by Akhilesh K. Prasad
Infrastructure is a broad term. It signifies the fundamental facilities and systems that serve a locality, city or a country by enlarge. It includes the services and facilities that are necessary for an economy to function. Infrastructure can be generally categorised into hard and soft infrastructure. Hard infrastructure refers to the physical networks that are necessary for the functioning of modern industry. This includes; roads, bridges, water supplies, sewers, electrical grids, telecommunication (including internet and broadband) etc. On the other hand, soft infrastructure refers to institutions that maintain economic, health, social and cultural standards of a country. This includes educational programs, parks and recreational facilities, law enforcement agencies, and emergency services.
Urban infrastructure is like the internal frame of a building. It is the underlying support structure that is the foundation upon which the city develops. Transportation, natural resources and habitation, waste management, natural bodies and local administration are the pillars on which the infrastructure system of a city stands. Each of these is discussed briefly hereinafter.
Urban transportation: It involves both inter-city and intra-city transportation. While intra-city transport in India mainly comprises of road and rail (including metro-rail, monorail and trams), air transport is also included for inter-city transport. A city should therefore have ample room for roads, rail-lines and airports to cater to its growing populace in the future.
Natural resources, bodies and habitat: Infrastructure development is often mindless, with little regard for natural bodies and habitats such as inland lakes, rivers, mangroves, ridges, forests etc. These are quintessential for sustainable urban development and should be incorporated in plans as part of the infrastructure around which the city must develop. They help maintain the ecological balance of the city. Water-bodies allow natural drainage in case of heavy rains. Mangroves and ridges can keep the temperature of the otherwise concretised city in check and also act as lungs of the city.
Waste management: This is a key component of urban infrastructure facilities. In general practice, we have witnessed that management of waste becomes a severe problem for a city growing disproportionately. In many Indian cities, in the absence of waste treatment plants, landfills are used to dump solid wastes. This negatively impacts the ecology of the surrounding areas. Sewerage and sanitation also become an issue as the pressure on them increases. A growing city needs a strong waste management city to support its growth.
Local administration: Ultimately, a growing city needs an efficient and effective local administration to cater to and manage its day to day problems. The administrative system should understand its responsibilities and carry out its duties for the better functioning of the other components of urban infrastructure. The roles and duties should be well defined and free from conflict of interests. In India, most cities have a municipal corporation at the local level. Their performance in general however, has been nothing to boast of.
Only a city that is fundamentally strong on these parameters and has well prepared to face the infrastructure challenge of the future, can sustain its growing population.
An MBA by qualification, Akhilesh has dabbled into various businesses. He is a keen debater, data miner and analytically inclined. His blogs tend to present a fresh perspective on any given matter.