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What Visag's cyclone success says about “smart” cities in India

Cyclone Hudhud caused damage in Visakhapatnam but loss of life was limited due to effective evacuations. (Reuters/Landov)

As a cyclone approached India’s southern port city of Visakhapatnam last October, well-rehearsed evacuations spared tens of thousands of lives. Nita Bhalla reports for the Thomson Reuters Foundation that this example of urban preparedness had another important consequence: reshaping India’s debate about “smart” cities.

Climate resilience is emerging as a key component of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s plan for 100 “smart cities.” With Visakhapatnam, or Vizag, preparing to become one of the first, municipal authorities already are teaming with the state of Andhra Pradesh on this goal, the article says. The city is establishing a disaster response command center and using simulations to anticipate storm surge.

“You may build all the infrastructure you want,” Bindu Lohani, vice president for sustainable development at the Asian Development Bank, tells Reuters. “Then suddenly there is a flood and you lose everything.” The good news is that relatively modest upfront costs can avoid expensive reconstruction later, Bhalla writes. She points to steps that Hanoi, Bangkok and other cities have taken as lessons for India. 

Thomson Reuters Foundation

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