the existing deficiencies in housing, community facilities, services, etc. and projected the requirements of 4.6 million (revised to 5.3 million) population in 1981 (Fig. 3). The Delhi Development Act and the Delhi Development Authority became the models of city planning and development, and more than 50 such Acts and Authorities were created in various cities in India.

During the third Five Year Plan (1962-1967) the planning of State Capitals, industrial townships, port towns, etc. was accelerated. In 1979-80, the Ministry of Urban Development floated the scheme of Integrated Development of Small and Medium Towns, which covered 235 cities and towns across the country. In 2005 this was subsumed within the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) (Fig. 4). The SubMission on Urban Infrastructure Development Scheme for Small and Medium Towns (UIDSSMT), Integrated Housing and Slum Development Programme (IHSDP) and Sub-Mission on Basic Services for the Urban Poor covered 5098 towns and cities.

After the economic liberalisation policies (1991), the Parliament enacted the 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendment Acts (1992), which provided for the constitution of District and Metropolitan Planning Committees for decentralisation and democratisation of the planning process. It empowered the urban local bodies to prepare District and Local Plans. However, many States perpetuated with conventional Master Planning. Under the Special Economic Zone Act, 2003, about 417 SEZs have been planned of which 349 have been developed. Several private sector townships have also come up, which include Amby Valley and Lavasa in Maharashtra.

Intermediary Cities

Of the 7935 cities and towns in India with a population of 377 million (2011), 468 are class 1 cities (each with a population of 1 lakh and above), including 65 million plus cities. The million plus cities constitute 42.63% of total urban population while all the Class 1 cities have 70.20% of total urban population. As such, 403 cities in India fall under Medium or intermediary cities. These intermediary cities, having about 27.57% of urban population, i.e. about 104 million, play a critical role in urban dynamics and act as the link between the urban and rural areas. The cities between 1 lakh to 10 lakh population qualify for Central assistance under the Integrated Development of Small and Medium Towns and now under the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban transformation (AMRUT). The UN Habitat along with OECD has underlined the importance of intermediary cities (having a population between 50,000 and 1 million) for focused attention on planning, climate resilience and sustainable infrastructure (OECD & UN Habitat, 2022).

To accelerate regional development, and to bridge the gap between smaller towns and mega cities during last decades, the thrust has been on development of public transport infrastructure, national highways, ports and airports and railway corridors. These include the “Golden Quadrilateral” network of National Highways linking Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata, North-South and East-West Corridors. The 1,483 long kilometre) Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) and 1,279 kilometres long DelhiKolkata Rail Freight Corridor are at advance stage of progress.

The Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) has been planned to create 24 smart cities and 7 Industrial Regions spanning six States- Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra. The key features of these new cities on this corridor include digital planning and governance, compact and vertical development, new technology, smart grids, civic infrastructure and green spaces (Fig. 5).

Indias Urban Missions

During 2014-15, the Government of India launched several new urban missions, viz. Smart Cities Mission (100 cities), Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) (500 cities), Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, Historic City Development and Augmentation Yojana (HRIDAY) and Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM). These missions aim at low carbon and inclusive urbanisation and the provision of core infrastructure services, like water supply, sanitation and solid waste management, efficient urban transport, housing, 24×7 power supply, IT connectivity and e-governance, with emphasis on participatory planning and providing better education, healthcare, urban safety and smart services.

National Monetisation Pipeline has a budget of Rs 6 lakh crore during 2022-25, of which the share of the Railways is Rs. 1.52 lakh crore. Railways Infrastructure Investment Trust (InvITs) is being anchored by the Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation (DFCC) for redevelopment of railway stations, warehousing, commercial and entertainment hubs. In the budget (2023-24) 1275 railway stations are being redeveloped through EPC contracts. The funds have also been allocated for Rapid Train Projects, Railway Bridges, High Speed Railway Corridors, Dedicated Freight Corridors (3581 km), Hydrogen Powered Trains, Gati Shakti Units and Transit Oriented Development. This envisages to trigger urban growth mainly of medium and small towns with better connectivity.

The PM Gati Shakti Master Plan, launched in 2021, provides valuable lessons for planning of sustainable infrastructure for seamless movement of people, goods and services. It leverages new technologies, breaking the silos of departmentalisation to achieve ease of doing business. PM Gati Shakti Master Plan is based on the six core principles, incorporating infrastructure such as laying utilities during the planning phase, enhancing connectivity to help seamless movement, ensuring ecological focus on conservation of forest, biodiversity, rivers, etc., faster land acquisition and expeditious clearances (Figs. 6 & 7).

