The playgrounds will have to wait a little longer to once again hear the laughter of children and mirth. (Image: Reuters)
As many as 25 cities from across the country including Agartala, Bengaluru and Coimbatore among others have been selected for the Nurturing Neighbourhoods Challenge cohort. The Challenge is a three-year initiative aimed at supporting early childhood-friendly neighbourhoods under the government’s Smart Cities Mission.
The cities that have been selected for the Nurturing Neighbourhoods Challenge cohort are Agartala, Bengaluru, Coimbatore, Dharamshala, Erode, Hubballi-Dharwad, Hyderabad, Indore, Jabalpur, Kakinada, Kochi, Kohima, Kota, Nagpur, Rajkot, Ranchi, Rohtak, Rourkela, Salem, Surat, Thiruvananthapuram, Tiruppur, Ujjain, Vadodara, and Warangal.
The 25 shortlisted cohort cities will receive support and technical assistance over the next 6 months to test and strengthen their proposals.
As many as 63 cities from across the country had submitted applications proposing neighbourhood-level pilot projects in public space, mobility, and access to services to enhance the physical and psychological health of young children and their caregivers of which 25 cities have been selected by the evaluation committee.
The Smart Cities Mission, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, announced 25 shortlisted cities for the Nurturing Neighbourhoods Challenge cohort, in collaboration with the Bernard van Leer Foundation (BvLF) and technical partner WRI India.
The first stage of the Challenge involved an open call for applications from city agencies and closed on February 7, 2021.
Cities proposed a diverse array of pilot projects, including creating toddler-friendly walking corridors in residential neighbourhooods; safer commutes to early childhood services for vulnerable young children and caregivers living in urban slums; increasing opportunities for nature play and sensory stimulation; and adapting underused open spaces within government school grounds into public play areas after school hours.
Besides streets and open spaces, other proposed pilots aim to address the need for early childhood amenities in government office premises, bus shelters and transit hubs; developing anganwadis with nutrigardens and age-appropriate play equipment; and transforming outdoor waiting areas for PHCs with shade, seating, and lactation cubicles.
The cohort will receive technical assistance, capacity building and scale-up support to experiment and implement trials and pilots over the next six months to demonstrate early wins, solicit citizen participation, and build consensus around their proposals.
During the three-month application period, over 100 cities were engaged through remote or in-person discussions and online capacity-building workshops under the Nurturing Neighbourhoods Challenge. There was an enthusiastic response from cities to focus on the needs of young children aged 0 – 5 years and their caregivers in the public realm.
Cumulatively, over 300 pilot projects were proposed in neighbourhoods across India that would improve quality of life for over 12 lakh children aged 0-5 years old.
In addition to physical interventions in public spaces, cities have also proposed public engagement activities designed to support behavioural changes and have considered long-term policy and administrative changes needed to place an early-childhood lens in their approach to urban planning and development.
“By engaging cities to shape healthier urban environments for early childhood, the Challenge has refocused attention on the importance of neighbourhood-level interventions. This approach is well-aligned with the strategy of the Smart Cities Mission to promote inclusive, people-oriented development in compact, local areas towards scaling city-wide solutions that enhance our citizens’ quality of life.
"We are proud to see cities across India stepping up to the challenge and demonstrating their commitment to adopt more sensitive urban planning and design that addresses the needs and aspirations of millions of young children and their families,” said Kunal Kumar, joint secretary and Mission director, Smart Cities Mission, MoHUA.
Rushda Majeed, India Representative, Bernard van Leer Foundation, said: “The challenge has open doors for cities to re-envision their neighbourhoods through the lens of young children and their caregivers. Focusing on the quality of our immediate surroundings at the neighbourhood-level will help young children and their families explore the public realm and lead a healthy life in a clean and green environment—critical for the holistic development of young children.”
“As Indian cities build back from the pandemic, there is growing interest in creating walkable, mixed-use neighbourhoods. We are pleased to see Indian cities working towards reimagining their streets and public spaces, keeping the needs of the very young in mind, along with improving access to early childhood services. We applaud all cities that are taking part in the Challenge and we look forward to working with the selected cities to pilot data-driven solutions that can serve as a model for other cities to follow,” said OP Agarwal, CEO, WRI India.
The Nurturing Neighbourhoods Challenge, launched on November 4, 2020, invited participation from all Smart Cities, capitals of states and UTs, and other cities with a population above 5 lakh were eligible to participate.