India’s first smart and child friendly city
When India’s “smart cities” mission announced its ranking of applicants for support in 2016, Bhubaneswar – the capital of the Indian state of Odisha – topped the list. Bhubaneshwar was later named a finalist in the World Smart City Awards. The Foundation has been working with the city government and India’s National Institute of Urban Affairs to build the capacity of urban planners to reflect young children’s needs as the city regenerates and grows.
India Smart City ChallengeThe Smart Cities Mission is an initiative by the Government of India to drive economic growth and improve the quality of life of people by enabling local development and harnessing technology as a means to create smart outcomes for citizens.
Growing up in an urban India
According to the 2011 census, 75,237 children aged under 6 lived in Bhubaneswar – but the city is growing quickly, like many in India, leading to chaotic growth concentrated on informal, slum settlements with inadequate infrastructure.
Problems faced by young children in the city of Bhubaneswar include open defecation; parks not being accessible; lack of footpaths, streetlights, and safe places to cross roads; and children in some neighbourhoods needing to use public transport, which is not child-friendly, to get to the nearest school.
Urban planners asked to develop child-friendly infrastructureUrban Development Minister Venkaiah Naidu expresses concern over "harsh urban realities" adversely affecting "brain development and perspectives" and stresses the need for child-friendly infrastructure.
Planning to make better cities for kids
The Foundation is investing 790,000 euros over three years, with the Bhubaneswar Development Authority – which is responsible for the city’s development – committing a further 5.1 million euros.
November 2016 saw the formal launch of the Child-Friendly Smart City Centre to help the authority develop an effective planning and management framework that takes children’s perspectives into account. It will link the national Child-Friendly Smart City Hub in New Delhi, also created by the National Institute of Urban Affairs with the Foundation’s support.
Training for 100 city planners
The centre is now providing technical and capacity building support to urban designers working on neighbourhood and zonal development plans. It is working to create guidelines, regulations and best practices to inform the processes of planning and approving of new projects, by government agencies and private developers.
The work will help to transform urban slums into planned settlements with the necessary public facilities to be liveable and healthy for children: improved housing; safe playgrounds, parks and open public spaces; local school and healthcare facilities; convenient access to public transport; and child-friendly provisions for traffic management and safety, with clear rights of way and improved traffic crossings, especially in front of schools.