When you hear the word ‘city’, the images you conjure up in your mind are those of a robust network of transport system, well-maintained and well-lit roads, uninterrupted power supply, strong sewage disposal system and effective traffic management, among others. Collectively, all these facilities that aim at improving the quality of public life can be summed up in one term called ‘infrastructure’.
Over the years, even as Indian cities have experienced tremendous growth in population, the infrastructure upgrades have been sporadic. Besides, cities are increasingly facing the problem of air and water pollution because of haphazard planning and unplanned construction.
As the government has already started focusing on strong infrastructure in 100 smart cities in India, ‘Green Infrastructure’ is gaining prominence in developmental domain.
What and Why of Green Infrastructure?
The term ‘Green Infrastructure’ refers to infrastructure facilities that are environmental-friendly and lead to sustainable development of the cities. Sustainable development can only be achieved by deploying solutions that are energy-efficient. For smooth functioning of any city, power supply is crucial. Harnessing renewable source of energy such as the sun and wind will go on a long way in reducing the stress on conventional energy sources. Besides, renewable energy is cheaper and environment-friendly as compared to conventional energy.
The idea behind green infrastructure is to not only reap economic benefits but also ecological ones. In one report titled Central Europe towards Sustainable Building, a section focuses on urban India and challenges for green infrastructure. It says that green space is one among the three components that completes the matrix of urban built environments, the other being buildings and open spaces such as pavement and parking space.
Green spaces don’t merely beautify urban area, but naturalize and compliment them. The benefits of green cover are multi fold ranging from temperature reduction to wind flow modification.
The aforementioned report says that green infrastructure includes established green spaces and new sites and that it should thread through the built environment and connect the urban area to its wider rural hinterland. Green infrastructure includes parks and gardens, natural and semi-natural urban green spaces and green corridors.
Green Infrastructure & Smart Cities
It cannot be denied that infrastructure is what makes a city livable. It makes life easy for citizens and organizations. As a result, as we discuss creation of smart cities on a national scale, it must be done in the context of infrastructure. Conversations surrounding infrastructure should go beyond roads, transport, traffic and the likes. They must take into consideration human and environmental health. After all, smart cities are not only those that use the right kind of technology, but also the ones that use resources judiciously.
Government, urban planners and other stakeholders must emphasize on construction of energy-efficient buildings, economical use of power and water and clean air. Urban development should happen in harmony with natural resources. Only then will infrastructure development costs be curtailed while at the same time, human and environmental health will be protected.
However, given the various urban development bodies and municipalities that function in Indian cities, attracting investment in green infrastructure can be a challenge. There have to be awareness programs explaining to all those involved the benefits of green infrastructure. Just like there are norms and conventions that govern traditional infrastructure investments, you need new ones that talks about green infrastructure. It’s only after building a strong case for green infrastructure can you convince people to invest in it.
It is not possible for only the public or the private sector to individually participate in smart city creation. Both the sectors have to come together to ensure that there is minimum red-tape and maximum investment. A green smart city will not only improve the standard of living of citizens but will also do the great deal of good to the environment.
Given the times we live in, what is smart needs to be sustainable and vice-versa smart? So why not begin with implementing this idea in our cities and promise our future generations a smart, safe and healthy world.