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18 November 2016, Bhubaneswar: Exactly a month after Member States of the United Nations met at Quito, in Ecuador, to adopt the ‘New Urban Agenda’, the Bhubaneswar Smart City Limited has signed an MoU with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to take the agenda forward in Odisha. The Quito declaration stresses upon re-addressing the way cities and human settlements are planned, designed, financed, developed, governed and managed, in order to reduce inequalities; promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth; and achieve gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.

The Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation-UNFPA collaboration envisions a smart city where there will be special focus on the needs of young people, girls and women. In order to promote safety and security of girls and women, especially in the urban slums, safety audits and community engagement programmes are on the anvil. UNFPA’s expertise in analyzing population data will help plan and deliver services that are equitable and sustainable. A range of innovative interventions will help look beyond a brick and mortar blueprint, in order to factor in people-centric interventions. To name a few: The Citizen Connect programme, Support My City volunteer programme, and Neighborhood Watch programme.

In order to tap the demographic dividend, a youth-centric and youth-led integrated social intervention will be implemented in educational institutions of Bhubaneswar, with several earmarked for the slums of the Bhubaneswar Town Center District Area. The MoU also looks at addressing issues and needs of women and adolescent girls, including safety, gender-based violence and barriers to access health services.

At a special function organized for signing the MoU, Mr. Ashok Chandra Panda, Minister, Tourism and Culture Department, Govt. of Odisha, said that having won the coveted Smart City Challenge, Bhubaneswar now needs to live up the expectations of the people.

When Bhubaneswar was formed in 1948, it covered a mere 26 sq. km, and had a population of 40,000. Today, the city spans over 135 sq. km, and has more than a million people living in it. More than two-third of this population increase has been because of migration from the hinterlands. This has also given rise to slums. As per the estimates of Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation, 35% of the city’s population lives in more than three hundred slums.

Talking about the concept of a ‘socially smart city’, Mr. Diego Palacios, UNFPA Country Representative - India and Bhutan, said “In order to be future-compliant, every city needs to place its people at the centre of development”. The BMC-UNFPA collaboration will help pool expertise to assess and address the present and future requirements of vulnerable groups, such as the urban poor, women, especially adolescent girls, youth, migrants and older people.

Pointing towards another important dimension of the collaboration, Mr. Palacios added, “Young people have enormous potential to shape social development processes and contribute to change in norms and values. The smart city initiative in Bhubaneswar is a unique opportunity to empower and engage young people as active partners in achieving the Smart City goals set for the capital of Odisha”.

Priyadarshi Mishra, MLA Bhubaneswar North, Bijaya Kumar Mohanty, MLA Bhubaneswar Central, Ananta Narayan Jena, Mayor, Dr. Krishan Kumar, Commissioner BMC, Vineel Krishna, CEO, BSCL were also present at the event.