A single big idea its monumental new airport has propelled Mumbai into the A-list of National Geographic's "smart cities" across the world, a catalog that includes familiar metropolises such as New York and London, newbies such as Dubai and Seoul, and outposts such as Halifax, Nova Scotia (Canada) and Tallinn, Estonia.
NG's "smart city" list isn't necessarily a chronicle of technologically accomplished cities. In fact, Mumbai makes the cut on account of its artsy airport. "Travelers might spot the peacock feather motif throughout terminal 2 of Mumbai's Chhatrapati Shivaji airport. This and other lofty designs were unveiled earlier this year at the Jaye He Museum, now India's largest public art programme. Some 7,000 works pack the four-storey museum," the magazine says, noting that with that 40 million people passing through the airport each year, the exhibit rivals the Louvre in number of visitors.
But no other Indian city features in the 50-city list, in which San Francisco comes out on top simply on account of its reputation as the "global epicentre of big 'unrealistic' dreamers," that has produced an endless stream of innovations. In fact, the characteristics that form the basis of other cities making the list suggests that "smart cities" does not necessarily mean wired cities, as some Indian planners and the current Indian government are suggesting.
Paris makes the cut on account of its cycle-friendly policies, Rome for its well-organized antiquity, Vancouver and Stockholm for its environmental sustainability, and London for its architecture.
In fact, commuter friendly policies, including bike sharing and walkways, form a big part of the "smart city" appellation. Barcelona, Lyon, (France) and Mexico City are listed as cities with the best bike-share systems, an abject lesson to India where bicycles are not even in the picture. Even in automobile saturated United States, Portland, Minneapolis, Washington DC, Seattle, and San Francisco are cited as cities with the highest percentage of cycle commuters.
Other lesser known cities that make the cut: Estonia's Tallinn, the birth place of Skype, a medieval city that has turned into a "digital-age exemplar" with free public bus and tram transit where bikes abound, and the old Hanseatic trading center brims with business; Chattanooga, Tennessee, dubbed "Gig City" for its lightning-fast internet, but whose outreach includes a bike and hike trail along the revitalized Riverwalk path, part of a $250 million reinvention along the banks of the Tennessee river; and Santander, Spain, a port city that has 10,000 scattered sensors to monitor lights, temperature, traffic, water usage, pollutant levels, and more to produce a nonstop data flow that locals and tourists access by smartphone to track buses and taxis, flag down cops, or report problems.
It's not western cities alone that make the grade. Rwanda's capital Kigali got a big thumbs up from the magazine. "Rwanda's complete ban on plastic bags has helped make its capital, Kigali, a remarkably clean-looking city with beautifully groomed gardens," it said, noting that the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre educates locals and tourists on the genocide in Rwanda 20 years ago and close access to conservation-minded places with community-based initiatives from volcanoes to wildlife (mountain gorillas and more) makes this city "an educational gem."
Evidently, India's smart city planners have plenty to think about.
Source: The Times of India
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