It is projected that by 2050, half of the world’s population will be living in cities. Well, this raises a serious question – are our cities liveable? If not, how can we transform our cities to be liveable? Being born and employed in a city, I felt myself obliged to share some of my views on making our cities liveable and sustainable.
1. Promote Tree-Planting – Tree-planting is something which needs to be seriously promoted, considering India’s present situation. Not only can this measure develop environmental sustainability, it can also help to curb a lot of adversities including pollution. The government should formulate a plan of action for planting trees in urban spaces. A specific target should be set, and actions should be focused on achieving that target.
Involvement of the community is the key factor behind the success of these initiatives. The community should be made responsible for achieving the targets. Partnering with various like-minded organisations, resident welfare associations and initiating mass-publicity through electronic, print and social media will get the community involved in this initiative.
2. Promote Active Transport – Active transport is a much-discussed-about topic all around the world. Active transport basically means Non-motorised Transport, which includes walking and cycling. This mode of transport is environment-friendly and also humane in nature. Generation of awareness, along with infrastructure-development, plays a major role in the success of these initiatives.
Infrastructure-development includes constructing sufficient measures for pedestrian and cycling activities, like inclusive and spacious footpaths, cycle lanes, crossing aids and open spaces. Resident welfare associations can lead the way in the generation of awareness, which includes generating information about the benefits of adopting active transport – while the city administration and specialised organisations can take care of the infrastructure provisions. It has to be made sure that any infrastructure facility developed, like walkways, is both accessible and inclusive – so that it can serve every resident of the city equally.
3. Developing Accessible Open Public Spaces – Open public spaces can be treated as the lifeline of any city. The development of public spaces should be a top priority for any city’s administration. Public spaces include parks, playgrounds, parklets and walkways. The construction and development of these open spaces provides an opportunity for the city’s residents to breathe fresh air, engage in physical activities and socialisation, thus improving their physical and mental health.
As in the case of other public infrastructures, open spaces should also be constructed in an inclusive manner, which can be accessed even by the most vulnerable citizen. These spaces will also contribute to the overall development of the city through positive contributions to the city’s social economy.
4. Encourage Public Transport – It is now high time for city administrations to invest in public transport. Public transport is a major component in improving urban liveability. Bus rapid transit systems, metro and suburban trains are the viable public transport options which can be adapted to improve the existing condition. Enabling smart technology in route management, information and alerts and payment modes, along with providing last mile connectivity, can act as huge boosts for daily commuters. Providing incentives for using public transport and public awareness campaigns can also help the initiative.
5. Promote Carpooling – Carpooling can provide roughly the same benefits as those provided by a public transport system. Encouraging carpools not only helps in the reduction of pollution and traffic congestion – it also ensures the safety of travellers to an extent.
Resident welfare associations can be utilised for this initiative too. These associations can ensure the participation of the community, which is pivotal. Encouraging corporate organisations to adopt carpooling will also act as a decisive step.
6. Ensure Proper Safety For Vulnerable Road-Users – Lack of proper safety amenities and alternatives is one of the main reasons for the ever increasing deaths on the road. Pedestrians and cyclists often risk their lives by jaywalking, even when they have crossing aids in their proximity. These can be checked and curbed by deploying effective measures. Building high dividers can stop jaywalking to an extent. Providing adequate pedestrian-friendly zebra-crossings and proper traffic signals, along with strict monitoring, will ensure the safety of road-users.
7. Public-Private Partnership – Public-private partnership is really vital for improving urban livability. Private entities can provide support in various ways like providing smart technologies, employee participation, and community mobilisation. Effective government action and suitable technical expertise of private entities will make the efforts even more fruitful.
8. Organise Events – Organising events like ‘car-free days’, ‘carpooling days’ and ‘open street events’ help in mass community mobilisation in these campaigns. These events engage the community through various fun-filled and physical activities, along with artistic performances, while generating strong messages on sustainable urban development.
Sustainable urban transformation is the key for global development. The ever-increasing inflow of human population to cities demand more parks, public spaces and pedestrian-friendly streets. India currently has 12 metropolitan areas.
It is high time for local governments to take keen interest in urban development through constructing and maintaining public spaces. This will ensure the development of better, sustainable and engaging communities – which will then become the building blocks of our cities.