Amidst the rising euphoria, positive economic outlook and optimism, every Indian is waiting and hoping for the Modi magic tounfold. Will our standard of living be truly upgraded? Can we have better homes with superlative amenities? Will our women and children grow up in a safe environment? Is public transport going to become the most preferred mode of commuting within the city? Will we get 24X7 water and electricity? Will we see Smart Cities in our lifetime? Every citizen is asking these and many other questions and waiting expectantly for answers to come from the government.
Infrastructure development is not an overnight process and it will take what it takes for dreams to become reality. But several questions warrant answers. “Are we willing to mend our ways and change our habits to realize our dreams sooner?” Will we stop spitting in public places? Can we segregate our waste and adopt suitable disposal methods? When will we stop littering, urinating and defecating in open areas? Why should using a car pool to pick up and drop our children from school become an issue of prestige and social stigma? Until when will reducing carbon footprint remain the moral responsibility of everyone else except themselves?
My friend Dave Klugh who currently lives in a small town called Black Diamond in the US recently told me that India is presently caught in the same precarious situation that America found itself in the 1950s. He was then a strapping young lad who was growing up in a country that was witnessing the same transition that every Indian is experiencing today. Americans did the same things that we do today and it took a sustained and decade long effort by their government to educate people and convince them that the change they wish to see around them had to first start within themselves first. Once they stopped littering, the rivers automatically cleaned themselves up. As they stopped cutting trees and instead planted more, the weather got better. Traffic snarls reduced once they decided to obey traffic rules. More electricity and water became available once they decided to use these resources more efficiently.
Within the next fifteen years America had witnessed a smart generation of children grow up to become smart citizens for whom self- discipline and sensitivity towards their environment had become a way of life. And then the rest followed with ease. The people of America did not wait for smart cities to come first. They inculcated habits and adopted a lifestyle that created a generation of smart people who ushered in the change that they all wanted to see. This transformation came about even when the means of public communication and outreach were primitive as compared to the communication revolution in today’s digital world awash with a pervasive social media.
Urban planning and development will always be done with an eye on the next 20 years. Which means that as we stand today, we have nearly 100 years of catching up to do with other developed nations of the world. The primary need for any development initiative is progressive people.
That is something no government can build. It is for each individual to rise to the occasion, stand up and be counted. If every citizen can simply adopt better practices and develop a karmic connection with his surroundings, we can experience smart living in very quick time. Clusters of smart communities will help create smart cities and there is no better manner in which we can pave the way towards a better future for our children and the future generations. Change lies within. Citizens of today are the prime drivers of a country of Smart Cities.
The author is an entrepreneur with rich global exposure and distinct understanding of cutting- edge technologies. He is a leading expert on “smart city and urban planning” and an acknowledged thought leader, speaker and author.