A total of 83 projects will be launched under the Smart Cities Mission across the country Saturday. PM Narendra Modi will launch 14 of these projects in Pune, marking the first anniversary of the launch of the mission.
By definition, a smart city is all about the application of technology and big data to improve infrastructure and basic service provision for citizens. However, many of the projects — branded as “quick win projects” — that will be unveiled by the Union Ministry of Urban Development on Saturday have no element of ICT (information and communications technology). These “quick win projects” include construction of pedestrian walkway/ footpath renovation (Pune, Kochi), bridges (Ahmedabad), parking-cum-commercial tower (Jabalpur) and park beautification (Kochi, Ahmedabad).
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Other “quick win projects” in the smart city plans comprise slum rehabilitation and housing for poor (Pune, Visakhapatnam), heritage conservation of bazaars (Udaipur), sewage treatment plants (New Delhi, Ahmedabad) and installing outdoor fitness equipment (New Delhi).
“All 83 projects are part of smart city plans. Many of these are the result of the convergence of various schemes. For instance, housing schemes will also get funds from the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, the road network projects from the Ministry of Road Transport and so on,” said an official from the Ministry of Urban Development.
The NDA government launched the Smart Cities Mission a year ago with the promise of transforming 100 cities through the application of ICT for efficient management of urban services such as water supply, sanitation, housing, waste management and urban mobility. It has two components — one being pan-city development wherein a particular ICT solution is applied to aspects of city-wide infrastructure. The second component, area-based development, allows for investment in creating infrastructure, provided smart solutions are also applied to it.
“In the entire list, only about 30 per cent of the projects meet the criteria of being ‘smart’ and innovative. The rest are usual urban development projects, cleverly packaged for smart city funding. Under area-based development, even if investment is allowed in infrastructure, the Smart Cities Mission requires that it be overlaid with digital solutions,” said Saswat Bandyopadhyay, professor at the Faculty of Planning in Ahmedabad-based Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology.
Some of the purely ICT projects in the list include creating a WiFi street (Vishakhapatnam), smart learning in municipal schools (Ahmedabad), intelligent transit/ transport management (Surat, Bhopal) and urban knowledge centre (Bhubaneswar).