The “unique approach” of India’s Smart Cities mission is the reason why Germany has decided to partner with three Indian “Smart Cities” – Bhubaneswar, Kochi and Coimbatore — according to Martin Ney, German ambassador to India. Inaugurating “CityScapes 2016”, a three-day conference in the National Capital organised by DWIH (German House for Research and Innovation), he said: “Germany brings to the table not only decades of expertise and experience with city planning, but also the technological solutions that German companies have to offer in the area of energy, water, waste treatment, and traffic solutions.”

According to a recent study done by DWIH, over 50% of the population lives in cities these days and thus sustainable development of cities has become an integral part of urban planning. Through the German House for Research and Innovation, Germany would be sharing its ideas and technology to help build the Smart Cities in India.

Dr Frauke Krass of the University of Colonge said that due to the rapid growth of urbanisation in today’s world, the real challenge is sustainable development of cities. Dr Krass, who had been in Delhi for more than a decade, spoke to The Sunday Guardian about the development of Indian cities. According to Dr Krass, Smart Cities should provide for balanced cultural, social and economic structures and not only focus on infrastructural development. They should move from a sectoral approach to a holistic one.

“Delhi is one of the major cities in India, where modernisation and infrastructural development have been emphasised. I think Delhi might need to enter into a new phase of inclusive development, which had earlier seen spatial development of the city,” Dr. Krass said.

Ambassador Dr Martin Ney said that the challenge modern cities are facing are problems of traffic congestion and over population. “However, cities have always been innovative and cultural hubs which provide for the idea breeding ground for scientific and educational research and global partnership in scientific technologies could develop into cities of the future,” he said.

Dr Krass, however, believes that sustainable development of cities could be achieved by inclusion of its population into the development structures and Germany has been able to achieve its goals in many major cities to a large extent.

Dr AbdouMaliq Simone of the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Gottingen, told this newspaper that the density of population is a major problem for big cities in India. “We often face challenges with the population density when it comes to development and India will have to take into consideration its hugely urban migrating population every year.”

According to Dr Krass, several of our major cities like Mumbai, Kolkata and Delhi do not meet the International Standards of Development of Modern cities. She said, “They partly do meet, but not entirely. There is need for research, innovation and technological development to make them Smart Cities. And we would be working through research and technological development towards innovation that could make these cities the cities of the future.”

 Dr AbdouMaliq Simone, however, said that development would need time, it cannot happen overnight. It is a long process which requires a lot of work and research. “We often bemoan the lack of aesthetics of places, but even infrastructural development takes time. No cities have evolved through a magic wand.”

The Indo-German conference on “CityScapes 2016” which concluded on Saturday at the India Habitat Centre here witnessed discussions and debates and solutions on several important topics pertaining to the increasing world population, need for sustainable development of housing, industries, transportation, etc. It also focused on the development of Smart Cities in India and the challenges that it faces.

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