Potential of Urban Agriculture under Transmission lines: Case-Study of Agro Garden in Navi Mumbai

Introduction

Urban agriculture as a concept is often employed to address social and environmental sustainability in cities. The activities involve producing, processing and distributing food and other agricultural products complimented by recreational, educational and social values additions. The importance of urban agriculture is increasingly being recognized by international organizations like UN-Habitat and FAO. Urban Agriculture helps in:

(1) Enhancing urban environmental management (Environmental Sustainability)

  • Sustainable land management method.
  • Greening and cleaning of the city by turning derelict open spaces into green zones.
  • Productive reuse of urban wastes by turning them into a productive resource.
  • Contribution to Urban Ecology by improving microclimate and providing habitat to biodiversity.
  • Reduces the risk of groundwater pollution, while also sequestering carbon in the soil.
  • Reinventing the human relationship with nature through environmental awareness.

(2) Turning urban challenges into opportunities (Economic Sustainability)

  • UA is an exceptional public involvement based solution, which works as a complementary strategy to reduce urban poverty.
  • Create sufficient formal employment opportunities for the poor.
  • UA contributes to local economic development, poverty alleviation and social inclusion of the urban poor and women in particular.

(3) Functioning as a Platform for social integrity (Social Sustainability)

  • UA is a multitasking activity, which requires active and passive public participation at different stages for its success.
  • Contributes to Urban Food security and nutrition. Locally, seasonally grown food is richer in flavor and has more nutrients.
  • Communities involved in UA manifest higher social integrity as they work towards common good, which eventually bestow them with higher quality of life.
CIDCO’s Policy for lands below Transmission Line

To encourage public participation in land development and management, CIDCO in 1998 came up with a policy for allotment of land falling under Power Corridor (MSEB) and land falling under Service Corridor. Certain parcels of land under Right of Ways (RoW) for power transmission line cannot be termed as developable land as per the provisions of Navi Mumbai Disposal of Land Regulation, 1975 and have been disposed-off for its potential utilization. This innovative policy allows to utilize such underutilized land parcels on Leave and License basis for development of gardens/nurseries/farmlands at a nominal rent of Rs. 100/- per annum. It keeps these lands free from encroachment and develops greenery to create an ambience for recreational activities and relaxation. Moreover, transmission lines passing through the nodes make undevelopable and unaffordable urban land available for neighbourhood to cultivate. Total 168 plots were leased out to different communities/ trusts/societies, where Urban Agriculture and allied activities turned out to be most sustainable utilization.

This article discusses a pre-eminent example of urban agriculture on land below power transmission line in Navi Mumbai. This project works in line with the objectives of CIDCO’s policy and also serves a greater purpose of achieving environmental, economic and social sustainability at community level. The case studies are analysed on three aspects:

  • Economic Sustainability
  • Environmental Sustainability
  • Social Sustainability

CASE STUDY – Agro Garden by CBD Residents’ Agro Society

Plot no. C-13 | Sector- 9 | CBD Belapur

CBD Resident’s Agro Society, a non-profit organization established as Citizen’s Effort for protection and conservation of sensitive eco-system came up with an idea to create a multipurpose public space on the foothills of Valley Park. This park is capable of inculcating community farming and gardening culture along with raising environmental sensitivity amongst the citizen. It also keeps the land clear from encroachment. The park covering nearly 1 Ha (9507 Sq.m.) barren patch of land falling under power transmission RoW is being transformed into a fertile terraced farm and garden.

The Agro Garden is broadly divided into 4 segments: Vegetable garden and Orchard, Butterfly Park and Botanical Garden, Senior Citizen Park and Children’s Playground. Rest of the peripheral area is kept intact with natural vegetation. Each segment serves a critical role in this sustainability model.

Image 1: Satellite image of Agro garden showing of Multi-purpose Segments

Activities:

Activities like horticulture, agriculture, awareness drives, socio-cultural events and educational tours performed in the Agro garden creates activities and gives a local flavour to this transformed urban space. Through multiple uses of different segments and overall benefits gained through them safeguard the social, economic and environmental sustenance of the community.

 

Figure 1 – Activities in the four zones of the Agro Park and the economic model

Organic fruits and vegetables are produced in Vegetable Garden and Orchard; nature trails and informative walks are organized for children and nature lovers at Botanical Garden add meaning to spaces. Butterfly Park, Senior Citizen Park and Children’s Playground possesses multipurpose behaviour of space which apart from daily activities are suitable for cultural events too.

Economic Sustainability

The garden balances the social activities and the revenue generation through its financial sustainability model. Moreover, the garden provides employment to the agricultural workers deployed in Agro Garden. The self-sustaining model of the Agro Garden reduces the load of financial contribution on the member residents, this makes it easier for them to voluntarily contribute towards development of the garden. The revenue is generated from educational tours, vegetables and fruits sales, renting spaces for socio-cultural events, entry fees, donations, etc. If the expenses for the year are not recovered, society members contribute the remaining amount for maintenance and development.

Figure 2: Model for recovery of expenditure

Environmental Sustainability

The actions to preserve the environmental sustainability works around four parameters, each of them having their own contribution, they are:

  1. Land transformation: Habitat creation and restoration: Combined efforts has transformed this unfertile land into a fertile and productive resource. The botanical garden provides a favourable niche for the survival of rare species of plants. Successful habitat restoration for birds and reptiles has been done there. The botanical garden houses species of host and nectar plants, which provides food and shelter to almost 30 butterfly species. The butterfly park successfully contributes in habitat creation.
  2. Composting: Urban waste management and manure production: Neighbourhood residents convert their household wet waste into compost and reduce load on municipal landfill.
  3. Organic Farming: Reduce food footprint and provide healthier food: Cultivation of seasonal fruits and vegetables with organic farming techniques has been the most popular venture. Community farming in a city helps in reducing food footprint of a neighbourhood. To economize on water, the society has developed independent water source by digging a well and irrigation is done by means of sprinklers and drip irrigation.
  4. Conservation Education: Environmental awareness and conservation, eco-tourism: Students, enthusiasts and researchers visit this garden to observe botanical wealth and butterfly lifecycle. It encourages environmental awareness and eco-tourism.Children, elders and educational trips promotes sensitivity towards conservation of natural heritage.

Image 2: Vegetable farming on stepped terrain

Image 3: Organic vegetables purchase by nearby residents

 

Environmental Awareness Programmes like Basant Utsav are organised by the Agro Society. These programs spread environmental awareness amongst citizens of Navi Mumbai through various workshops on topics like, eco-friendly domestic waste management, sheet mulching, vermi composting, bonsai, kitchen garden, snake protection and awareness, plant and flower show, nature trails, etc.

