DELHI:EROS TIMES: His Excellency Park Won Soon, the mayor of Seoul Metropolitan government and all other respected international dignitaries present.
It is my proud privilege to be present here at Seoul on the invitation of the Seoul Metropolitan Government representing the Government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi (India).
I want to share with all of you on this occasion, my special bond with the Honorable mayor of Seoul, Park Won Soon.
Both of us go back a long way, at least more than a decade. I first came to know about mayor Park when he was announced the winner of Ramon Magsaysay Award for public service in 2006. Incidentally, I was also announced as the winner for the same award that very year in a separate category.
Both of us had never imagined then that we will meet 12 years later in different roles and Mr Park would be organizing this international event on urban regeneration in this beautiful city as the mayor of Seoul.
I wish him a bright future in all his endeavors and hope his presence will lead to a strong bonding and mutual cooperation between Delhi and Seoul.
For the people of India, Seoul became a household name when this city successfully hosted the summer Olympics in 1988. Like many other parts of the world, people of India were very impressed by the scale of preparation for such a mega sporting event and the way Seoul city was turned around to meet the global expectations.
It was 1988 then, today, let me share with you that there is a little of Seoul in every Indian urban home.
Two electronic giants of the world – Samsung & LG, I believe both of whom have their headquarters in Seoul, have successfully captured the electronics market of India.
Think of any electronic home appliance from refrigerators to washing machines and air conditioners, also TV – you will find that these two companies dominate urban Indian households. Similar is the success story of Hyundai Motors in urban India.
I am happy that Delhi and Seoul are now entering into a new phase of friendship and over the next couple of days we will officially have Agreements of Friendship and Cooperation in many fields.
Today we have gathered here for this important international conference on urban regeneration.
Before proceeding further into specific areas, I would like to share with all of you about the promises and challenges faced by a metropolis like Delhi, with the population of around 20 million.
Delhi is a vibrant city state and popularly known as mini-India, where people of different religions, regions and cultures live happily and contribute to India’s economy in a major way.
Capital cities, the world over, are administratively run differently and Delhi too has a unique and somewhat complex administrative structure, which however is a matter of a separate conversation at some other occasion.
Residents of Delhi expect their provincial government, currently headed by me, to solve all their problems. Expectations of the people are not without basis and it is the duty of any government elected by them to solve their problems.
URBAN REGENERATION is a very wide term and according to me, covers many crucial aspects.
Delhi’s waters cape heritage is unique as it has a continual natural water system and there is a huge potential for pedestrianization and urban connections along these waterways. The aim is to channelize pedestrian movement within the city, using the existing waterways, greens, historic and transit features of the city in order to enhance connectivity within the urban fabric. The endeavor shall be to create a pedestrian-friendly city.
The Cheonggyecheon Restoration Project in Seoul, which I myself saw yesterday at the downtown, was centered on revitalizing the Stream that had been covered for decades by a highway overpass. The city of Seoul used its own resources to bring new life to the downtown by enhancing the urban environment. The restoration of the Cheonggyecheon Stream led to the revitalization of central Seoul, unleashing the potential for green public space.
I am looking forward to close cooperation with Seoul on developing such kinds of streams in Delhi.
Next is the challenge of unplanned urban settlements which have come up over decades in several parts of Delhi.
The challenge Delhi faces is that people from various parts of India have tendency to come to the capital city in the hope of employment and a better future.
This has led to unplanned urban sprawl and it is high time that this sprawl be revamped with a human face. Everybody has a right to lead life with dignity and therefore governments must ensure rights of people living in unplanned colonies.
Besides this, Delhi has developed as a seamless city with an urban continuum comprising of a number of rapidly growing towns in neighboring states. This has added to the flow and movement of traffic within Delhi. Despite measures by way of increasing the length of the road network and road surface through widening, construction of a number of flyovers / grade separators and, launching of the Metro, the traffic congestion has continued to increase unabated.
I have heard a lot about public transport of Seoul and the successful use of technology for public transport in Seoul is a talking point across the world. In Delhi, the Metro has emerged as a very successful mode of public transport over the last 15 years and it is known for its professionalism and efficiency.
