The ‘Smart-Cities’ Project: Environmental Impact Assessment
In this technology-driven society, there have been efforts by the government to turn the cities tech-savvy as well. The desired ‘Smart-Cities’ project is a comprehensive developmental goal focusing on the development of the institutional, physical, social and economic infrastructure.[i] The idea of a smart city is a fickle affair as it differs with the level of aspirations and the willingness to change. In the approach of the Smart Cities Mission, the objective is to promote cities that provide core infrastructure and give a decent quality of life to its citizens, a clean and sustainable environment and application of ‘Smart’ solutions.[ii] The key is to enhance performance along with reduced resource consumption with the help of digital technologies.[iii] Cities must be better prepared to respond to and face any kind of a challenge, be it natural or industrial. Cities, such as, Bhubaneswar, Pune, Jaipur, Surat and Kochi form the top 5 in the list of Smart Cities.
In order to successfully implement and embed the idea of turning a city into a Smart City, it is essential to have a robust resource management system. The notion of a Smart City extends to a smart environment. Planning a Smart City while taking the hustle-bustle of a city into account and at the same time respecting the natural assets is an arduous task. Fine application of economic principles of ‘scarcity’ and ‘wants’ is needed. The environment offers us certain exhaustible and non-exhaustible resources, which have to be intelligently used. However, the cycle does not end here. After a commodity is manufactured and used, it has to be suitably disposed off without causing disturbance to the ecosystem.
The idea of development must be enclosed within the cloud of sustainability. The steps of advancement towards growth will result in prosperity only if environmental factors are considered. Not only the protection of the natural resources like fauna and flora is essential but also steps must be taken to prevent pollution of Air, Water and Land. Management of e-waste has also become a challenge in this technological era. The term e-waste includes discarded information technology and telecommunication equipment and consumer electrical and electronics. Electronic gadgets such as phones become obsolete soon contributing to the mounting heap of e-waste. Such electronics contributed to 1.5 million tonnes of e-waste produced in India in 2015, 90% of which was managed by the informal sector using unscientific methods that cause harm to human health and the environment.[iv] Other challenges include increase in population by leaps and bounds, increasing demand, fuel emissions (as a result of industrialization), unawareness of erupting environmental problems and ineffective response systems etc.
The above-mentioned hazards have tagged along with the advent of the era of urbanization. In reality, we have failed to abide by an old adage, i.e., ‘precaution is better than cure’. However, in order to tackle the life- threatening situation, which has arisen, the government has taken a few recuperative steps, as discussed below. The Ministry of Environment and Forest has enacted the e-waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011 with the objective of undertaking proper recycling treatment and disposal of e-waste. Likewise, there are other legislations in place such as The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1981, The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1974, which are tackling the problem of pollution by the help of the established mechanisms under the respective acts. The introduction of the ‘Swachh Abhiyaan’ Mission is also one of the steps taken in this direction. India has also started labeling its air quality under the ‘Air Quality Index’ as per international standards. The Odd-Even rule imposed by the government in the National Capital is also one step closer to the solution of the problem.
Fundamentally, the courts have interpreted Article 21 of the Constitution of India as to include the right to a wholesome environment.[v] Environmental protection and improvement were explicitly incorporated into the Constitution by the Constitution (Forty-Second Amendment) Act of 1976. The Directive Principles of State Policy, through Article 48A directs the State to endeavor to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forest and wildlife of the country. The Constitution also makes it the duty of the citizens of India, through Article 51A(g) to protect and improve the natural environment and to have compassion for living creatures.
Although ‘Smart Cities’ is a new concept, with a virtuous aim of development, sustainability is a key factor to be considered. The objective of the ‘Smart Cities’ mission should not only be to make cities Smarter but also to make them Livable and Sustainable. We must protect what we have inherited from our ancestors and pass it on to the future generations without degrading it.
[i] Smart Cities Mission, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, Government of India, What is Smart City, http://smartcities.gov.in/content/innerpage/what-is-smart-city.php Last accessed on 24.07.17
[ii] What is Smart City, http://smartcities.gov.in/upload/uploadfiles/files/What%20is%20Smart%20City.pdf Last accessed on 24.07.17
[iii] Guttikunda, Sarath, What will it take to make out cities environment-smart?, http://www.indiatogether.org/cost-of-environmentally-smart-cities-and-air-quality-index-environment Last accessed on: 27.07.17
[iv] Managing India’s Electronic Waste, http://www.livemint.com/Opinion/hAAWLseZDUfMLCFc58UPiO/Managing-Indias-electronic-waste.html Last accessed on: 27.07.17
[v] Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India, 1978 AIR 597
Author: Kanika Jaggi
College: Symbiosis Law School, Pune
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