Social Sustainability

Public participation plays a vital role in Agro Park’s social sustainability initiatives. The public participation takes place on two levels explained here:

  1. Passive Public Participation by contributing towards judicial use of the public space and enabling multipurpose use by bringing diverse population together: Events organized in Agro Garden attract people from different parts of the city, they come together mostly for learning and recreation. Community gatherings and social events serve dual purpose of revenue generation and social integrity. Within the garden, there is also a dedicated space for senior citizens.
  2. Active Public Participation by:
  • Encouraging Functional Participation in groups to meet predetermined objectives related to a project after major decisions have been made.
  • Encouraging Interactive Participation in joint analysis, development of action plans, and formation or strengthening of local institutions.
  • Mobilizing Participation by taking initiatives independent of external institutions to change systems. They develop contacts with external institutions for resources and the technical advice they need, but retain control over how resources are used.

Image 4: Botany expert Dr. Bhagwat participating in one of the nature trails

The participation of public in decision-making and maintenance creates a sense of unity and responsibility towards community development and nurtures social integrity. Combining the multiple initiatives and citizens’ contribution together works forward in upgrading citizens’ quality of life.

Conclusion

Case-studies like these apprehend that urban agriculture is beyond growing the food; it also creates recreational, educational and employment opportunities to the urban population. It also contributes by using under-utilised lands below transmission lines. Urban agriculture solves dual purpose of environmental sustainability and enhancing quality of life of residents under Smart Cities initiative, it also addresses Smart City feature of preserving and developing open spaces in sustainable way. Surprisingly, some of the activities and features proposed in Langley Urban Agriculture Demonstration Project report are already being practiced at Agro Garden and KKVP Nursery cum Information Centre by virtue of public interest.

For urban agriculture to flourish, public action groups seek encouragement and support from the local government. City’s municipal corporation and the planning authority can support citizen action groups through functional reforms such as assuring long-term tenure, performance based assessment and incentives, promotion of events and awareness programmes organized in such projects citywide. Encouragement can be sought by making more land resources available to the communities in neighbourhood with simplified procedure for lease application and renewal. Leasing the plots to citizen in adjacent neighbourhoods is beneficial as the accountability for maintenance and benefits enjoyed remains with the community.

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Transforming a Landfill Site: Case Study of Koparkhairane’s Nisarg Udyan

Urban decision makers, often consider adaptive reuse of abandoned or formerly contaminated lands, such as former military bases, brownfields and landfills, while looking for more parkland for social, environmental or economic activities. These land uses provide the required land acreage in close proximity to urban settlements and play a role in establishing the identity of a sustainable city (Vogt, 2015). Around the world, landfill sites have been the focus of urban redevelopment projects as seen in Millennium Park in Boston, Slushing Meadows-Corona Park and Freshkills Park in New York City and World Cup Park in South Korea.

In Indian context, the Nisarg Udyan (Nature Park) in Koparkhairane, Navi Mumbai is one of the better examples of urban space transformation project improving the quality of life of the residents. The park serves as a recreational space for the citizens as well as a safe niche for the bio-diversity. Spread over an area of 17 Ha, this park was a landfill until 1999. After 19 years, it has transformed into an appealing recreational space. This article further discusses the case study of Nisarg Udyan and its transformation process.

Figure 1: Layout of Nisarg Udyan at Koparkhairane, Navi Mumbai

The transformation process

The transformation of this area initiated in order to address the grievances of the residential population near Koparkhairane landfill area. This initiative was in accordance to the instructions given by Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) and directives of the High Court (Ljiljana & Sanjay, 2012).

Scientific closure of this dumping ground containing 20 lakhs M.T garbage was completed by NMMC in 2008. A network of wells was laid to collect trapped landfill gas (LFG) and a flaring unit was installed at the site to burn the LFG. A leachate collection tank was also constructed to collect the leachate and treat it before disposal. Treated sewage water from the sewerage treatment plant is now being used for watering the lawn through a sprinkler system.

The development of the park happened in three phases:

  • Phase 1 – In the process of converting the open dump yard into a garden, grass layer of 22000 sq. mt. area was laid during 2013-2014.
  • Phase 2 – A jogging track was set up for the citizens residing in the nearby localities.
  • Phase 3 – Infrastructure like public convenience, pergolas, dedicated sitting areas and open gym were constructed.

 

 

Image 1: Before and after transformation of Nisarg Udyan. Source: NMMC Solid Waste Dept.

Value addition under TERI’s Eco-City Project

Navi Mumbai Eco-City Project was launched with a vision to develop Navi Mumbai as India’s first Eco City. It worked on the principles of sustainable development through implementing low carbon consumption strategies and appropriate utilization and conservation of natural resources. TERI WRC has signed MoU with NMMC in 2012 to set up projects under Eco-City Programme with focus on biodiversity conservation, green buildings, urban farming, energy and water conservation.

To create environmental awareness, 15 lecterns and 4 large boards were installed in Nisarg Udyan, having information about biodiversity in the locality such as birds, butterflies, sparrows and mangroves.

Image 2: Informative lecterns at Nisarg Udyan. Sources: Completion report of installation of Biodiversity panels and Lecterns at Nisarg Udyan, Koparkhairne, Navi Mumbai, TERI

What does the space offer?

The park offers scope for many activities and opportunities for ecological conservation, some of them are mentioned below:

Active and Passive Recreation

The park has ample spaces for active and passive recreation. The active spaces include uninterrupted pathways, long spread lawns, open air gymnasium, indoor recreation arena, etc. People regardless of their age or gender use the space for jogging, morning/evening walks, yoga, sports, etc. Passive spaces like covered (Pergolas) and non-covered sit outs are popular amongst elders. Emphasis on providing infrastructure like clean public toilet, storm water drainage and providing adequate lighting is taken.

Image 3, 4, 5 & 6: Different cases of Citizens engaged in different activities

Niche for Biodiversity

Natural vegetation (mangroves and mangrove associates) around landscaped area houses several resident and migratory bird species such as Egrets, Yellow Wagtail, Brown Shrike, Black Drongo, Red Munia, Prinias, etc. The park provides grassland, woody and wetland habitat for other species like Jackals as well.

Image 7: congregation of Little Egrets in Nature Park

Water conservation

To tackle the challenge of maintaining such a large area, reuse of treated water is implemented assuring environmental sustainability. As per NMMC, 205 MLD sewage undergoes treatment every day and discharges 202 MLD treated water into the sea. Around 2 MLD treated water from the adjacent STP is used for irrigation in Nisarg Udayan (The Indian Express, 2018).

