A public platform for research, policy and advocacy centred around the urban.

Becoming smart about settlements: Policy, planning, governance and the urban challenge in India

Date: Aug 26th, 2016

Smart is the new buzzword for cities. But even as we debate the ideal of smart cities (and villages!), how governance and policy understand and respond to the existing urbanization dynamic deserves closer attention. On the one hand, cities are explicitly being yoked by policy to the task of pushing up the GDP. On the other, the process of urbanization is unfolding in a poorly understood, weakly planned and regulated, unsustainable, and iniquitous manner across the urban-rural continuum spanning megacities, smaller cities and towns, and peri-urban villages. The rapid expansion of speculative urbanism, and new cultures of consumption is accompanied by a neglect of mounting crises related to livelihoods, inequality, social fragmentation, ecological devastation within and across each of these geographies. The fact that governance and policy initiatives at central, state and local levels are increasingly furthering these fraught processes forms the rationale for this symposium.

This symposium shifts attention from the outcome of smartness in cities to the more critical challenge of becoming smarter about understanding and addressing the process of urbanization as a whole. It seeks to explore the limitations of current policy, planning and governance thinking about the process of urbanization and consider different approaches to becoming really smarter about it. Policy and planning are the key objects of attention for the symposium, but are approached in relation to governance at large.