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Study claims India’s ‘smart cities’ project could have detrimental impact on environment

India's innovative bid to establish 100 'smart cities' in an effort to support the country's rapid growing urban population may well have a detrimental impact on the environment. A major study conducted by the University of Lincoln in the UK has stated that city planners needed to place a greater emphasis on supporting infrastructure and utilities if they want to avoid the likely prospect of harming the environment.

Researchers from Lincoln University carried out a detailed analysis of the environmental implications of the planned developments, which would see a rip and replace policy towards housing being implemented with medium-rise housing set to be replaced by high-rise towers.

Researchers were quick to highlight that when the Indian government announced its 'smart cities' plan in 2015, it claimed that the innovative development project would be sustainable, environmentally friendly and 'smart'. However, they now feel that those at the center of the project have strayed off course.

The study suggested that the growing increase in population density is inevitably going to place significant added demands on already stretched resources, which include electricity and water, while simultaneously increasing the output of waste in the form of drainage, solid waste and greenhouse gasses.

It has been disclosed that the estimations are based on the analysis of the Indian's government's exemplar development, entitled 'Bhendi Bazar, which is a 16.5 acre site located in Mumbai. It is the flagship model of what the proposed new 'smart cities' in India will look like. The researchers adopted an 'extended urban metabolism model' in its analytical approach to the area. It compared existing urban infrastructure with the proposed new form, and took in consideration factors such as the height of buildings, dwellings, population, parking provision, open space and landscaping.

However, alarming for city planners for 'smart cities' the results clearly indicated that in a city such as this repeated electricity black-outs, water rationing and inadequate waste would be the norm, which would subsequently mean that increasing population density would have a significant and detrimental effect on the environment.

Professor Hugh Byrd, who is a specialist in urban planning in London, claimed that it was critical that the planning goal must align with resources in order to create a fully functioning 'smart city'. He said: "The pursuit of cities to become 'smart', 'world-class', 'liveable', 'green' or 'eco', has been promoted alongside increased population densities and urban compaction. This planning goal must reach a point where resources are inadequate for the fully functioning metabolism of a city. In this case, the results indicate that metabolism does not increase linearly with density, but accelerates instead, so the detrimental environmental impact will increase at a greater rate than the population increase."