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Urban Planning With Human Touch

Today’s cities need to accommodate spiralling numbers of people, servicing their needs and stimulating trade and investment, creating jobs, all within the constraints imposed by mega challenges, such as infrastructure, climate change and more. Guwahati is not just Assam’s largest city; it is the gateway to Northeast India for providing the best connectivity to other states in the region and the world beyond. Guwahati Metropolitan Development Authority, mandated for the formulation and execution of schemes for the planned development of Guwahati Metropolitan area has become the front runners of fostering sustainable solutions in its efforts to become more livable and long-term beneficial to the inhabitants. How change is at the heart of Guwahati metropolitan life- Manjushree Reddy in conversation with Varnali Deka, CEO, GMDA …

What are the urban challenges Assam is facing?

In the case of Assam, there are some generic challenges of urbanisation. The foremost of which is rapid growth of population, in ways of both natural and migratory population. For Assam, Infrastructure is also a big challenge, if we compare the situation with other parts of the countries, where in, planned cities and towns are coming up. Also, in Assam, flood has been a chronic issue, particularly, in monsoons. We typically get heavy volume of rains in the monsoon and then in rest of the year there is scarcity. In urban areas, Guwahati in particular, flood and water logging are frequent, because of the unique geography of the city. The city has planes surrounded by hills. Some amount of water is absorbed by the ground, but because of concretization in recent times, the water which was supposed to go under the ground and recharge the ground water level adds up to the already high volume of water logging. This is a major concern for the city.

Waste disposal is the other concern, as there are no sustainable models except few like the one is Vellore model by Mr. Srinivasan. But I am happy to say that government of Assam has now taken up waste disposal as a focus area in order to target sustainable ways of disposal.

Urban transportation is also one more area to focus, in absence of any mass transport systems. Till now, we solely rely on unorganized operators. However, things will change with metro rail project coming up.

Assam government seems to have undertaken several initiatives in the urban space. What is your vision to make Guwahati a smart city? Can you tell us what you see as effective strategies for the city to provide infrastructure to keep pace with challenges like growing populations or migration or traffic, etc?

Guwahati has been taken up under smart city project, which is the only smart city and gateway for the entire Northeast region. The implementation of the Smart City Mission at the City level will be done by a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV). I am happy to say that GMDA has taken up a number of initiatives, which I feel will make Guwahati a better place to live in. We are considering development of a lot of civic amenities, which includes, development of bus terminal, civic centre and botanical garden of international level, open park initiatives, park network, which will not only increase green coverage in the city but also will serve for people who are concerned with fitness. We are following Singapore model for an old jail land campus.

River front development is also under consideration. A systematic planning is underway for whatever unutilized or underutilized lands available in the city. We are also planning land filling policy for low cost housing.

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March 2017