"Cities are manifestations of human civilization" Prof. Charanjit Singh Shah makes a simple yet bold intent of writing the book "Redefining Indian Smart & Sustainable Cities". It is a delightful journey of reading human evolution and its continuous progress and advancement in human development and settlements. It is a purely technical book designed for the noble profession of Architecture and Planning but it widens its wings to invite casual readers too for understanding human history, settlements & evolution of cities. Initially, cities evolved in response to natural boundaries then adopted trade, war & industry and now days based on environmental & sustainable concepts to offer better quality of life. We are probably in the most peaceful and advance stage of development since the beginning of human evolution on the earth. Most of developing nations are approaching 0.7 HDI which is considered "high human development", the bench mark given by United Nations.
The book demonstrates changing definitions of architecture and town planning with understanding the complexities of the city design. In the Indian context with smart city program launched in 2015, there lies much hypes and referred to cities to be technologically advanced and smart in information & communications.
As author says sustainability as such has no benchmark. The more you respect mother earth more you learn to design organic built form and try to be associated with nature. The purpose of the book is to explore study and then recommend futuristic Indian smart & sustainable cities.
The book is divided into eight chapters: Evolution of Human Settlements, Global Green Walkable Cities, Transformation of National Capital of India, Existing Sustainable Indian Cities, Futuristic, Smart and Sustainable Cities, Intermodality and Last Mile Connectivity, New Smart Cities and Sustainable Indian Smart Cities. As title suggest, Chapter 1 states Evolution of human settlement right from the prehistoric period to till date; journey travelled through early civilizations. Chapter 2 briefs the concepts used in global green cities like London, Paris, and Barcelona with measures taken to make it more walkable, cyclable and livable cities in the world. Chapter 3 describes the transformation of 1000 years old Indian capital Delhi. The challenges it faces over a period of time and why it is one of the least sustainable cities of the globe. The deteriorating environmental and living issues are minutely examined and author eloquently proposes mitigation and remedies at micro level. Chapter 4 takes us to proven passive strategies and concepts used in the planning of ancient Jaipur city and contemporary Chandigarh city.
With the perfect blend of academics and professional practice of architecture, Prof. Shah implemented above these findings and interwoven concept of nature in designing the Jamshedpur 2057 plan which he designed in association with Fredric Schwartz associates ,United States. Keeping the Industry aside, core is the community in planning of Jamshedpur. It is just inverse of central park idea and conceived as "town within park within city". Chapter 5 is a depiction of his extensive work in creating the green neighbourhood and connecting each other to create walkable and pedestrian friendly Jamshedpur. Chapter 6 deals with Intermodality & last mile connectivity which is key in achieving self contained connected neighbourhoods. Most of our cities are having uncontrolled urban sprawl where land use and density are being compromised. So it is very important to have integrated approach. Chapter 7 describes an integrated planning strategies of most powerful business enabler cities like GIFT, Dholera SIR in Gujarat which is pioneer initiator state in India. Masdar in Abu Dhabi shows sustainable concept of walled city and using ultra modern technologies to achieve a zero carbon and zero waste community in the deserts. Chapter 8 is the crux of overall studies and focused in translating Indian smart cities to be built across India. Rural areas have been ignored and left out from the smart cities program which we can’t do being a nation of villages. We need to have passive strategies towards respecting the site topography, orientation, climate, appropriate material and technologies which lead to sustainability.
The book entices you to read as you start and create interest further. Rational planning at micro and macro level required for optimum and desired utilization of scarce natural resources. Mixed use, small self contained communities and neighbourhood required to ensure high quality of life with all inclusive, equitable approach for accessible, safe and low carbon footprint.
The author is successful in redefining sustainable and smart cities through picturesque illustrations and renderings. He has sequentially arranged the order and able to narrate in a formal way explaining the technicalities through examples and case studies.
The idea in my mind got changed is Urban Planning can help solve the infrastructural and environmental problems. We need to harness urbanization as a positive force of social, economical and political developments as "Cities are engine of growth".
Although Prof. Shah arranged the order properly but there is multiplicity as too many disciplines are attached which may not suits to the intended audience other than planning professionals. Others may enjoy the richness, dynamism of sustainable concepts till it reaches to Intermodality and last mile connectivity. Also, it is hard to find the reference for data sourced to support his view points. There is no point questioning Prof. Shah but topic choosen by him is very vast and hot. In my opinion, he could have more enlightened us on ancient Indian sustainable planning principles and strategies adopted with more case studies.
The main objective of the book is to comparing the city planning strategies and measures taken globally and redefining the smart & sustainable answer in Indian context. I like the title "Redefining Indian Smart & Sustainable Cities". Author’s own struggle of life of being homeless and cloth less during their stay at a refugee camp in Delhi after partition in 1947, and such fantastic transformation of becoming a leading architect and planner bring me a great respect for him. I met him twice during the Indian Institute of Architect’s presentations and both the occasion I am fortunate enough to learn from such profound practicner and great educator. Not but the least I would like to congratulate him for such marvelous work through this book.