The outcome is made possible by focussing on each aspect of a project in granularity on one platform, with visibility across stakeholders. This also helps drive faster prioritisation and easier synchronisation to avoid delays. The detailed analysis from the data layer and the tools ensures better optimisation of project and quick interventions for closure.

The Whole Government platform enables easier collaborations across departments, dramatically simplifying the planning process while ensuring the design that is mindful of all economic and social aspects. The Smart Cities Mission, Gati Shakti Master Plan and the National Monetisation Pipeline are for a horizon of 5 years, replacing the 20-year colonial model of Master Planning. The circular economy is the basis of these missions. These projects provide important lessons for urban planning, such as better synchronisation, leveraging, bridging gap between planning and implementation, adoption of new technology and public-private partnerships.

Sustainable Development Goals-2030

In view of threats of climate change, pollution and disasters, the sustainable development goals were adopted by the United Nations in 2015. Climate change has become an imminent reality with a rise in global temperatures, changes in rainfall, floods, droughts and intense heat waves. A drastic increase in atmospheric concentrations of water vapours, carbon-dioxide, methane and nitro-oxide, and other greenhouse gases help trap heat near the earth’s surface. The increasing emissions, heat, fossil fuel usage, urban growth, and growing air conditioning demand are affecting health and productivity. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aim at integrated social and economic development along with climate resilience and environmental conservation of land, water and air and reduced carbon emission and effluents. The SDGs are indispensable in the process of urban development and the Conference of Parties provide agenda and targets at the global and national levels.

UN Conference of the Parties (COP 26, COP 27 and COP 28)

The United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP 26, Glasgow, 2021) deliberated upon various measures to limit global warming to 1.5 degree Celsius by the year 2100. Indian delegation led by PM Narendra Modi put forward the need to scale up clean technologies and renewable energy. The International Solar Alliance (ISA), One Sun-One World -One Grid envisions an interconnected trans-national solar energy grid. The COP 26 agreed to reduce the use of fossil fuels and coal by new sources, such as green hydrogen, green metals, carbon capture, solid state batteries, electric fuels, heat pumps, electric and hydrogen powered transport and next generation solar PV. PM Modi put forward his five-point agenda at the conference, and informed that India’s non-fossil fuel energy will be raised from 160 GW at present to 500 GW by 2030 and 50% of the power requirement will be met by renewable energy. Solar modules will reduce the carbon intensity of the economy to less than 45%. India is committed to achieve net zero emissions by 2070 by clean technologies, like electric transport, ethanol blending in gasoline, solar photovoltaic and batteries, which would play a critical role in its decarbonisation.

At the COP 27 (2022, Sharm-el-Sheikh, Egypt), India launched its long-term Low Emission Development Strategy (LT-LEDS). It focuses on transition towards expanding renewable energy, strengthening power grid, and energy conservation, rational use of fossil fuels, nuclear energy, green hydrogen, fuel-cells, and biofuels for low carbon growth. Discussions at COP 27 encompassed the plans, financial interventions, technological innovations, ideas, and investments towards building a cleaner, safer and more productive path of development. It was emphasised to triple the flow of finances within five years by multilateral banks. India’s LiFE (Lifestyle for the Environment) Mission was seen as a necessity to deal with climate change at local level. The formation of the global Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI) and Clean Energy Ministerial Industrial Deep Decarbonisation Initiative (IDDI) seek to strike a balance among infrastructure development, resilience and environment.

The 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28) was held from 30 November to 12 December 2023 in Dubai. The conference concluded the global stocktake of climate action under the Paris Agreement and agreed to accelerate short-term climate actions. Other significant achievement has been the operationalization of the Loss and Damage Fund ($ 700 million against the estimated requirement of $194 to 366 billion per year), Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) and adoption of a framework for the Global Goal on Adaptation (GGA) to strengthen collective action in building climate resilience.