Delhi Metro shares a special bond with your country, since many Metro coaches have been built here. Delhi Metro is one of the best in the world for the facilities it offers to commuters and the technology being used in its setting-up and day-to-day running.
With the use of advanced IT, I am told detailed information on the massive Seoul traffic system can be collected in real-time and a remarkable amount of data can be gathered and analysed by the one center of Seoul TOPIS ((Seoul Transport Operation and Information Services).
This is done to increase the accuracy of the information. Furthermore, by sharing such analysis results with private corporations and the people, it allows for the development of various derived information products. Ultimately, Seoul TOPI works toward the goal of constructing a traffic system having maximized satisfaction by the users and enhanced safety of traffic users, as well as minimizing traffic congestion by optimizing the efficiency of existing traffic facilities.
I would like to see more cooperation between Delhi and Seoul in this field.
One of the biggest challenges currently faced by Delhi and its adjoining areas is air pollution.Latest studies show that more than 70 % air pollution in Delhi is caused by factors for which Delhi itself is not responsible.
Delhi also faces a serious solid waste management challenge. I will be happy to suggest the civic bodies of Delhi to learn the Seoul model of disposal and management of solid waste.
Delhi is also seriously working on water conservation and management, since in summer months Delhi faces a scarcity of water, due to the fact that our capital city is dependent on neighboring states for water, since it does not have any water sources of its own.
Our government seeks to have cooperation in waste water management and water conservation, since the water demand of a growing city like Delhi will always keep increasing given the scale of its expansion and population influx on a regular basis.
DELHI’S ACHIEVEMENTS IN HEALTH AND EDUCATION SECTORS
On this occasion, when we are discussing urban regeneration, I would like to share with you an important component of how investment in human capital is also extremely crucial.
Our government was elected with the highest ever electoral mandate in the history of independent India in February 2015. During last three and a half years, our government has made considerable progress in the important fields of health and education.
Our biggest budgetary allocations are for education and health sectors. Delhi government spends around 25 % of its annual budget on education and 12 % on health.
I am happy to share that just before coming to Seoul, we hosted former United Nations Secretary General Mr Ban Ki Moon and former World Health Organisation Director General and first woman Prime Minister of Norway Ms Gro Harlem Brundtland as delegation members of The Elders, an international organisation on peace and human rights, founded by the late Nelson Mandela.
These personalities were in Delhi to visit our unique Universal Health Care initiative which we call Mohalla Clinics – meaning – neighborhood clinics.
Mr Ban Ki Moon and Ms Brundtland were highly impressed by our model of Universal Health Care. Our government has been able to open around 200 such clinics so far and we have a target of having at least 1,000 such clinics across Delhi.
These clinics allow people to visit a doctor in their neighbourhood and that the primary diagnosis and medicines in these clinics are provided free of cost.
The next level of health care is poly clinics, where some diagnostic tests are done and if required, the patient is referred to a government hospital for further treatment.
We intend to develop this three-tier health system for the residents, where all medicines and diagnostic tests are free of cost.
In the education sector, over the last three and a half years, our government has been successful in erasing most of the serious shortcomings faced in government schools.
In Delhi, the education sector is split between private and government schools. Private Schools charge significantly which well to do sections of society can afford.
I am of the firm view that quality education cannot be confined to the limited sections of the society.
Our government has overhauled the look of government schools, added massive infrastructure, encouraged teachers by sending them to foreign countries on training, organised regular interactions between teachers and parents.
As a consequence, in Delhi in Class XII government school results are now better than private schools and more and more parents want to send their children to government schools.
Delhi government is more than willing to share its experiences in the fields of education and health with the Seoul Metropolitan government and we will be happy to cooperate in these fields.
I look forward to a meaningful dialogue during our stay here and concrete solutions in areas of cooperation that we two cities intend to have.
Whenever we speak of urban regeneration we discuss, deliberate and debate on government intervention to augment the urban capital infrastructure through various means and measures. I appreciate all such efforts and also aspire to bring similar augmentation and reforms in Delhi. However, I would like to point out that urban regeneration should always necessarily include development of human capital as well. We need to appreciate that there are examples like Seoul where investment in human capital be it by way of sensitization, empowerment, education or health, have paid rich dividends.
Personally, I feel that the investment on human capital sustains better and positively cascades.