Sustainable cities

This article explains what a sustainable city is and shares an example of a company working in this space.

“I want to move to a city”

With an ever-growing urban population, India is seeing a tectonic shift in patterns of residence and livelihood. UN says that by 2050, India will have more urban residents than rural residents. Today, about 34% of our population is urban.

Our current big cities are all facing an increasing burden by population. They need to drastically change in order to sustain in the long run.

What is a sustainable city?

According to the World Bank, sustainable cities are resilient cities that are able to adapt to, mitigate, and promote economic, social, and environmental change.

The way I see it — sustainable cities are timeless.

They can be a perennial source of livelihood for citizens. Citizens should enjoy living in these cities. Sustainable development should tackle all aspects of a city’s healthy development – economic, social and environmental.

Examples of sustainable cities in the world

A few cities have shown the path towards sustainability already. Some examples –

  1. Copenhagen is ranked as the greenest city on the planet. The city has a goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2025. It has spent considerable time and money on improving mobility and integrating transport across the city. As a result, as many as 45 percent of its residents commute by bicycles every day.
  2. Singapore is testing retrofitting its existing buildings to green standards. The city has a goal to be 80 percent green by 2030. Its public transportation is designed to discourage use of personal vehicles. In fact, the government in Singapore limits car ownership among its residents.

Indian cities have a long way to go to be completely green. But, because of the awareness in recent years, I am hopeful that things will change for the better soon.

One example is smart street lighting, which seems simple, but can lead to a lot of saved energy.


One of my college friends, Ayush Jain, runs a startup called Utopiatech. They make smart switches for street-lighting, which results in increased monitoring, leading to better optimization of lighting.

It is an application of IoT that goes beyond the much-hyped “Talk to Google Home to control lights” scenario. By deploying the smart switches on a wide grid of streetlights, Utopiatech is poised to have a greater impact on society.

Their devices adapt to the sunset and sunrise times, thus reducing the workload of a switch administrator and helping save energy.

The company already has big clients under their belt, including the Mumbai International Airport.

What products are you thinking about?

The reason I mention Utopiatech here is to encourage people to participate in transforming our cities. Government-level changes might take decades to take effect, so companies should get involved in building solutions to the sustainability problems of our cities.

It is a great opportunity for startups. If you know of interesting startups in this space, let me know! I’ll love to learn about their approach.

Next week, I am going to write about city bus systems and share some examples of what a good bus system looks like.

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