Impacts

The impact analysis of Nisarg Udyan was done on similar lines of Day’s Sequential Model of Decision Making (1992). The model (also known as AIDA: Attention-Interest-Desire-Action) is often used in marketing to describe the steps a customer takes in the process of purchasing a product. According to the four steps of AIDA:

  1. A person first acquires information about the place
  2. He/She develops interest
  3. The person develops a desire to visit and
  4. Finally takes an action, i.e. visiting the park.

Similar to the Theory of Planned Behavior (Ajzen, 1985), AIDA model provides framework for understanding phases of cognitive process that simulates behavioural reactions. A similar study was also done by Vogt, et al. (2015) to assess the success of Freshkills Park, New York. They examined the impacts of proximity and experience with the local history.

Figure 2: Sequential Model of Decision Making. Source – AIDA

On similar lines, responses of residents to the transformation of Nisarg Udyan were assessed. It was found that responses about the space before the transformation were only negative, owing to the foul smell, pollution and the unhygienic surroundings. Only after 2008, when the residents realized (attention) that the transformation process has been completed, they developed an interest to witness the difference. Influenced by the quality of transformed space and its benefits, they developed a desire to visit again. After being familiar, they indulged in healthy actions at the park as a part of their daily routine.

This park is a good example of creating a productive land use out of underutilized land. Proximity plays an important role here, since the group of people who once complained about the waste dump-yard gained maximum benefits after the transformation. As this is the largest park within Koparkhairane and Ghansoli nodes, people within 2-3 km proximity tend to visit Nisarg Udyan frequently for recreation. This project also highlights the importance of complimenting land uses towards alleviating the lifestyle of the residents in a city.

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Low Carbon Emission Bus Fleets: Case Study of Shenzhen, China

Introduction

In the recent years, climate change and increasing pollution levels in urban areas have brought our attention to the detrimental impact of the fossil fuel based transportation sector on the environment. In 2010, the transportation sector alone contributed to 14% of 2010 global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. 95% of the global transportation energy in 2010 came from fossil fuels that are highly polluting (EPA, 2018). Considerable reduction in the GHG emissions can be achieved and urban air quality improved by shifting to low-emission vehicles that run on clean fuel. Low emission vehicles use alternative fuels such as biodiesel, natural gas, hydrogen (fuel cells), ethanol, propane, compressed biogas, biomethane, electricity and so on. Electric vehicles are the cleanest amongst these, with zero tailpipe emissions during operations. Every zero-emission pure electric bus eliminates about 1,690 tons of CO2 over its lifespan of 12 years, which is similar to removing 27 cars off the road (US Department of Transportation, 2016). This article takes the case study of Shenzhen, China to understand the initiatives taken by their authorities to develop the largest electric bus fleet in the world.

Case Study of Shenzhen, China: World’s Largest Electric Bus Fleets

Located in the Pearl Delta region, the city of Shenzhen is a major financial, industrial and technological center in Guangdong Province, China. It has developed rapidly due to its special economic zone (SEZ) status and its proximity to Hong Kong. As of 2015, Shenzhen is home to about 11.6 million residents and covers an area of 1,991.64 square kilometres (Shenzhen Bureau of Statistics, 2016).

In Shenzhen, 0.5 percent of the city’s total vehicle fleet is diesel buses, but they accounted for 20 percent of the city’s transport emissions (Ying, 2017). Switching to electric vehicles was one of the solutions to improve air quality substantially in the industrial hub. The city of Shenzhen began introducing electric buses (e-buses) in 2009 and since then it has pushed for 100% electrification of its bus fleets. As of 2018, Shenzhen has electrified its entire fleet of 16,359 buses (Lu, Xue & Zhou, 2018).

Cost Management

Even with the current advancements in technology, the upfront cost of an e-bus is still higher than that of a diesel bus, and public transportation organizations had to find ways to deal with the massive investment deficit. The authorities in Shenzhen took initiatives at many levels to be able to implement 100% electrification of their buses. It was made possible through:

Subsidies

Capital investment in the form of national and local subsidies made it possible to electrify 16,359 buses in Shenzhen. For example, a 12-meter e-bus in Shenzhen received $150,000 in government subsidy covering more than half of the vehicle’s price (Shenzhen Municipal Development and Reform Commission, 2016). Apart from the e-buses, the government has also promoted clean energy vehicles by:

  • Providing financial subsidies for using charging facilities for other private electric vehicles
  • On the purchase of electric taxis and passenger cars within their city limits.

Cost of the Batteries

According to the bus operators, the high upfront cost of e-bus (2 to 4 times of a traditional diesel bus) is one of the major hindrances in adapting to this technology. (Shenzhen Urban Transport Planning & Design Institute, 2017). The batteries attribute a majority of the higher cost of e-buses. With growing technology and economies of scale, cost of the battery for electric vehicles have steadily declined over the years (Figure 1) (Bloomberg New Energy Finance, 2018). Figure 2 shows that for a longer route the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of e-buses is lower than that of diesel buses (Bloomberg New Energy Finance, 2018). TCO includes the upfront cost, operating and maintenance cost.

Figure 1: Lithium-ion battery’s price survey – volume weighted average (Source: Bloomberg New Energy Finance)

Figure 2: TCO comparison for e-buses and diesel buses with different annual distance travelled (Source: Bloomberg New Energy Finance)

Defining the Role of the Stakeholders

A change of battery is required once during the lifetime of the bus and costs almost half the price of the buses. Shenzhen bus operators worked out a procurement deal with the manufacturers to provide a lifetime warranty on vehicles and  batteries. Manufactures providing warranty for the vehicles and batteries reduced a significant part
of the maintenance cost for the bus operators (Lu, Xue & Zhou, 2018). This distributed the financial risks among the major stakeholders. Some of the major stakeholders include:

  • Central and local government
  • E-bus operators (Shenzhen Bus Group Ltd)
  • E-bus manufacturers (Build Your Dreams)
  • Power supplier and distributor (Shenzhen Power Supply Bureau Ltd)
  • Transmission system operator (China Southern Grid Corporation)
  • Charging infrastructure operator (Potevio Ltd)

Figure 3: Illustration of major players and their interactive role (Source: C40 Cities, 2016)

Some operators also leased the buses and charging facilities instead of buying them upfront. Outsourcing charging and maintenance facilities turned-up to be profitable. Through such initiatives and subsidies, Shenzhen was able to
adapt to electric buses within a span of 6 years (Shenzhen Urban Transport Planning & Design Institute, 2017).

Local Support

Shenzhen has a strong local technical and industrial support in the form of home-grown high-tech companies like Build Your Dreams (BYD). Over the last three years, through technological innovation and mass production, BYD has managed to bring down their battery costs by half. These have a longer lifetime, faster charging time and better safety features. BYD, central and city government officials have worked together to achieve Shenzhen’s sustainable urban development goals through corporate innovation and government policy (Chen & Ogan, 2016).