The deliberations focused on global climate action and sustainability challenges in achieving net-zero climate goal in the urban sector, building and construction industry. Within the overarching Government of India’s roadmap towards achieving net zero emissions by 2070, 50% of energy from the renewables by 2030, and reducing emissions by 45%, India is moving towards a developed economy of $36 trillion by the year 2047. It underlined the measures for sustainable, resilient habitat and inclusivity by adoption of new policies, reforms and the launch of new Coalition of High Ambition Muti-level Partnerships (CHAMPs) to advance the discourse on sustainable, green transportation, energy efficient cities and decarbonising the construction and building practices.

Planning Dilemma

The recently published Report of NITI Aayog (2022) on reforms on Urban Planning Capacity in India, noted that a city Master Plan is a statutory requirement and essential tool for socio-economic development, better liveability, inclusion, citizen engagement, environment sustainability and climate change related aspects. According to the report, India’s cities occupy 3% of area while contributing a massive 60% to the country’s GDP. Furthermore, Indian cities are growing fast, as Oxford Analytics noted (2018), of the 20 global cities expected to grow the most by 2035, 17 are in India. According to the World Bank, only about one-third of India’s population lives in city, which will grow from 377 million in 2011 to 820 million in the year 2047. It is projected that 75% of the GDP and new jobs will be created in the cities. Keeping in view of the potential of intermediary cities, it is necessary to have a dedicated focus on their planning and development.

Planning Intermediary Cities

The planning of intermediary cities needs to refocus on the emerging issues of sustainability, economy, energy and climate and disaster resilience. This means an interdisciplinary and integrated approach that addresses and links the SDG 1(no poverty), SDG 2 (zero hunger), SDG 11 (Sustainable cities and Communities) and SDG 13 (Climate and Disaster Resilience).The cornerstone of making a city resilient and low carbon is to adopt an integrated approach towards the nature (climate, air, water and greens), the people (socio-economic, gender, informal sector, circular economy, culture, education, health, mobility, community participation) and new technologies (digital planning, smart, intelligent and interconnected processes, SCADA, blockchain, discreet optimisation, algorithm, AI, big data, etc.). This involves a paradigm shift in urban planning which addresses the following:

Planning with Nature
a. Biodiversity, Greenery and Amenity Spaces
b. Urban Heat Mitigation
c. Water Conservation and Management
d. Air Quality Management

Planning with People
a. Local Economic Promotion and Jobs
b. Reducing urban footprint
c. Decentralised and Intelligent Services
d. Clean Transport and Transit-Oriented Development
e. Green Energy
f. Green and Resilient Buildings
g. LIFE- Lifestyle for the Environment

Planning with New Technology

ICT Enabled Planning, Design and Construction, including Energy, Public Utilities, Mobility, Public Safety and Urban Management

Planning with Nature
a. Biodiversity, Greenery and Amenity Spaces

A study of the present land use pattern in India indicates an alarming shortfall of land under forests and greens, as the lands under agricultural use are being increasingly converted for the highways, airports and settlements. It is estimated that an additional 2 to 3 million hectares would be required for human settlements during next 10 years. Sacrificing agricultural land for habitation implies reduction of land for producing food. The lands that sustain agriculture, biodiversity, surface water and groundwater, fragile and sensitive areas, coastal zones, etc. need protection and conservation.

In a city an overall area of 10 sq. m of greens per capita should be reserved for public greens at city, zonal and local levels. A system of landscaped linkages connecting various parts of the city, water bodies and monuments can provide a sense of oasis and shelter from oppressive climate. Peripheral green belts can act as wind breakers, filters of SPM and dust-storms. The green buffers with indigenous trees, land formations, mounds, embankments, etc. a l s o provide effective barriers to transmission of noise.

The development of greenways can be integrated with the water bodies, drainage corridors and harvesting ponds, reservoirs and by sediment traps in the catchment zones. In water deficient, dry areas the landscape can be in form of Xeriscaping, which can reduce total water demand by as much as 50 to 90% by micro- just- in -time irrigation. Vertical gardens and urban farming can provide relief in dense areas.

