Empowering local bodies key to building smart cities: Sumitra Mahajan

New Delhi: All India Institute of Local-Self Government (AIILSG) in collaboration with United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) organised a two-day South Asian Cities Summit on May 6-7, 2016 in New Delhi to explore the new avenues of urban development in evolving urban agglomerations in the South Asian Region. The theme of the Summit is ‘Smart Cities—Aspirations and Challenges’. 

Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan was the chief guest. Mahajan said that cities our facing many challenges and we need to empower local bodies to build smart and sustainable cities. During her address at the conference, she said that NDA government has initiated a range of urban rejuvenation programs and these programs will not only improve our cities for better but also provide a platform to Urban Local Bodies to take a lead in developing city plans as per the aspirations of local populace.

Mahajan said that engaging people in decision making process at local level is essential for success of any project. “I started by political career as a councilor. I am aware of the problems city leaders face in planning and executing projects. I am quite sure that the NDA government would bring about a change how Indian cities are managed. While I was a councilor I had taken many initiatives engaging local communities and those projects were a success. Local leaders with their dedication and support from community can revamp their respective localities.”

Kewal Kumar Sharma, Chief Secretary of Delhi; Dr Jatin Modi, President Emeritus, AIILSG; Mr. Won HEE-ryongm, President, UCLG – ASPAC; Satya Sharma, Mayor of East Delhi Municipal Corporation and other dignitaries graced the inaugural session.

 The 3rd South Asian Cities Summit witnessed the participation of over 300 national and international delegates, and over 70 city mayors and commissioners from India and other South Asian countries

 Ranjit Chavan, President of the All India Institute of Local Self-Government, said that South Asian Countries are developing new Smart Cities to rejuvenate their urban settlements. The increasing population in cities is demanding better civic amenities, employment opportunities, novel public transport systems, improved physical and IT infrastructure, efficient waste and water management, affordable housing, etc. We need to ensure all these facilities are provided to one and all. He added that AIILSG is committed to provide all possible support to local bodies in their endeavor to make cities better.

KK Sharma, Chief Secretary of Delhi said that India and other South Asian countries can better utilize opportunities that urbanization provides them to transform their economies to join the ranks of richer nations. The launch of three mega urban schemes in India, i.e., Smart Cities Mission, Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT), and Housing for All in urban areas, will set in motion the process of urban transformation to enable better living. The missions are new, innovative and focused on pressing needs to improve the quality of life for citizens today, and in the future. He also talked about the Odd-Even scheme for private cars in Delhi and said that creating a safe urban environment that is healthy for citizens to live should also be a priority for city leaders and the governments.

The Summit convened a high profile gathering of international, national, state and local government officials, utilities, policy makers, financiers, technologists, non-profit organizations, business leaders, academicians, researchers and community organizations – all with a common goal of working together to develop and build a better future for cities and their citizens.

Bernadia Irawati, Secretary General, UCLG-ASPAC, said, “the national governments in the South Asia region have begun started fixing several bottlenecks holding back our cities, it has become apparently clear that the time has come to focus on planned development of our cities where inclusivity, sustainability and liveability for all is a prime concern.”

Capt. Anant Modi, Director General, AIILSG, said, “The current state of affairs in our cities presents a challenge and an opportunity to promote urban development that is sustainable, equitable and a catalyst for economic growth. I am quite hopeful that the South Asian Cities Summit will play a constructive role in achieving this goal.”

Panelists at the conference highlighted that the recently released World Bank Report ‘Leveraging Urbanisation in South Asia’ says that the region’s urban population grew by 130 million people between 2001 and 2011, and it is forecast to rise by almost 250 million more in the next 15 years. The region has already started to see the economic growth and poverty-reduction benefits associated with urbanization; if managed properly, further urbanization offers the potential for more prosperous and livable cities.

The range of sessions at the summit discussed the problems South Asian Cities are facing and experts suggested a range of solutions to accelerate the sustainable prosperity and productivity of cities. The main sessions during the summit included: ‘Accelerating the Pace of Urban Rejuvenation - Building Efficient Urban Infrastructure’, ‘Leveraging Technology for Smart Cities’, ‘Innovative Urban Governance and Empowered City Leadership -  A Requisite for Urban Transformation’, ‘Moving in Cities with Ease and Comfort’, ‘Rural Urban Continuum – The Inclusive Future’, ‘Sustainable Urban Management’, and Clean Cities.

