[Urbanstudy] Smart or dumb? The real impact of India’s proposal to build 100 smart cities
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Tue Aug 1 02:18:03 CDT 2017
*Smart or dumb? The real impact of India’s proposal to build 100
July 17, 2017 6.04am AEST
Part of Mumbai’s character is in its chawls, which could soon become
history with the state government’s push to replace them with high-rise
towers. from www.shutterstock.com
, CC BY-ND <http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/4.0/>
1. Hugh Byrd <https://theconversation.com/profiles/hugh-byrd-136720>
Professor of Architecture, University of Lincoln
Hugh Byrd does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from
any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has
disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond the academic appointment above.
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In 2014, the new Indian government declared its intention to achieve 100
smart cities <http://smartcities.gov.in/content/>.
In promoting this objective, it gave the example of a large development in
the island city of Mumbai, Bhendi Bazaar
<http://smartcities.gov.in/content/innerpage/strategy.php>. There, 3-5
storey housing would be replaced with towers of between 40 to 60 storeys to
increase density. This has come to be known as “vertical with a vengeance”.
We have obtained details of the proposed project from the developer and the
municipal authorities. Using an extended urban metabolism model
<https://researchspace.auckland.ac.nz/handle/2292/25956>, which measures
the impacts of the built environment, we have assessed its overall impact.
We determined how the flows of materials and energy will change as a result
of the redevelopment.
Our research <http://ijcua.com/index.php/jcua/article/view/33> shows that
the proposal is neither smart nor sustainable.
The Indian government clearly defined what they meant with “smart”. Over
half of the 11 objectives were environmental and main components of the
metabolism of a city. These include adequate water and sanitation, assured
electricity, efficient transport, reduced air pollution and resource
depletion, and sustainability.
We collected data from various primary and secondary sources. This included
physical surveys during site visits, local government agencies,
non-governmental organisations, the construction industry and research.
We then made three-dimensional models of the existing and proposed
developments to establish morphological changes, including building
heights, street widths, parking provision, roof areas, open space,
landscaping and other aspects of built form.
Demographic changes (population density, total population) were based on
census data, the developer’s calculations and an assessment of available
space. Such information about the magnitude of the development and the
associated population changes allowed us to analyse the additional
resources required as well as the environmental impact.
India’s plan to build smart cities by replacing current housing with
high-rise towers is neither smart nor sustainable. from shutterstock.com
, CC BY-ND <http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/4.0/>Flow-on effects
of high-rise housing
In order to compare the environmental impact of the new development with
the existing housing, it is useful to measure it in terms of changes per
capita or unit of floor area.
The redevelopment of Bhendi Bazaar would result in a population increase of
about 25%. Our research indicates that metabolism does not increase
linearly (on a per capita basis) with density, but accelerates instead.
Water consumption and waste water production per capita is likely to
increase by 155%, largely because of the potential for more appliances and
bathrooms in the towers. Rainwater harvesting, a compulsory requirement, is
likely to reduce to less than half (45%) as the roof catchment area of
towers is smaller than that of the existing housing.
Residential electricity consumption per capita is predicted to increase by
30%. In commercial and retail spaces, electricity use will more than double
per unit of floor area (226% increase). This is primarily because of the
increased requirement for air conditioning in the towers, but also because
of the need for more lighting, ventilation pumping and lifts in the common
areas and basements.
Carbon dioxide emissions more than double as electricity consumption
increases, resulting in a 43% increase in per capita emissions. However,
emissions from transport increase by 176% per capita because the
development leads to more private car ownership, with 3,000 car spaces
where there were none before.
All this is happening is a city that already rations water to a few hours
per day and where electricity blackouts are common because of insufficient
supply. Only about 20% of sewage is treated. The rest discharges into the
Arabian Sea. Landfill sites have already outlived their carrying capacity.
Verticality and vulnerability
The quest to make cities smart and liveable has been promoted alongside
increased population densities and urban compaction. We argue that this
planning goal is reaching a point where resources are inadequate for the
functioning of a city.
Case studies such as Bhendi Bazaar provide an example of plans for
increased density and urban regeneration. However, they do not offer an
answer to the challenge of limited infrastructure to support the resource
requirements of such developments.
The results of our research indicate significant adverse impacts on the
environment. They show that the metabolism increases at a greater rate than
the population grows. On this basis, this proposed development for Mumbai,
or the other 99 cities, should not be called smart or sustainable.
With policies that aim to prevent urban sprawl, cities will inevitably grow
vertically. But with high-rise housing comes dependence on centralised
flows of energy, water supplies and waste disposal. Dependency in turn
leads to vulnerability and insecurity.
Suburbia offers some buffer. Water and power can be collected from
individual roofs and food produced in individual gardens. However, we argue
that vertical urban form on this scale offers little resilience.
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