Optimising Operations

Charging and operations were optimized by procuring e-buses that can support a full day of operation (around 250kms) in a five-hour charge (Lu, Xue & Zhou, 2018). Apart from this, bus routes furnish sufficient battery charging infrastructure to ensure undisrupted service. Currently, the ratio of charging outlets to the number of e-buses in Shenzhen is 1:3 (Shenzhen Urban Transport Planning & Design Institute, 2017). E-buses are fully charged overnight and supplemental recharge is done during off-peak hours when the electricity prices are lower. To promote the use of electric vehicles within the city, these charging facilities are also available for private cars and taxis at a subsidized price.

Figure 4: Electric bus adoption in Shenzhen, China (Source: Shenzhen Urban Transport Planning & Design Institute Co., Ltd)

Benefits Achieved

The environmental benefits of 100% electrification of the city bus fleet have been highly positive. In the year 2015, Shenzhen saved standard fuel of 84,000 tons and reduced 150,000 tons of GHG emissions (C40, 2018). The estimate suggests that the average total mileage of one e-bus will be approximately 174.4 kms with reductions of (Ying, 2017):

  • 48.6 tons of nitrogen oxides
  • 62.1 tons of non-methane hydrocarbons
  • 1.2 tons of particulate matter

By implementing 100% e-buses fleet, the city saves 345,000 tons of fossil fuel per year. Apart from reducing air pollution, e-buses have other benefits (Ying, 2017):

  • They are more fuel-efficient
  • The cost of fuel is lower
  • The engine does not produce any noise

Take-aways

Major cities, like London, Amsterdam, France, etc. have started switching to electric buses in their own capacities. The case of Shenzhen however, is a lot of different since it is the first city which has managed to convert its entire fleet to electric buses. From this case study, major takeaway is that it is possible to convert traditional diesel bus fleets to e-buses by:

  • Encouraging electric vehicles through subsidies
  • Having strong technical assistance from local manufacturing industry (like electric vehicles and batteries)
  • Leasing bus and charging infrastructure
  • Getting buses and battery warranty from the manufacturers
  • Outsourcing maintenance and operation services

The city of Shenzhen is working to reduce pollution and improve air quality with the use of clean fuel in their transportation sector. From the current state, the city of Shenzhen has now turned its focus to electrify their taxis by 2020 (Sisson, 2018). However, this case study also shows that in the current scenario, only large cities that have the financial capacity to provide subsidies can attempt for electrification of their public buses.

Featured image source: Getty Images

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Dockless Bike Sharing in Palava

A good public transport system supported by a bicycle sharing program for last mile connectivity can serve as a complete solution for solving urban transport issues in the cities. However, the implementation of a well-functioning bicycle sharing system has always been a challenge for the city managers. From the perspective of the city there are three major hurdles. First, high capital investment combined with the ongoing operations and maintenance costs[i] which barely are covered with subscription fees. Second, scarcity of land in the city to build enough parking stations at important nodes. And third, is efficient re-balancing of cycles according to the usage pattern restricting the availability of cycles[ii].

The advent of dock less public cycle sharing system in China reinvigorated the use of shared cycles as a solution for green commute in the cities. Traditionally, the bicycle sharing models relied on a docking system at the parking stations. The docks were capital intensive and constrained the number of cycles that could be parked at a particular station. The model also occupied considerable area at prime locations in the land scarce cities. On the other hand, the new dock less system reduces the capital requirements for the docks and also removes the necessity of defined land parcels. The cycles in the new system are fitted with IoT based GPS locks, which facilitates picking and dropping of cycles at any location. GPS based mobile applications with online payment integration have eased the process of cycle discovery and payments. The low price and ease of usability have facilitated the cycle sharing system to scale extensively. The long term attractive business proposition in the dock less system has also attracted venture capital for initial investments in capacity and innovation. The two large Chinese unicorns Ofo[iii] and Mobikes have managed to get investments of over $3Bn in just three years.

But the explosion of the dock less cycle system came with a downside too. The model seen as a boon to transit system became a menace for the streets[iv]. More than 2 million bikes are available for sharing in Beijing alone, clogging the streets and footpaths[v]. To manage the uncontrolled growth, cities have resorted to regulations.  Seattle was one of the first cities that placed regulations and fines on the cycle sharing companies[vi]. In India, a similar system is yet to take off on a major scale. However, Palava is one of the first cities in India which has managed to implement a dock less bicycle sharing model successfully with minimal regulation through technology. This has been achieved by accommodating mixed mobility in the urban design of Palava combined with IoT innovations by partner Zoomcar.

Case study: PEDL in Palava

Taking a few cues from evolving megacities like Beijing in China and few other European cities, Palava has designed its own system of dock-less cycle sharing that might yet become a trendsetter for not only Mumbai, but other parts of India as well.

Figure 1: PEDL cycles in Palava

Palava is a privately built smart city by Lodha group, which can be seen as a blue print for the future Greenfield urban developments. The city is designed on the ‘concept of 5/10/15 minute walk’ where daily commute for reasons such as shopping, school, work place are at a walking distance from every residence. 80% of resident’s daily trips can be met by walking or bicycling in Palava.

Implementation

Palava adopted a model for locating cycle stations at every 50 meters from a residence. All the main aggregation points of the city such as shopping mall/arcade, club houses, schools, and city manager’s office were covered. The stations were clearly demarcated on the ground and were geo-fenced. At the launch 30 stations were identified in the city with 200 cycles. Geo-fencing facilitated parking of cycles in the allotted areas and prevented a situation of clutter in the city.

Figure 2: Geo-fenced cycle station in Palava

The campaign for launch of cycle sharing was widely circulated through social media such as Facebook posts, watsapp messages, emails and SMS. The cause of cycling was taken up by Palava cycling club and other active social groups within Palava. The well-connected and closely knit communities in Palava were helpful in early adoption of the system post the launch.

Usage and Response

The initial response from the citizens for the service was overwhelming with an average ridership of 1500 trips per day. The novelty factor of using the service attracted many users to the platform. However, with time the usage saw a dip and eventually stabilized at 1000 trips per day. Out of the 30 stations, 8 stations contributed to 60% of the trips. These were mostly popular destinations like shopping arcades, club houses etc. The usage varied during the span of the day, the maximum ridership was in two peaks in the morning and evening. These peaks corresponded with the work commute trips and as well leisure trips for fitness.

Demographic Analysis

The promotional price at the launch was set at INR 1 for 30 minutes hence there wasn’t much difference in the income levels of the users. There was a stark difference in the gender’s usage; only 4% of the females used the system compared to 11% for male. In terms of age structure distribution, the maximum users were in the age bracket of 22 to 35, which is also the largest cohort in Palava.

