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Japan to help develop smart cities in India

A Japanese research institute is partnering with an Indian technology institute to share its ideas on how to make Indian cities ‘smart’ and also take back Indian cultural ideas in an attempt to rejuvenate moribund cities in Japan.

Japan’s Nikken Sekkei Research Institute (NSRI) has signed an MoU with The Indian Institute of Technology-Kharagpur (IIT-K) to design, plan, develop sustainable habitats and implement smart technologies for India’s smart city growth.

NSRI provides research and consulting services related to environment, energy, transportation, infrastructure, urban design, and administration.

IIT-K intends to address the dimensions of smart city growth based on twin concerns: sustainable infrastructure and livable habitat. It will work with the Ranbir and Chitra Gupta School of Infrastructure Design and Management (RCGSIDM), and the Department of Architecture and Regional Planning (ARP).

The project will involve major metropolitan areas like Kolkata, large regional cities such as Asansol both in West Bengal and, eventually, other states. West Bengal alone is home to over 91m people.

Under the MoU, collaborative projects such bullet trains, other smart transportation technologies, infrastructural projects, and smart agriculture will be brought to India.

Technology transfers will not be unidirectional from Japan. Plans also include exploring India’s approach to heritage protection and sustainability. Professor Partha Pratim Chakrabarti, Director of IIT-K, says Japan is a natural partner for India because of strong historical and cultural ties between the two countries.

“Sustainability is ingrained in India while Japan is about quality,” he said. “Many Japanese cities are suffering from a deep cultural and social crisis. They need recovery and are looking at India for some inspiration,” Professor Chakrabarti added.

As part of the partnership NSRI will explore the human relationship element in Indian societies and its role in creating and sustaining the communities that enable cities to flourish.

The two countries already have one joint programme, the Kyoto-Varanasi partnership agreement. This links India’s Varanasi, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, and Kyoto, which was the imperial capital of Japan for over 1,000 years and is still home to many historic buildings and customs.

This partnership, which began in 2014, envisages the recovery of Varanasi’s greenery, creating heritage trails and tourism in the city. For Kyoto, the vision is to recover cultural ethos through the revival of hand-tools, and vocational education. The Kyoto-Varanasi partnership will be integrated into the new agreement. 

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