I dream of a green, clean and ‘smart’ Patna. Patna is a city of 2500 years of heritage experience. It is good that it is in the process of projecting itself as a futuristic smart city. This is also the dream of every residing citizen of Patna. The thought of making Patna a better and smarter city draws my attention to the question: what is a ‘smart city’? The answer to this question is that there is no universally accepted definition of a smart city. The concept of the smart city varies from city to city, depending on the level of development and willingness of the citizens to change and reform the resources.
Some definitional boundaries are required to guide the city in this mission. In the imagination as a city dweller, the picture of a smart city contains a wish list of infrastructure and services for which the urban planners must aim at developing the four pillars of comprehensive development- institutional, physical, social and economic infrastructure. The basic objective is to provide the core infrastructure and give a decent quality of life to the citizens, a clean and sustainable environment and the application of ‘Smart’ solutions.
The foundation for the development of any city is its infrastructure. Presently, Patna is considered to be an unplanned city. For a systematically planned growth, the proposal of urban infrastructure must be provided first and then the residential houses should be built. This aspect is completely lacking in Patna’s urban agglomeration. This is why most of the residential areas of Patna suffer from various problems like narrow roads, waterlogging, the absence of greenery, noise pollution and dumping of house wastes on open grounds.
Over the years, as numerous independent housing cooperative societies and private houses kept on springing up at a rapid pace, most of them completely ignored the building by-laws of urban housing. Thus roads in such colonies are very narrow (10 to 12 feet wide) and in many cases, roads wind in a zig-zag pattern. The houses have been built very close to each other, giving a very congested look and there is a lack of open spaces like parks, playgrounds etc.
However, some of the housing societies have developed planned colonies according to the by-laws. One of them is Nandanpuri Colony near Bihar Veterinary College. It consists of 10 acres (0.04 sq. km) of land. It is a planned colony, having wide roads (25 to 30 feet wide), a park and land for the community hall. It also has an underground drainage system.
A city acts as a magnet for the migrant population as people move to cities for better opportunities related to work, education, entertainment, healthcare services, interesting neighbourhoods and a good public transport system. Being the home of several immigrants from the neighbouring towns it is very important to work on the infrastructure of the city. Patna is one of the unplanned cities which is facing land-use issues. The plots available here are with narrow width and area. Therefore, it becomes difficult to achieve the required F.A.R (Floor area ratio) because of which builders violate the rules to achieve the desired built-up area, leaving the city crowded.
Patna in its smart city mission should involve adequate water supply including wastewater recycling, stormwater reuse and rainwater harvesting, sanitation including waste segregation at source and solid waste management, robust IT connectivity and digitization, pedestrian-friendly pathways, efficient public transport system. There should be non-motorized transport, intelligent traffic management and energy-efficient street lighting. Moreover, the safety of citizens especially children, women and the elderly should be ensured. For a healthy urban environment, there should be one tree per person. But unfortunately, Patna having more than five million population size lacks sufficient green cover.
Encroachment of pedestrian paths by street hawkers in Patna should be stopped. Eco toilets should be provided at every 100m so that people stop urinating in the open. Public walls should be painted with graffiti and murals so that people think twice before spitting or pasting posters on the walls.
A smart city can be only developed with the active collaboration of local residents (common people), government and business persons. A focus has to be made on issues of sustainable energy use, water, and transport management. Good ideas come in many shapes and sizes and are definitely designed to improve the quality of life. They may involve technology, institutional or managerial reforms, and the involvement of citizens. However, before pushing the idea of a smart city, it is important for the people of Patna to change their mindset and attitude so that they become ‘smart people. People’s participation can then be realized in Patna and help Patna to develop into a ‘smart city.