Many urban experts from India and abroad spoke at the summit and put forward their suggestions. Speakers in the Summit included Cai Chaolin, Vice Mayor, The People’s Government of Guangzhou Municipality Guangzhou, China; Lawrence Yule, President, Local Government New Zealand & President, Commonwealth Local Government Forum; Dr Sudhir Krishna, former UD Secretary, Government of India; Jagan Shah, Director, National Institute of Urban Affairs, Mr. Ramesh Negi, IAS, Principal Secretary (UD); Prof Chetan Vaidya, Director, School of Planning and Architecture (SPA); K. T. Ravindran, renowned Urban Designer; Sunil Dubey, Regional Director, Metropolis; Thibault Devanlay, Councelor – Political Affairs Delegation of the European Union to India; Sandrine Capelle-Manuel, UNDP Bangladesh; Abhilash Khandekar, National Political Editor, Dainik Bhaskar; Ranjan Panda, Convenor at Combat Climate Change Network; Huang Haiqing, Vice Mayor of Xi'an, China; and many other dignitaries.

On the basis of deliberations during different sessions at the two-day conference, city leaders from South Asian cities along with dignitaries from national and International development agencies, donor organisations, civil society organizations and representatives of wider urban development fraternity signed a 11-point declaration to make cities inclusive, better governed, smart and sustainable.

Delhi Declaration

The declaration read:

We, the City Leaders, Representatives of International, National and Local Governments Institutions, NGOs and Civil Society Members, met in New Delhi, India on 6th and 7th of May 2016 for the 3rdSouth Asian Cities Summit under the theme: ‘Smart Cities – Aspirations and Challenges”.

We recall the Declarations adopted during our First and Second Summits held in Delhi in 2013 and 2015 respectively, where a spirit of partnership for development of our Cities was established through the framework of South Asian Mayors’ Forum.

We are committed to:

  • Ensure smart development of our Cities through innovation, improved management, cutting-edge technologies, institutional reforms, and other measures towards sustainable utilization of resources by adopting principles of good governance i.e. transparency, accountability, and participation.
  • Focus on human-centered development, making sure that local wisdom, culture, and values, are harnessed and incorporated in local planning and also   investments are made on people, especially the youth.
  • Inclusive development of our Cities with focus on community engagement, integrated, coordinated planning and covering the marginalized segment of population, urban and rural development including women, children, differently abled persons and the elderly.
  • Sustainable Development of our Cities by putting in place doable solutions for providing affordable and quality habitat, integrated transport systems, energy efficient buildings, optimal water resources utilisation and promoting zero waste management efforts.
  • Resilient development of our Cities through envisioning, long term planning and implementation which will address chronic stress factors and mitigate the effects of climate change,  promote biodiversity,  and develop capacity to absorb future shocks and stresses to urban infrastructure systems associated with climate change and natural disasters
  • Ensure prosperity, productivity, happiness, and transformative urban development of South Asian citiesthrough collaboration and knowledge exchange between local governments at the national, regional and global levels
  • Collaborative development of our Cities through a system of people oriented public private partnerships for provision of public infrastructure services  while promoting equitable development
  • Heritage-based development of our Cities through linkage of urban heritage management and renewal of historical areas with wider city development and cross country and regional collaboration, contributing to endogenous economic development
  • Enhance institutional and sectoral coordinating capacity of our Cities through human resource development of its executive and administrative branches
  • Direct political will of decision-makers towards people-oriented development and right to the city
  • Collect and share data on urban governance and performance to its citizens to enable greater urban engagement and civic participation in urban infrastructure and services, management, planning and policy.

 South Asian Cities Summit-2015

The second edition of the SAC Summit that was organised at India Habitat Centre was a success and saw participation of over 300 national and international delegates from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Korea, Japan, Singapore, United Kingdom and the United States of America. Union Minister of State for Environment and Forest, Prakash Javadekar was the chief guest. The major topics discussed during the SAC Summit-2015 included empowerment of local bodies, smart mobility, solid waste management, water and sanitation, financial viability of smart cities, smart energy solutions, safe cities, climate resilient cities and green buildings.

Urbanisation in South Asia | Highlights

South Asia’s urban population grew by 130 million between 2001 and 2011 – more than the entire population of Japan – and is poised to rise by almost 250 million by 2030.

  • South Asia is currently home to more than 23 percent of the world’s population and at least 14 percent of its urban population.
  • South Asia boasts of 6 mega cities—Bangalore, Delhi, Dhaka, Karachi, Kolkata, and Mumbai.
  • Urbanization provides South Asian countries with the potential to transform their economies to join the ranks of richer nations in both prosperity and livability. Productivity linked with the growing number of people living in the region’s towns and cities also increased, but South Asia’s share of the global economy remains strikingly low relative to its share of the world’s population.
  • South Asia faces a choice: Continue on the same path or undertake difficult and appropriate reforms to improve the region’s trajectory of development. It won’t be easy but such actions are essential in making the region’s cities prosperous and livable.


Source: World Bank Report