In built-up areas, reservation of open space can be done by adopting appropriate regulations for redevelopment. The Government of Maharashtra has notified the regulations for Provision of Amenity Spaces and Open Recreational Spaces under Unified Development Control and Promotion Regulations (UDCPR 2020). These oblige that a minimum 10% of space is reserved in plots more than 4000 sqm against additional FSI or TDR for garden, playground, and/or for a municipal school, hospital, fire brigade and housing for affected people.

b. Urban Heat Mitigation

In a dense built-up area air rises over the warmer city and settles down in the cooler environs. The hot air dome and its effect on microclimate may persist until wind or rain disperses it. Increased aerodynamics of built-up areas cause rapid deceleration of wind compared with open countryside. It has been calculated that wind velocity within a city is half of what it is over open land. At the town’s edge, it is reduced by a third. The mutations and reservation of greenery and open space in windward direction and cooler surface materials (roads, parking, buildings, roofs, etc.) help in mitigating the effects of urban heat island. This needs preparation of a city-wide Heat Mitigation Plan and mandatory use of heat reflective and permeable materials for rooftops, pavements and roads, insulated with white paint and cavity walls. Water pools, fountains, vegetation and cross ventilation can also mitigate the urban heat.

c. Water Conservation and Management

Water scarcity has become a persisting problem in Indian cities due to climate change, pollution of rivers, water bodies and massive construction. Several cities in India have become water stressed. Only 18% of the renewable water resource is being recycled, and only 10% of the annual rainfall is being harvested in India. The issues of concern are increasing coliform levels and Bio-chemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) in surface waters and increased concentration of nitrates in the groundwater. To overcome these problems, water sources need to be protected by sanitation/sewerage interception, and by recycling and treatment of wastewater. Water resources can be augmented through recharging of groundwater and by rainwater harvesting (not only in buildings, but also on roads, parks and parking areas). Zero run-off drainage needs the provision of swales, retention ponds, etc. Besides the conservation of rivers and water bodies, water efficient taps/fittings, dual plumbing, curbing Non-Revenue Water, recycling of wastewater and adoption of new technologies, such as Blockchain and SCADA systems, can help in a more efficient water management.

d. Air Quality Management

Air quality in Indian cities is deteriorating due to indiscriminate use of fossil fuels and vehicular and industrial emissions. According to the surveys conducted by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) ambient air quality in more than 20 Indian cities have reached a very critical situation. Relatively high levels of suspended particulate matter (SPM), dust, SO2 , NO2 , CO2 and heavy metals, including lead content in the exhaust of automobiles and scooters, have been observed. The recent changes in the fuels like electric and hydrogen powered vehicles, adoption of clean technologies, new emission norms, development of shared taxis, school buses and trucks, Non-motorised Transport (NMTs) and mass rapid transport system can reduce the pollution levels due to vehicular emissions. Airshed planning, continuous ventilation, use of cooler and light shaded surfaces/materials and water spray are some other methods to reduce air pollution. The use of prefabricated and recycled materials, including construction and demolition wastes in construction and repair of roads and buildings, can help in reducing air pollution and dust.

Air quality data is significant to gaining a thorough understanding of local air pollution, its causes and effects. Recent technological advancements have made it possible to gather data, with lowcost monitoring devices and advanced methods of collating and analysing it. Now-a-days smart electricity poles with sensors are available to monitor pollution parameters along with light, CCTV, wifi, etc. The New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) has been using them in New Delhi. Citywide air quality mapping and monitoring networks can provide street by street air pollution levels. The active sensors can measure CO2 , CO, NOx, NO2 , ozone and particulate matter. CEMS and Air quality Data can be used to identify major components, sources, quantification and projects. It can also help the government to apply monetary incentives and penalties for polluting companies and enforcing a cap-and-trade system. The data can be used to analyse the issues, project various options and schedule to assign the responsibilities, timelines and monitoring.

Planning with People

a. Local Economic Promotion and Jobs

In India, the cities generate the country’s 60% of GDP and 70% of the jobs. With Covid 19 pandemic, climate change and diminishing jobs, the factors of public health, creation of jobs, environmental sustainability and climate resilience have emerged as the key issues. A target of 10 million jobs in urban areas can be achieved in next five years by development of janta markets, workshops/ sheds, kiosks, shops, small offices, etc. At least 10 percent area of shopping/commercial centres may be reserved for the informal sector (street vendors, kiosks, fruit and vegetable stalls, etc.). The residential areas also need a higher level of mixed use and the rationalisation of FAR/FSI, height and densities.

b. Reducing Urban Footprint

The urban footprint can be reduced by optimum densities/floor area ratio that will also reduce consumption of land, leading to travel reduction, economy of services and conservation of agricultural areas. The Indian cities have an overall density of 100 to 240 PPHa, which can be selectively doubled along public transit corridors, excluding the archaeological, heritage and conservation zones. The focus has to be on redevelopment of the brownfields, infrastructure services, transportation, public greens and facilities. The urban ecosystem must be compact and dense. The urban processes need to be compatible to circular economy.

