Chennai will be the fourth Indian city to join the league of 50 data-driven global cities

Soar towards sustainability

Chennai will be the fourth Indian city to join the league of 50 data-driven global cities and it holds a lot of promise in the time to come.

There is a new development that can change the face of urban governance in Chennai. The World Council on City Data (WCCD) is a global network of data-driven cities under the City Data for India Initiative. A few days back, it was announced that Chennai Smart City would soon join the list of three Indian cities (Pune, Surat and Jamshedpur) after getting certification from the WCCD. Currently, there are over 50 cities certified by the WCCD, the first ever ISO standard for cities.

Data indeed holds the key to future decisions. As a Chennai Corporation official puts it, “Data is missing in most Indian cities and even when it exists, it does so in silos. Urban planning requires accurate information about several factors such as pollution, encroachment, water bodies and green cover,” he says, adding that, “Drone mapping has a lot of potential in the time to come. Planning itself can take a while. One department cannot access the data in another department.”

Data collection:

So, from which areas will data be captured? If the website of WCCD is an indicator, there will be strong data points for cities that come under its purview. From basic details such as the population of the city, land area, GDP, and density of population, data will be gathered for several other factors such as population dependency ratio, number of occupied dwelling units, percentage of non-citizens in a city, employment indicators, energy consumption, and state of environment, finance, health and governance.

However, according to Ajit Chordia, MD of a leading real estate group, “Chennai has made it to the list more due to its past success with infrastructure, public transport, safety and decent water supply. While other cities are moving fast, Chennai is stagnating. Finances are poor; in a few years, water supply and sewage will not support the growing city and Chennai will take a dip in the ranking of the WCCD. Unless huge investments are made, cities like Vijayawada and Hyderabad will overtake Chennai.”

Improving urban governance

Making data on cities available in the public domain, as is the case in cities like London and Singapore, can bring about a major change for the good of the country. To start with, it will improve city planning and effective comparisons with other cities, and create benchmarks for measurement, which will lead to improvement of urban governance. A corporation official is of the view that, “Greenhouse gas mapping and resilience mapping can greatly benefit the city; these measurement aspects will be along the lines of globally-set standards. The idea is to constantly improve.”

Arjun Narayanan, Times Property, The Times of India, Chennai