Figure 3: Weekday and weekend distribution

Learnings

  • The parking for dock less system needs to be controlled using system such as geo-fencing. This ensures that the cycles are parked in certain spaces allotted to them and are not cluttered all over the city. The initial geo-fenced station’s radius can be kept higher and then it can be slowly reduced as the people start getting habitual.
  • Rebalancing the number of bicycles is very critical for smooth functioning and uptake of the cycle system. The usage pattern for the program at every station level has to be understood and should be subsequently programmed for rebalancing. If proper rebalancing is not done, then citizens will not be able to get cycles at the right place and at the right time. Hence, the whole objective of the sharing the resource might fail.

Figure 4: 24 Hour distribution of number of trips

  • Since the mobile application has integrated payment mechanisms, it is easy to create an incentive system. Users could be incentivised with low rates during non-peak hours. Even extra credits can be given for rebalancing (that is taking cycles from unused stations to the highly used ones).
  • Apart from the benefits of commute and health, the data collected from the trips made by the commuters gives valuable insights to urban planners and policy makers. The duration and length of the trips, origin-destination studies, time variance and demographics particularly are very useful for overall transport planning in the city[i].

 

By – Vaibhav Chugh, AGM (Strategy), Lodha Group

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Reimagining the approach to TOD

NIUA studied various projects proposed by cities in their Smart City Plans with the help of MoUD’S TOD Guidance Document. This was part of a research on TOD in Indian Smart Cities conducted with the support of Prosperity Fund, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Government of UK. It purpose is to support cities in Round 2 and Round 3 of the Indian Smart Cities Mission who have proposed or plan to propose Transit Oriented Development in their Area Based Development. It provides a decision making framework for these cities. MoUD’s Guidance Document for TOD presents 21 Principles for planning and implementing a Transit Oriented Development. To simplify the discussion, the study proposed use of 5 constructs of Design, Density, Diversity, Mobility and Housing. They are a modified version of the 3Ds of Design, Density and Diversity. These five constructs were then mapped against the 12 guiding principles from MoUD’s Guidance Document. This exercise resulted in a baseline or ‘ideal’ weights for each f the constructs. The mapping is based on the Components enumerated by MoUD under each of the Principle. Next, the framework is used to understand a city’s approach to implementation of a TOD in three parts:

1. Compatibility of projects and policies: Listing and mapping all the projects proposed by the city against the 21 principles. This is similar to the process of mapping the principles against the constructs. It allows us to identify the constructs prioritized by the city based on the resultant weights. The process is shown in the illustration:


2. Urban Transformation: Estimating the change in the built form of the area selected for ABD. It estimates the additional built up area required to accommodate the additional population that will make the proposed infrastructure investment financially sustainable. Taking city’s current population, growth rate and slum population, the framework estimates if additional interventions are required to stimulate population growth to achieve the desired population. The framework is also used to estimate the expected increase in real estate prices in the ABD using market prices of the land in the area.

3. City’s Finances: The approach for assessing the financial sustainability comprised the following:Analyse the past trends in terms of various components of revenue and capital income and expenditure. It is assumed that business as

  • Analyse the past trends in terms of various components of revenue and capital income and expenditure. It is assumed that business as usual situation would follow similar trends.
  • On a single entry basis, closing balance indicates the net of all cash flows. The investments proposed for TOD projects are superimposed on the existing financials and compared in relation to the prevailing composition of municipal finances. This involves comparing quantum of investment in relation to those generated in the past.

The study looked at four cities in detail, mapping each of its projects against the 21 principles to obtain the resultant weights and thus, the construct prioritized by each city. The exercise illustrates how a city can leverage TOD to address its specific issues. It also helps identify areas that a city can focus on, as it moves forward with the implementation of the TOD.

This framework provides a platform for city managers and policy makers to have a quick understanding of how their projects compare against TOD principles in the Indian context. While the application of these principles has been demonstrated for two cities, this framework has potential to be developed as a tool to provide insights to city managers and policy makers to delve deep into granular elements of the process.

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LinkNYC Free Wi Fi Kiosks in New York

LinkNYC is a first-of-its-kind communications network that will replace over 7,500 pay phones across the New York City with new structures called Links. LinkNYC is completely free because it’s funded through advertising. It is expected to generate more than a half billion dollars in revenue for New York City. 

LinkNYC launched in January 2016 and is currently in its beta phase, giving New Yorkers an early opportunity to try out Link’s features and provide feedback. Additional apps and services will be rolled out on an ongoing basis over the next several years.
Currently it provides:

1. LinkNYC’s super fast, free Wi-Fi to connect personal devices
2. Access to city services, maps and directions
3. Free phone calls to anywhere in the U.S. with the Vonage calling app on the tablet or the tactile keypad, microphone and headphone jack
4. Dedicated red 911 button in the event of an emergency
5. USB port to charge devices
6. ADA-compliant (universally accessible) design with low ground coverage, leaving space on the sidewalk as compared to a conventional phone booth
7. Public service announcements and advertising on two 55” HD displays

In 2014 the de Blasio Administration issued a competitive RFP to repurpose payphone infrastructure with free Wi-Fi, phone calls and advertising. The CityBridge proposal for LinkNYC was chosen for its innovative and community-first approach and was
awarded the 12-year franchise. CityBridge is a consortium of experts in technology, media, user experience and connectivity that includes Intersection, Qualcomm and CIVIQ Smartscapes. The kiosk was designed by Antenna Design.

The initiative will deploy a total of 7,500 Links throughout the city over the next eight years. At no cost to the city or taxpayers, CityBridge, the consortium behind the project, is investing $200 million in building the LinkNYC network (Kleiman, 2016).

Through advertising, LinkNYC comes at zero cost to taxpayers. LinkNYC will generate at least $500 million in revenue for the City over the next 12 years and CityBridge will use revenues to maintain and improve the service; the city and CityBridge will split revenues 50/50 (Kleiman, 2016).

Issues with the deployment of the kiosks:
• User data theft by cyber criminals
• People who linger next to it for hours, monopolising it and blocking the sidewalk
• Use of kiosk for other criminal activities and communication

In order to address the issue, in September 2016, the internet browsing facility was disabled on the kiosk screens, with the exception of websites that provide government services, Wi-Fi phone calls and the city’s 311 complaint centre and 911. As of October 2016, LinkNYC Kiosks can also be used for registering to vote. Hi-Speed Wi-Fi for use on personal devices is still in place.