c. Decentralised and Intelligent Services

Surveys reveal that approximately 40% of urban population in India, especially in intermediary cities, is not covered by sewerage, sanitation, drainage and solid waste disposal. As a result, the intermediary cities often face the issues of insanitation, flooding, diseases, poor hygiene and services. Various alternative technologies, based on decentralized systems can be explored. The use of IT, simulation, blockchain and automation can make the services smart and intelligent. The common method of land filling for solid waste disposal is an environmental disaster. Instead, decentralized systems based on 5 R strategy of reduce, refuse, reuse, recover and recycling should be explored. Three bins provide separate bins for trash, recyclable and compost. Collection charges drop as trash drops. Biotechnology, enzyme based STP, bio-remedial treatment, vessel system, sludge gas/energy recovery, vermiculture, fossilization and compositing options can be adopted for solid and liquid waste management. Underground pneumatic conveying systems can be adopted, which are more hygienic, economical and avoid movement of trucks for transportation of wastes.

Common utility ducts or tunnels carrying electricity, water, sewerage, wastes, cables and broadband internet minimize damage from traffic, road repairs, rains, etc. A series of low carbon zones across the city with co-located tri-generation energy systems (combining renewable power, cooling and heating), district cooling and recycling can lead to bundling ‘green infrastructure’ together.

d. Clean Transport and Transit Oriented Development

The basis of the clean transport is the use of clean energy. As urban transport contributes nearly two-thirds of the total suspended particulate matter and 18 per cent of carbon emissions, it is necessary to provide clean modes of transit run by alternative fuels, like electric batteries, green hydrogen, biofuels, ethanol blended gasoline, etc. With a view to conserve transport, the MOHUA has issued the Metro Rail Policy (2017) and Transit Oriented Development Policy (2017), which provide guidelines for promoting public transit with private sector participation.

Integrated Transit Corridors (ITC), integrating BRT, Metro and trains together with pedestrian and cycle lanes can be flanked by public, semi-public, highdensity developments. Metro, trains, and primary roads can run underground for easy bike and pedestrian traffic on the grade. Multi-modal integration, last mile connectivity and e-governance are the pillars of sustainable urban mobility. River/water transport and ropeways can be explored which are almost pollution free and cost-effective. Besides controlling growth of private vehicles, it is necessary to explore parking space in stilts, multilevel puzzle/skeleton structures, on roofs and in underground spaces. Seamless multimodal public transport system comprising bus rapid transit and railbased mass transport system would work better by adoption of single ticketing and restructuring of land uses by transitoriented development. Subterranean garages near commuter destination reduce the need for ground parking. Digital parking meters tell mobile phone when a space opens up, reducing traffic caused by drivers trolling for space. The concept of walk to work should be the basis of urban structure and city size.

The concepts of cordon pricing, minimum occupancy vehicles, ceiling on new registration of private vehicles and establishment of a Unified Metropolitan Transport Authority in every city can effectively contribute towards a sustainable and clean urban transport.

e. Green Energy

Energy scenario in India is characterised by its increasing demand, which has been growing at the rate of about three times the population growth rate in the last two decades. Low carbon energy can be derived from renewable sources, such as biofuels, wind, tidal and solar power. The concept of energy efficiency, renewable energy and Zero-fossil Energy Development (ZED) can reduce the energy demand and consequential pollution. The renewable energy not only helps in energy generation, but also in a pollutionfree environment. Smart Micro-Grids, Distributed Energy Systems (DES), Micro-Districts and Anchor Microgrids should be linked with renewable energy network and energy efficiency.

The energy guzzling air-conditioning can be mitigated by innovative methods like Net Zero Energy Design, variable refrigerant volume (VRV) system, earth air tunnel (EAT), thermal storage, and Passive Evaporative Draught Cooling (PEDC) systems. Lower ambient synchronised lighting, bionic controls and integration of natural light with high performance glazing, combined with light sensors can save energy use in a building, which is segmented into multiple zones to allow intelligent controllability. Green roof, ventilation, circulation, light coloured finishes and insulation also help in reducing energy demand .

f. Green and Resilient Buildings

A low carbon and green building aims to be resilient, sustainable, and net zero. The heating, lighting, cooling, ventilation, and powering of buildings are responsible for approximately 40% of the total energy use. As buildings are the largest energy users, incorporating energy storage into them will increase their resilience and enable widespread use of renewable energy.

