‘Smart Cities’ mission: Selection done, it’s time for execution

The Centre’s thrust is on an integrated urban planning effort with a sharper focus on infrastructure, land use planning, transport, design and architecture.

Written by Anil Sasi | Updated: January 30, 2016 7:24 am
smart cities, india smart cities, india smart cities list, smart cities in india, modi smart cities programme, india news, urban news, smart cities project Illustration: C R Sasikumar

By the government’s definition, a Smart City is “not a destination but a series of small steps in that direction”. The list of 20 Smart Cities and towns shortlisted by the Centre on Thursday, though, appears to be a decisive step in this direction, considering that these cities have already furnished plans to cumulatively mobilise resources to the tune of Rs 50,802 crore over the next five years under the public-private-partnership route and invest these funds for rolling out “smart” interventions across an area spanning 26,735 acres through a mix of redevelopment and greenfield development. These include an integrated urban planning effort with a sharper focus on infrastructure, land use planning, transport, design and architecture.

Special purpose vehicles are likely to be floated for channeling these funds to build these Smart Cities. Given that the urbanisation level in India is still at just around 31 per cent, far lower than China’s 54 per cent, Brazil’s 90 per cent and well over 80 per cent in most developed economies, the NDA government’s policy thrust on upgrading urban infrastructure could see this list of 20 Smart Cities being expanded to 100 urban centres and the upgradation of basic infrastructure — under the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) — across 500 cities with outlays of Rs 48,000 crore and Rs 50,000 crore, respectively.

The importance of these urban centres as drivers of India’s growth story cannot be underestimated. McKinsey’s report — India’s economic geography in 2025: States, clusters, and cities—had identified 49 metropolitan growth clusters covering 183 districts across India, which it estimated would contribute 77 per cent of India’s incremental GDP, 72 per cent of consuming-class households, and 73 per cent of its incremental income pool in the 2012-25 period. In terms of economic growth policy making in India, the supply of affordable housing and large enough public transportation networks are central to the growth prospects of any large metropolitan area. States need to prioritise the long-term development of these areas, with the Centre stepping in wherever they overlap across states.

So what is a ‘Smart City’

There is no universally accepted definition of a Smart City, with the conceptualisation varying from city-to-city and country-to-country, depending on the level of development, willingness to change and reform, resources and aspirations of the residents. According to the Ministry of Urban Development, the Smart City Mission marks a paradigm shift towards urban development in the country since it is based on ‘bottom up’ approach with the involvement of citizens in formulation of city vision and smart city plans and the urban local bodies and state governments piloting the mission with little say for the Ministry of Urban Development.

The core infrastructure elements in a Smart City would include:

> adequate water supply,
> assured electricity supply,
> sanitation, including solid waste management,
> efficient urban mobility and public transport,
> affordable housing, especially for the poor,
> robust IT connectivity and digitalisation,
> good governance, especially e-Governance and citizen participation,
> sustainable environment,
> safety and security of citizens, particularly women, children and the elderly, and
> health and education.

Smart City features

Promoting mixed land use in area-based developments — planning for ‘unplanned areas’ containing a range of compatible activities and land uses close to one another in order to make land use more efficient. The states will enable some flexibility in land use and building bye-laws to adapt to change;

> Housing and inclusiveness — expand housing opportunities for all;

> Creating walkable localities — reduce congestion, air pollution and resource depletion, boost local economy, promote interactions and ensure security. The roads are created or refurbished not only for vehicles and public transport, but also for pedestrians and cyclists, and necessary administrative services are offered within walking/cycling distance;

> Preserving and developing open spaces — parks, playgrounds, and recreational spaces in order to enhance the quality of life of citizens, reduce the urban heat effects in areas and generally promote eco-balance;

> Promoting a variety of transport options — Transit Oriented Development (TOD), public transport and last mile para-transport connectivity;

> Making governance citizen-friendly and cost effective — increasingly rely on online services to bring about accountability and transparency, especially using mobiles to reduce cost of services and providing services without having to go to municipal offices; form e-groups to listen to people and obtain feedback and use online monitoring of programs and activities with the aid of cyber tour of worksites

> Giving an identity to the city — based on its main economic activity, such as local cuisine, health, education, culture, sports goods, furniture, hosiery, textile, dairy, etc;

> Applying Smart Solutions to infrastructure and services in area-based development in order to make them better — making areas less vulnerable to disasters, using fewer resources, and providing cheaper services.
What is novel in the selection of these cities, is that the winners from 11 states and the Union Territory of Delhi were selected after a competition between cities. Of these cities accounting for a population of 3.54 crore, five have a population below 5 lakh each, four in the range of 5-10 lakh, six in between 10-25 lakh, four between 25 and 50 lakh and only Ahmedabad having a population above 50 lakh.

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  1. K
    Jan 29, 2016 at 11:27 pm
    The current central Government is an utter failure. The economy is in terrible shape. This is despite the fact that the crude oil price dropping by 75%. Inflation is terrible. Instead of his fixing his Government's probelms, the dokhlabhai wants to inflame the pions of the community against the Nehru-hi family. What the poor people need is jobs, affordable food and services. But the dokhlabhai's focus is on the Nehru-hi family. Who to blame? The dokhlabhai's lack of education? His lack of confidence? Or just the love for caste and cow politics?
  2. B
    Jan 30, 2016 at 4:32 am
    Government must look for synergy among 20 cities and use the scale to get better deal in contract. This will enable todo more with same money.
  3. P
    piara singh
    Jun 27, 2016 at 8:54 am
    it is regarding smart cities projects, the master plan of each city in consideration the next 30 years requirements must be prepared and finalized. these master plans need be updated from time to time. all the project works must be into smart city model chosen for. further the city will be smart if its residents become smart and educated. thanks.
  4. S
    Jan 30, 2016 at 8:02 am
    digitally enslaved cities. Asuras on the prowl!!
  5. V
    vikas singh
    Jan 30, 2016 at 3:44 am
    What about Noida and Gurgaon, they are also planned city but all urban problems exist there like lack of electricity supply and sanitation, Pollution, trafic menace, inadequate public transport system, encroachment etc etc..Authority and reality developers are just making money by corrupt means. Condition of so called Smart cities will be like Noida and Gurgaon if proper management not put in place there. Smart city and needs smart and honest people and system which lacks in India. Old habits die hard. We are day dreamer if we think there will be uninterrupted power supply, proper sanitation and water supply in these smart cities. But no doubts things will be better than other cities of India.
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