Tuesday, September 8, 2015

MUSINGS FROM PRIYADARSHINI KARVE: Isn't SMART automatically Sustainable?

As I mentioned last week, Samuchit Enviro Tech is leading a study on Sustainably SMART Pune by 2030. Can a city ever hope to be sustainable? What are the limits of sustainability in the context of a city? And surely, if a city focuses on being SMART, doesn't it also make it sustainable automatically?

There are a couple of privately owned and run settlements around Pune that claim to be 'Smart cities'. Realistically speaking, these are at best townships or gated communities, that make use of modern technology to enhance the quality of basic services like energy, water supply, security, etc., delivered to the residents. However, let's for a while, keep the entire city out of this discussion, and let's focus on such settlements. 

One can even consider going a step further and consider a 'dream' gated community that has all buildings constructed as per the green building code, the vegetation used for landscaping and open spaces is in phase with the ecosystem, there is a well run, maintained, and non-polluting transport system for moving around the neighbourhood, there are renewable energy installations, waste segregation and management systems, waste water treatment and recycling systems, rainwater harvesting system, etc etc already in place, and running smoothly. Let's even suppose that there are schools, colleges, shops for basic daily needs, medical facilities, etc., too within the gated community. All of these features will make it an "environment friendly" settlement providing a good quality of life to its citizens, but not necessarily a "sustainable" settlement. 

Firstly, most likely the settlement has been established on land purchased or 'acquired' by hook or crook from the original owners, who themselves now have no place in the settlement, except may be working as domestic help, watchmen, gardeners, etc. The people living in the settlement will earn their living outside the settlement (unless it is the housing colony of a big manufacturing factory around which the colony has arisen!). The resources for constructing the settlement would have come from outside its geographical limits, and many of the resources such as food, water, energy, etc., required on a daily basis will continue to come from outside. Thus, this 'dream' settlement will still depend on money, human resource, and natural and other material resources coming in from outside. It therefore will have neither economic, social, or environmental sustainability. 

The point I am trying to drive home here is that SMART - whether it merely means IT enabled, or whether it touches upon the various aspects mentioned in the SMART Cities Mission document of Government of India - does not automatically mean sustainable, as some people may think. But can sustainable automatically lead to SMART? How will a gated community look like if it was close to the theoretical ideal of sustainability? What do you think? Why sustainability is more important and desirable than SMART (or is it??)?

 Please share your ideas, and I will come back with some of mine next week! 

                                                                                           Priyadarshini Karve
Samuchit Enviro Tech

    Samuchit Enviro Tech.     samuchit@samuchit.com     www.samuchit.com

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