Sweden is offering its expertise to the Indian government to help build smart cities across India. The two countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding on sustainable urban development earlier this year.
In an opinion piece published in The Hindu, Sweden’s Minister for Housing, Urban Development and Information Technology Mehmet Kaplan calls the global trend of urbanisation – in which 70 per cent of the world’s population will be living in cities by 2050 – an opportunity, not a threat. For instance, “public transport, efficient waste handling and energy accessibility are far easier to integrate when people live close together.”
Calling Sweden “a global pioneer in developing smart cities”, Kaplan writes that technological developments help us build cities that are both smart and sustainable. For instance, information technology reduces a city’s environmental footprint by using resources more effectively, while digitalisation brings us closer together regardless of physical distance.
For Kaplan, sustainable urban development requires economic, ecological and social sustainability. Social sustainability is particularly important in a huge country such as India. Kaplan calls for the involvement of residents in planning, building and renovating cities and also the inclusion of a gender perspective in city planning so that public places are safe for women and men alike.
Kaplan is currently on an official visit to India to foster closer relations between India and Sweden in the field of sustainable urban development. The two countries plan to cooperate on constructing smart cities as part of the Indian government’s initiative to build 100 smart cities across India.
The cooperation will focus on sustainable and integrated urban planning and land use, waste management, sustainable transport systems and water and sanitation management. For instance, Swedish-Indian partner companies are developing solutions to produce biogas from wastewater and waste food. The biogas is then processed into vehicle fuel and used to run emission-free buses in cities throughout India.