Technology
The Kiosks use Ruckus Wireless’ Wi-Fi technology. It is enabled by Qualcomm’s Vive 802.11 AC Wave 4×4 Chipsets. They use a Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 processor and the Adreno 320 Graphic Processing unit. Qualcomm will provide maintenance for the rest of the service lives of the Kiosks and upgrade to the software is expected in 2022 (Shah, 2016). Qualcomm has provided some of the technologies for the Links, which are designed so the networking equipment, processor, tablet and other components can be regularly swapped out and upgraded (Shah, 2016).

“LinkNYC is our response to some of the most pressing challenges facing New York City—and cities around the world—today. How can we provide greater access and connectivity without costing taxpayers a dime? How can we address the digital divide, where more than 25 percent of New Yorkers lack broadband access at home? The single largest opportunity when it comes to this project is its sheer scale and ability to benefit millions of people every day. In addition to more than 8.5 million New Yorkers, we’re also serving 56 million visitors from around the world. Our objective is to ensure LinkNYC creates real value for these diverse populations. LinkNYC is about reimagining the public-private partnership model to bring the incredible innovation of the digital world into our physical streetscape, providing value to New York City with a state-of-the-art new communications network.” – Dave Etherington of CityBridge (Kleiman, 2016)

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Valet EZ: Transforming the parking landscape one revolution at a time

ValetEZ is a mobile based application that helps to find secure parking spots in your city and provide valets on-demand who will assist in parking and attending to your vehicle.

SOME INTERESTING FEATURES ABOUT PARKING

  • Typically, car owners spend an average of 10-15 min
    looking for parking spot
  • While parking is free or cheap in most places (at
    least in India), there is a cost in terms of lost time
    and uncertainty of finding a suitable parking space
  • As in most informal fragmented markets, ‘jugaad’
    (workaround) solutions exist at the local level
    – e.g. many offices lease space from empty or
    unused properties OR buildings with offices and
    commercial spaces use the available parking at
    complementary timings etc.

 

“So, why is parking seen as a fundamental challenge in the urban landscape?

Scourge of free parking – The perception that parking should be mandatorily provided and for free is regarded by most experts as the biggest challenge to reforming the parking sector. Ironically, free or highly subsidised parking is free only for the immediate user of the service. There are significant social costs to the neighbourhood, to commercial establishments in the vicinity – both direct (having to pay for their own private parking) and indirect (lost business from customers who never visited due to lack of parking), the city (congestion, lost productivity and loss of economic activity) and of the general chaos that impacts all commuters on their way to an office meeting, to the store, or to a restaurant.

Alternatives that could address this issue

The most obvious solution is public transport. However, public transport is unlikely to fully curb the aspirations of an emerging middle class to own their own vehicle. Auto sales projections for the coming decade bear this out. Owning a vehicle is not just about aspiration; it has utility in providing greater control over one’s mobility and privacy. Another rapidly emerging alternative in recent years has been organised cab aggregators. The emergence of alternative forms of mobility will change the usage of a personal vehicle but is unlikely to stop the growth of private vehicle ownership for the foreseeable future. With a private owned car remaining stationary for 90% of the time and space a major constraint, parking remains a growing challenge across the urban landscape.

What will it take to organise the parking sector?

In a scenario of increased vehicle ownership and inability of cities to cope with increased supply of vehicles, addressing the parking challenge will move up the priority list. At the same time, the rise of ‘not in my backyard’ (NIMBY) from local communities (both residential and commercial) shows the growing barriers to the indiscriminate use of on-street parking. While the potential opportunity appears straightforward, there are high barriers to overcome in building an effective infrastructure solution. Any presumption that a centralised solution by government fiat – especially in terms of providing infrastructure – will address the problem fails to fully comprehend the diffused nature of the problem. Valet EZ sees the path to addressing the parking challenge through tackling three key factors that influence the sector:
Parking inventory supply:
Lack of quality and timely inventory
The most significant challenge faced by parking users is the non-availability of adequate appropriately priced inventory. Bridging information asymmetry on parking availability would bring about market driven pricing and allow the introduction of features such as advance booking. The opportunity to make money from parking on underutilised real estate for short periods provides incentives to bring on board additional supply, creating a dynamic market and brings in greater efficiency in the management of urban spaces.

Making the economic case
with users: Competing with free
The clearest way to competing against ‘free’ parking is through superior customer experience, high quality products, and a compelling range of product/service offerings. The greater opportunity in the long term is to transform parking from a capital asset to a pay-per-use model. This lowers lease rental costs for businesses while for home owners this could mean that they no longer need to incur the huge upfront cost of purchasing car parks and instead rent for as long as they need it. This model also helps in better revenue realisation for the inventory holder.

Addressing the dual challenge:
Localised density and scalable network
In densely packed and parking space constrained cities, there is a need to innovate on creating additional parking inventory. Valet EZ envisions a decentralised network model of parking lots, bringing new (and dynamic) inventory onto the market and management through the effective use of technology. This model will address the core concerns of security and reliability to develop a scalable network. With the right economics, property owners with spare spaces and inventory can participate on a platform similar to a managed marketplace.
Use of technology to manage parking spaces has largely focused on smart parking solutions in private parking spaces or aggregating existing parking inventory. However, countries with major space constraints and growing automobile markets pose a different parking challenge and require a solution more suited to their unique needs.
A parking solution that is scalable and replicable can be built on the base of a Parking Technology Stack – a series of technology driven tools and processes that help in the creating an ecosystem for both inventory holders and customers. Such

a tech stack would comprise of several layers of solutions and toolkits for inventory development, space management, security, pricing and billing systems, add-on services all integrated on a open platform. This parking technology stack would help provide an ecosystem with common standards and tools to manage a dynamic decentralised network and provide a high degree of standardisation for parking users.

The views expressed in this paper are solely those of ValetEZ and not necessarily those of the National Institute of Urban Affairs or the NIUA-CIDCO Smart City Lab.

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Curitiba- Transforming City with Bus Transit

Curitiba’s urban planners recognised early on that, even if growth in population cannot be controlled, the development of infrastructure in the city can guide the city’s development. Using bus transit supported by Master Plan, the city changed its radial configuration of growth to a linear model of urban expansion along mixed land use transport corridors. Curitiba approached public transportation not as a solution to advancing problems of congestion and pollution, but as a tool to develop a compact, sustainable and inclusive environment.

