What makes a city liveable? While policy makers, academicians and citizens may differ in their answer, they mostly agree that it’s all about comprehensive urban planning and frameworks on which cities can evaluate themselves. Inspired by this thought, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) launched the “Ease of Living” Index, with the intent to rank cities along well defined parameters. The goal of the Index was to empower citizens in aspiring for better quality of life, creating a robust baseline along urban metrics and establishing evidence-based thinking on urban planning and development.
The nationwide results of the Liveability Index were announced recently. 111 cities across the country were a part of the competition. Cities were evaluated on a 100 point scale across 15 sectors and 78 indicators. The sectors and indicators were a part of the four pillars in the institutional, social, economic and physical space. Dehradun, with a score of 30.49 ended up at the dismal rank of 80. The city has lived up to its dubious reputation of being an urban laggard, disappointing its citizens yet again.
Though a plethora of actions, big and small, are needed to get the city back on track, here is a short, crisp list of five “action items” that could spur the process of urban sustainability and improved liveability in Dehradun.
Bring Urbanization Centre Stage : The subject of urbanization needs to get its due. Time has come to bring the urban narrative centre stage; similar to water, forests, migration and other traditional challenges of Uttarakhand. Dialogue, debate and data will hopefully lead to a larger number of state driven policies. It is believed that budgets and implementation will follow the process of discussion and heightened awareness.
Establish Accountability : Multiplicity of government agencies that work on urban issues often causes blurring of boundaries that ultimately leads to a lack of responsibility. The need of the hour is to establish clear lines of accountability and ownership of responsibility.
Devolving Powers: The 74th amendment to the constitution of India was meant to empower urban local bodies. The amendments were about devolving powers to the cities. The state today controls most of the parastatal organizations. These bodies must be empowered and woken from the inertia that seems to grip them today.
Research Engagement : The government should consider engagement with academic institutions to conduct research on urbanization practices. The city’s planning must be based on hard facts and best practices.
Citizen Engagement: Active citizen participation needs to become the norm and not the exception. Decentralized models of ownership can enlist citizens in local projects to ensure participation. Communities have to be involved and brought into the circle of rightful responsibility.
Liveability is finally about the life a city offers to its people. As things stand now, it doesn’t look too bright. Let us then step up and take responsibility for our city of Dehradun, and the beautiful life it could offer us.
(Author is the Founder Chairperson at SDC Foundation. He tweets at Anoopnautiyal1)