Planners approve Ambode’s Smart-City drive, identify missing links

Experts’ opinion is that smart cities start with a smart public infrastructure to deliver the necessary conveniences, among which are; clean water, dependable power, safe gas, and efficient public lighting, good and efficient road networks, drainage,

They also believe that with growing urbanisation, sustainable development challenges will be increasingly concentrated in cities, with the need for technology-driven solution.

As such, they concluded that Lagos, the commercial nerve centre of Nigeria is already burdened with huge population surge, with the city bedeviled by myriad of socio-economic challenges, which the present administration has demonstrated unrelenting efforts to salvage.

However, observers were of conviction that the underlying structures that support any Smart City systems, which are non-physical infrastructure though, inherently hidden, and therefore often overlooked. But without them, the goal for creating a smart city will remains a mirage, which they said is the missing link in the Centre of Excellence!

According to experts in urban development sector, the non-physical infrastructures, which without them, ideal cities couldn’t possibly exist and without finding ways to improve them, the future cities will struggle to survive.

For example, the focus on developed areas in the Lagos metropolis at the expense of less-developed neighbourhoods, such as Ajegunle, Ilaje Bariga, Ijora-Badia, including part of Lagos Island require much attention.

Speaking on government’s efforts at making Lagos a “smart city”, Dr. Yinka Oduwale, an expert on Urban Planning, while commended Governor Akinwunmi Ambode’s urban regeneration programmes, but lamented certain omissions, which he said is germaine to the realisation of smart city concept.

 

“Currently, issue of drainage system in many of these blighted communities, coupled with the water level rise in the lagoon, possibly, to be driven further by climate change and other natural occurrences, require the infrastructures necessary to protect these city from future flooding, he said.

“Conventional infrastructure repairs have used a robust engineering approach, elevating hard floodwalls to predicted future rising water levels, and strengthening levels to protect against more frequent and intense storm surges.

“However, the situation in Lagos reveals that attention is only on physical infrastructure typically the only form of infrastructure that people think about, without much on non-physical which essentially, the amenities that make city a smart one”, he said, singled out security as one of such non-physical that Governor Ambode scored high grade.

In the same vein, another commentator, Mr. Jude Ogbonna was of concern that professionals in the built environment, political leaders, civil society organisations, usually talk about the need to repair “crumbling” infrastructure such our roads, bridges, and pipes.

“The problem with this narrow definition is that by considering only infrastructure in its physical form, much of the functional relationships between humans in the city are lost. “Social, political, economic and cultural support systems inform and respond to the physical cities in important ways.

“In essence, these important factors are absent in Lagos metropolis, thus, causing friction among the residents and officials who want to implement government policies on environment.

“Historically and quite unfortunatelly, our urban infrastructure has materialised as a response to some emergent or acute problem, like natural disasters”, said Ogbona, who posited that construction has been a driven by localised issues such as sanitation, flooding or fire,with reaction has been to engineer systems (under the powers of centralised, state-led planning and public funding) that solve a single problem at a particular time, while little thought has been given to future conditions.

However, the suggestion is that rather than being reactive, Lagos government should endeavour to embark on future infrastructure designs that is anticipatory and proactive to be truly sustainable.

It was also pointed out that rather than concentrating on physical infrastructure alone, there is the need to put into consideration, cultural behaviour that would have broader impacts on the residents and visitors to the city.

For instance, the infrastructure that supports the water system is a cultural one: as a society, the city dwellers would value water and therefore would choose to restrict behaviour, such as water-dependent gardening and green lawns.

Furthermore, culture of recreation must be created by providing the needed facilities, especially, in the blighted areas. This, according to observers, would create communal spirit, by which residents would be their “brothers’ keeper”.

“But as it stands today, provision of social amenities still remain an issue, particularly, in places that were mentioned above.

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