 

Context


Curitiba is the capital city of the State of Parana in Southern Brazil. Currently, the city has a population of more than 1.8 million (2015) distributed within city limits of about 430 square kilometres and a total metropolitan area population of over 3.2 million (IBGE estimate, 2010).
Integrated transportation and land-use planning was adopted in Curitiba to address rapid population growth and to keep it from becoming an uncontrollable, sprawling metropolis (Parsons Brinckerhoff Quade & Douglas, Inc., 1996). In 1964, Curitiba prepared, the “Preliminary Urban Curitiba”, a plan which evolved over the next 2 years to become the “Curitiba Master Plan”. Parallel with the evolution of the plan, in 1966, Curitiba created a planning institute, the “Instituto de Pesquisa e Planejamento Urbano de Curitiba (IPPUC)”, to develop, supervise, monitor, and continually update the Master Plan. (Karas, 1985). The Master Plan directed Curitiba’s growth along proposed bus lanes called “Structural Axes”, by creating articulated densities along the corridors.
Curitiba’s integrated transportation system plays an important role in the realisation of this Master Plan. It is a system of median bus ways along the five “structural axes” complemented by “direct” express service on parallel arterial roads, and by an extensive feeder bus network.

Transforming City with Bus Transit

The BRT in Curitiba was key in the transition of the city from radial to a linear model of urban growth. The transport system is based on the major radial corridors of the city or the “structural axes”. Each of the structural axes was developed as a “trinary system” comprising three roads. The central road of the three contains a two-way bus-way that feeds into transfer points called “terminals,” and also provides a limited number of traffic lanes. Approximately at the distance of one block from each side of the central bus-way/service road, a one-way traffic road of three or four lanes is developed for use by private vehicles. Intensive high density land use development has been permitted and encouraged on the block between the bus-way and the main traffic roads on either side. This land use form creates a concentrated, high demand for transport services along a narrow corridor that can be met efficiently by a track-based public transport service – the bus-way. The bus-way system along the five structural axes is only part of the Curitiba city-wide bus mass transit system. The system, termed the Rede Integrada de Transporte (RIT – Integrated Transport Network), provides a hierarchy of types of bus service, which include city bus-ways, inter-district express service and feeder network, all operated under an integrated tariff system. Curitiba achieved its intended compact development, independent of private vehicles, using policies and practices in majorly four arenas- land use planning, public transportation, parking policies and

institutional mechanisms.

Land use planning

The Master Plan prepared in 1964 directed urban development in Curitiba to the “structural axes”. Several land use policies emerged in the city which helped to bring out the best of the “trinary road system”. These included –
• The master plan allows only high-rise (10 to 20 story buildings) and mixed development along the BRT corridors. Also, large-scale shopping centres are only allowed in transit corridors.
• Land within two blocks of the bus-way has been zoned for mixed commercial- residential uses. Beyond these two blocks, zoned residential densities taper with distance from the bus-ways. It brings together various land uses in walkable areas within short distances from the transit station.
• The zoning prescribed by the structural axes has a combination of control and incentives. This includes various bonuses to develop as planned; incentives to transfer development rights; firm control over location of large scale development (such as large shopping centers); provision of incentives to developers to increase residential density close to the transit corridors; and development of transit terminals with a wide range of facilities.
As one move further away from the corridor, buildings become shorter, less dense and lastly it turns into predominantly residential areas. This land use planning has led to greater number of people staying within the first zone and the density gradually decreasing towards the feeder corridors.

Public Transportation

The public transportation system (RIT – Integrated Transport Network), provides a hierarchy of types of bus service, which include city bus-ways, inter-district express service and feeder network, all operated under an integrated tariff system.
• The bus-way system has been instrumental in driving land use development and has been used to stimulate development along the structural axes. The buses run frequently and reliably, and the stations are convenient, well designed, comfortable, and attractive.
• Travel demand for the bus-way system is generated as the bus-ways enter and cross the central business district (CBD) while traffic access is limited by traffic management methods (bus-only access, pedestrianisation, parking controls, etc.).
• The BRTS offers many of the features of a subway system at the low cost of a bus system. This includes vehicle movements unimpeded by traffic signals and congestion, fare collection prior to/ boarding, quick passenger loading and unloading.
• The inter-district express
• The bus feeder services integrated into the bus-way attract commuters through interchange terminals and stops.

Parking Policies

Parking policies have assisted in shaping travel demand, particularly to/from the central area in Curitiba. Some policies are-
• On-street parking is limited in location and duration
• City’s central area is partially closed to vehicular traffic
• Off-street parking is expensive
• Within structural corridors, development must provide off-street parking

Institutional mechanism

The organisations involved in implementation of the BRTS are the city government (Curitiba Mu
nicipality); research and urban planning institute (IPPUC); public transportation corporation (URBS)and private bus operation firms. The inherent structure of the organisations and institutional policies help the system function efficiently.

• An auxiliary to the city’s executive branch of government, the Curitiba Institute of Urban Planning and Research – IPPUC (Instituto de Pesquisa e Planejamento Urbano de Curitiba) was responsible to plan and test solutions. Due to the dual responsibility, new plans were generated, tested, accepted by the community, and put into practice quickly. The population began to trust the ideas of the Institute, and this trust has largely been responsible for changes in the mentality of the city’s inhabitants.
• Work based on the Master Plan in 1965 was financed by the Development Company of Parana and by the Curitiba municipal government’s Department of Urban Development. Operation of the bus system is financed completely by bus fares, without any public subsidies. The Inter American Development Bank, the private sector, and the Municipality of Curitiba financed the north-south Bi-articulated Bus Line project (approved in 1995).
• The municipal government collects detailed operational information, audits the implementation and collects income received from the whole system, and pays the operators for services rendered in real costs. Detailed regulations establish the rights and obligations of the operating companies, define the faults and penalties, and seek to eliminate waste while constantly improving the quality of service. This arrangement ensures the fair distribution of income among operators and prevents unhealthy competition among drivers over specific routes.
In addition to the land use-transport sector, Curitiba has also followed enlightened policies on housing, environment, waste recycling, social matters (particularly for the young), and other initiatives.
• Areas outside the transit corridors are zoned for residential neighbourhoods. Also, Public housing for low income families are built along the transit ways.
• Single fare system of ticketing subsidises the cost of commute for long distances (mostly used by low-income population residing in periphery of the city) over shorter trips. Besides being socially just, the system facilitated the implementation of fare integration between different companies.
• In spite of having potential to raise funds for a heavy rail or subway, Curitiba built on its previous bus systems network and developed a BRT system to guide development, and in the process developing a low cost public transportation system.

Reflections

Long-term vision, strong leadership and flexibility in plan has lead to the success of TOD in Curitiba. By utilising the existing corridors for BRT and adopting measures to intensify development along these corridors, Curitiba established a public transit system at relatively low cost. Through the use of public transportation and land-use instruments, the local governments effectively directed population growth to establish compact dense settlements independent of private vehicles.

