Journey Towards Smart City
The Government of Nepal is gearing up to build the so-called smart city in Kathmandu and other places of the country. The government plans to make Kathmandu the first city in Nepal both environmentally friendly and socially, economically smart.
The smart city is one that doesn’t grow merely in terms of number of people living in it but it is planned by the state. The conceptualization of Smart City varies from country to country and city to city, depending on the level of development, willingness to change and reform, availability of resources and aspirations of the city residents.
In this connection, Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) has announced ambitious plans to develop Kathmandu as a smart city with all amenities and services of international standard. Besides other things, the programme includes management of parking facilities, no-mask city by making it environmentally green, e-toilet, hi-tech fire engines, technology-based billboards placement, mobile app to handle complaints and grievances of service-seekers, etc. in an effective manner.
According to the announced policy and programmes by the KMC, the metropolis will simplify the existing Electronic Building Permit System and conduct feasibility study for the development of metro rail, monorail, trams and cable cars to upgrade the urban transport system as well as bicycle-lane along the greenbelt of Ring Road, and the banks of the Bagmati and Bishnumati rivers.
However, Nepal government introduced the concept of ‘Smart City’ for the first time in 2012, only 22 years after other mega-cities in the world embraced it.
Not only the government, but also the political parties, especially during the time of local level election, had promised with the people to make each municipality a smart city, if they won the local level election. Recently, a cabinet meeting decided to set up smart cities in four different corners with proper urban planning in order to ease the population density in the Kathmandu downtown. Out of Kathmandu, the government is also in the process of making smart city development plans in Lumbini, Nijgadh and Palungtar area of Gorkha.
The concept of Smart City as a means to enhance the life of citizens has been gaining increasing importance in the agendas of policy makers. The vision of “Smart City” is the urban centre of the future, made safe, secure, environmentally green, and efficient because all structures whether for power, potable water, all means of transportation, roads, bridges, tunnels, rail/subways, airports, seaports, communications, etc. are designed, constructed, and maintained making use of advanced, integrated materials, sensors, electronics, and networks which are interfaced with computerized systems comprising of databases, tracking, and decision-making algorithms.
A city that monitors and integrates conditions of all of its critical infrastructures can better optimize its resources, plan its preventive maintenance activities and monitor security conditions while maximizing services to its citizens engineering various challenges including natural and man-made.
This scribe had a chance to gain the general concept of Smart City at an Urban Development Concept meeting held in Stockholm of Sweden in 2014. In Smart City plan, systems and structures will monitor their own conditions and carry out self-repair, as needed. The physical environment, air, water, and surrounding green spaces will be monitored in non-obtrusive ways for optimal quality, thus creating an enhanced living and working environment that is clean, efficient, and secure and that offers advantages within the framework of the most effective use of all resources.
Many of the attributes and benefits of the Smart City have a very human and simple ultimate goal of a greatly improved living and working environment for our urban populations. Commerce, transportation, a multitude of human services, education, and housing along with a greatly improved environment and greatly enhanced safety and security are taken into consideration while building a Smart City.
No doubt, education is a vital part for the implementation of the Smart City. A vision of the city of the future rests on the integration of science and technology through information systems re-thinking of the relationships between government, city managers, businesses, academia and the research community.
China’s aim to move 250 million people to cities by 2025, and India’s lofty goal of building 100 new smart cities could be viewed as examples towards growing markets in rapidly urbanizing Asia. Of course, the countries in the Middle East, Europe and even Asian Tiger countries have already turned some of their urban areas into Smart Cities.
But building a completely new type of city from scratch isn’t easy. It needs huge investment. Thus, affordability will be the key for new smart cities to achieve social and environmental sustainability as the high cost of developing high-tech cities will limit their applicability for a country like Nepal.
Realizing the importance of Public Private Partnership (PPP) modality, collaborating with private sector is essential to translate the concept of Smart City into reality to empower, deliver and promote an efficient, seamless, safe and impactful city for residents and visitors.
To achieve its strategic pillars, Smart Kathmandu should aim to introduce strategic initiatives and develop partnerships to contribute to its Smart Economy, Smart Living, Smart Governance, Smart Environment, Smart People and Smart Mobility dimensions.
As Kathmandu’s geographic advantage, economic outlook, resident diversity and access to best-of-breed innovators can be leveraged to transform the city into a benchmark for the world’s emerging economies, a long-term vision must be developed which could be a guideline for the implementation of concepts to provide a view of the strategy, standards and systems required for the implementation of the smart city plans and services.
Of course, the smart cities mission requires smart and active leaders in deploying the citizens in developing smart solutions, implementing reforms, doing more with less and oversight during implementing and designing post-project structures in order to make the Smart City sustainable.
In realization of the concept, there must be a group of people at local units, provincial and central levels who possess strong willingness and be role model of dynamic coordinator. Those self-monitoring vibrant leaders will definitely play a key supportive role in the development of Smart City by acting decisively for the success of the mission.
Yes, smart city brings better urbanization, ensures all kinds of modern facilities and transforms it into a more captivating and peaceful place for living with assured lucrative opportunities.
A smart city would have a different connotation in Nepal than, say, Europe or America.
The picture of a smart city contains a wish list of infrastructure and services that describe many aspirations, needs of the citizens, developing the entire urban eco-system, which is represented by four pillars of comprehensive development - institutional, physical, social and economic infrastructure.