By passive design the buildings can be more climatically comfortable. It is necessary to specify building materials which are locally sourced and recycled from construction and demolition wastes, that have low embodied energy and require less energy for production and transportation to the site. Such materials include carbon-negative cements, low carbon steel, fibre, gypsum, basalt, fibre composite bars, bamboo, etc. Prefabricated and pre-engineering systems contribute immensely to lower the carbon emissions and dust footprints, time and costs in construction.

Building Information Modelling (BIM) can simulate the entire construction sequence beforehand addressing sustainability issues and reducing carbon emissions. Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAM) and Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM) are useful in reducing emissions, dust and GH Gases. The simulation of construction process enables better control of time, machine, expenditure and the manpower, and could reduce carbon emissions, costs and time by half to one-third.

After the chronic pandemic, the trend is shifting towards healthy spaces and work from home (WFH), open office, biophilic design with natural light, greenery, atrium and courtyards. The biophilic design helps in better indoor air quality. The building must mandatorily conform to accessibility standards for people with disabilities. The space design must prioritise sustainability and health by way of light and ample ventilation. The Power-Over-Ethernet (POE) lighting system enables smart lighting from a solar grid.

g. LIFE- Lifestyle for the Environment

India and the United Nations have initiated the LiFE or Lifestyle for the Environment Mission (2022). It aims at mindful living, production, and consumption and not mindless and destructive consumption. Low carbon lifestyle is a cluster of habits, embedded in a social context and enabled by efficient infrastructures that minimize the use of natural resources and generation of emissions, wastes and pollution. This requires a change in social norms and rethinking the ways of living based on the principles of organicity, nonaccumulation (aparigraha), minimalism and slowing down. It is also about caring, sharing, recycling and living in balance with the natural environment. The reuse and repair culture needs to be promoted by provision of repair workshops in all the localities. Education, capacity building and participation of civil society, especially students and women, are necessary to develop pragmatic practices of sustainable lifestyles.

Low carbon urban strategies can not work without involving the women, who comprise nearly half of the population and work every day in homes, offices, schools and fields. However, they often face the ‘gender service gap’ in terms of access to energy, water, and toilets. A low carbon city has to be gender and disabled sensitive with adequate, safe and accessible spaces for living, working and vending.

Planning with New Technology

In this digital age, the 20-year model of Master Planning does not address the urgent issues of climate change, air and water pollution, public health, employment and disasters. It is also incongruent with the objectives of speed, scale and sustainability. It is necessary that the urban and regional plans are prepared for a five-year horizon, while their vision may extend to 20 years. The ICT can be a game changer in this transition towards a green and clean economy, smart, resilient, and low carbon infrastructure services, transport and community. Keeping in view the widespread disaster vulnerability of urban areas in India, it is necessary to invoke new technologies and establish Integrated Command and Control Centres in all intermediary cities. This would enable effective mitigation, preparedness, emergency response, surveillance, communication and recovery from potential disasters.

The city plan needs specialised inputs for ICT enabled urban planning by domain experts in GIS, GPS, EIA, SDI, big data analytics, ERP solutions, digital dashboard, blockchain, etc. The National Institute of Urban Affairs and Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs have identified the key drivers to propel digitisation for sustainable, inclusive and resilient urban planning and data driven decision making (Fig 8). The urban platform for online governance (UPYOG) developed under the National Urban Digital Mission of the Government of India aims to assist the municipal bodies towards delivery of better, faster and more transparent public services (Fig. 9).

Conclusions

Prime Minister Narendra Modi while addressing the Mayor’s Conference on 20th September 2022 stated that there is a huge potential in smaller towns and cities to develop as the economic centres. There is a need to focus on intermediary cities as the centres of economic activities and social transformation. This needs a paradigm shift in urban planning which addresses the impending issues of climate change, air and water pollution and a shift from work from home to work from hometown. The provision of the state-of-the-art public infrastructure in intermediary cities with a focus on nature, people and new technologies would help in making urban India viksit, sustainable and vibrant. While we envy the financial development and tourist attraction of the cities like Singapore, Dubai and Bangkok, there is no reason why the intermediary Indian cities, each with its own unique identity and potential, can not compete with them. It is time to take off.

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