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Designing for Diversity: Tools for optimised affordable housing for Indian cities

Housing delivery to the bottom of the pyramid is a key challenge faced by India as the country is wit
nessing rapid urbanisation. According to a report by Government of India, the housing shortage was estimated to be 18 to 30 million homes in 2012. This housing crisis will get acute as India’s urban population is projected to increase from 330 million in 2011 to over half a billion by 2030. Indian cities will need to plan for 48 million houses in next 14 years to manage this urbanisation. The majority of this housing will need to be developed for the economically weaker sections of the society.

The process of rapid urbanisation, with millions migrating to the cities from villages, in search of better livelihood opportunities has often been chaotic and unplanned. Conventional urban planning mechanisms are slow to accommodate this influx of people who with their limited funds cannot afford to rent or buy in the formal housing market. Because of the lack of any other viable alternatives, the majority of them end up in informal housing with unregulated construction that is highly vulnerable to natural disasters. The self-built housing, however, provides a significant benefit over any other form of housing delivery for this section of the society. The self-built incremental housing is inherently flexible process that accommodates changing family needs and makes it easier to appropriate and adapt parts of the home as a small shop, workspaces to make supplementary income. Use of home as a productive asset is a critical imperative for the low-income families.

The rigidity of current formal mass-housing delivery mechanism points towards the need for empowering the urban local bodies with the tools for developing demand-optimised, diverse housing stock by facilitating community participation & engagement in the design process. To bridge the gap between socioeconomic data and design decisions, Urban Risk Lab at Massachusetts Institute of Technology is developing digital toolkit to assist policy makers with a comprehensive, end-to-end housing delivery model. This effort, supported by TATA Center for Technology and Design at MIT focuses on providing access to safe, affordable, incremental housing in tier II and tier III cities of India. The research project aims to create a policy support tools for city authorities to support the low income residents to invest, build and adapt part of their homes as per their needs within a regulated framework. The toolkit – based on the Housing for All Plan of Action guidelines – not only aims to provide a platform for government and private consultants to collaborate on individual projects but will drastically reduce the time and effort spent in the current manual process. By developing a digital platform to analyse of household and livelihood profiles gathered during “Housing for All” surveys – valuable data that in the current process is rarely used to improve design decisions, this tool will help urban local bodies in understanding the citywide housing deficiencies, to prepare annual action plans, and to provide diverse set of housing typologies.

Urban Risk Lab at MIT

The Urban Risk Lab at MIT develops methods and technologies to embed risk reduction and preparedness into the design of cities and regions to increase the resilience of local communities. Operating at the intersection of ecology and infrastructure, rural and urban, research and action; the Urban Risk Lab is an interdisciplinary organisation of researchers and designers. With a global network of partners, the Lab is a place to innovate on techniques, processes, and systems to address the complexities of seismic, climatic, and hydrologic risks.
The lab is currently developing digital tools to assist policy makers with a comprehensive, end-to-end housing delivery model. This effort, supported by TATA Center for Technology and Design at MIT focuses on providing access to safe, affordable, incremental housing in tier II and tier III cities of India – where users can invest, build and adapt part of their homes as per their needs.
urbanrisklab.mit.edu | risk@mit.edu
The Team
Prof. Miho Mazereeuw – Director, Urban Risk Lab
Aditya Barve, Mayank Ojha
The views expressed in this paper are solely those of the authors and not necessarily those of the National Institute of Urban Affairs or the NIUA-CIDCO Smart City Lab.

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Cities: An urban play-lab for children

Cities are the new critical urban laboratories for interactive engagement of children with the urban environment. The Child-Friendly Smart Cities initiative puts forward this opportunity to open a discourse and encourage cities themselves to become catalysts in mainstreaming the needs of children and contribute to a new form of playable urbanism.

Today, 27% of the world’s children live in cities and nearly half of them live in slums and dilapidated conditions. Considering he fact, that cities not only have a direct impact on children’s health but also act as critical facilitators of fundamental thinking on how children perceive and become an active part of their urban environment, reinforces the importance of balanced development of all groups of children within their urban context through skilful planning of cities.

Given that by 2020, India will be the youngest nation with 64% of its population under 29 years of age, re-establishes the importance of harmonious development of its children and youth within their urban context. The National policy of children, 2013, India emphasizes the importance of a sustainable, integrated and inclusive approach for development and protection of children, recognizing the rights of children to have an appropriate life. Proactive efforts have led to aligning children’s needs in urban areas as part of the national urban development missions such as the Smart Cities Mission.

Although policy frameworks and global urban agenda has addressed the rights of children in cities, their everyday needs are often not fully considered in the urban planning processes and mainstream discussions about urbanism. While children growing up in urban areas have access to various opportunities, they are also vulnerable to urban challenges such as pollution, cramped housing conditions, long commutes, inadequate access to recreational and play spaces and high crime rates etc. In addition, rapid and uncontrolled growth of cities in recent decades has further outstripped the capacities of urban administrations and infrastructure services to meet the physical and social needs of people living in them. It is well known that issues which make urban life difficult for children also impact other sections of society, such as women, elderly and disabled. Thus, including child-friendly aspects in city making is an objective that cuts across many overlapping problems and does not just benefit children alone.

In this intensively urbanising world, cities need to play a stronger role, towards developing an inclusive urban form which can be enriched and further interwoven with physical cues that provide a sense of place from the vantage point of children. To realise this, innovative methods such as the popsicle test1, the toddler walkshed2, urban953, need to be explored in detail to overlay a new form of playful urban dimension into the constrained existing urban fabric. Only through such pro-active urban experiments can a discourse be opened, that promotes children’s everyday freedoms and choices and links it directly to their local geography, mobility and safety; cultivating a unique identity for the city and fostering a sense of belonging for its children and youth.

These principles of inclusive city making are being supported by the city of Bhubaneswar, through establishment of Child Friendly Smart City Centre, to develop knowledge driven, effective planning and urban design frameworks that include children’s perspective and encourages their participation to create vibrant urban neighbourhoods. The initiative promotes layering of the city from the perspective of children through micro-landmarks that shape their understanding of a place, provide opportunities for independent mobility and greater interaction for a better designed public realm and open spaces. It is through such urban dialogues that children will discover and develop ingenious ways to shape unexpected places and make the city their own.

About the Authors: Sabina Suri and Divya Jindal are researchers at NIUA engaged with the CFSC initiative. NIUA is developing a strong knowledge base and advocacy campaign for Child Friendly Smart Cities (CFSC) in India with support from the Bernard van Leer Foundation, The Netherlands. The CFSC initiative focuses on planning and development of children and family-friendly smart cities in India, with a view to transform urban areas into safe, livable, equitable and nurturing environments for all children.
For more information refer: www.cfsc.niua.org

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