Game-Changing the Smart City Mission

“The mission is proving to be a game-changer in the urban transformation of our country. The mission is proving to be a game-changer in the urban transformation of our country. It is arguably the largest and most complex urbanization initiative on the planet, catalyzing investments of Rs. 2 lakh crore for the development of 100 Smart Cities”, asserted Kunal Kumar, Joint Secretary and Mission Director, Smart Cities Mission, Government of India in a conversation with Poulami Chakraborty and Dr. Rajeshree Dutta Kumar, of BW SmartCitiesWorld. Excerpts Below:

How would you describe the uniqueness of Smart Cities Mission and its impact on urban development in India in the progress of Smart Cities Mission briefly? What kind of smart solutions are cities adopting?

The mission is proving to be a game-changer in the urban transformation of our country.  It is arguably the largest and most complex urbanisation initiative on the planet, catalysing investments of Rs. 2 lakh crore for the development of 100 Smart Cities. It has used the power of communities’ bottom up planning, and utilised technology to enable the creation of connected, liveable, connected, adaptive and resilient cities. The Mission is now working towards creating an ecosystem to promote the following three key elements: 

  1. Upscaling economic opportunities and efficiencies through innovation and entrepreneurship 
  2. Evidence-based policy and decision making 
  3. Governance focused on outcomes and capacity building of stakeholders

The completed mission projects have already contributed towards improving the quality of life in cities, with smart solutions integrating with infrastructure and services. As of November 2019, more than 5,100 projects worth over ₹ 2  lakh crore are at various stages of implementation. Currently, 4,100 projects worth ₹1,48,000 crore have been tendered, 3,300 projects worth ₹1,05,000 crore have been grounded, and more than 1,200 projects worth ₹22,500 crore have been completed. However, this is only one aspect of what the mission has achieved. 

Cities are working to achieve better, more efficient, secure and connected infrastructure. Some instances of projects for improving liveability and sustainability being implemented by Smart Cities are outlined below:

  • Renewable Energy projects: Smart Cities of Jaipur, Visakhapatnam, Pune and Surat have implemented solar projects producing about 5 MW of solar energy and resulting in reduction of carbon emissions by about 13,500 tons per annum. Ahmedabad Smart City has set up wind power projects with capacity 8.4 MW resulting in reduction of about 8,300 tons CO2 per annum. 
  • Smart Roads: Smart roads provide walkways for unrestricted pedestrian movement and underground laying of all utilities. Smart Cities have successfully redesigned more than 84 kms of roads with enhanced pedestrian facilities, cycle tracks and are in the process of re-designing another 350 km of streets. Cities of Pune, Bhopal and Surat amongst others have implemented Smart Road Projects.
  • Public Bike Sharing: Smart Cities have implemented Public Bike Sharing (PBS) projects and construction of dedicated cycle tracks to encourage cycling as a means for making short trips and enabling last mile connectivity. 
  • Public Open Spaces: Smart Cities have redesigned and increased the area under open spaces by creating neighbourhood parks, heritage walks and converted land along riverfronts into recreational areas. Indore has redeveloped 26,072 sq.m. As green open spaces under Kahn-Saraswati Riverfront development project. Visakhapatnam has developed an ‘All-Abilities’ park over 2,156 sq.m. With special equipment for children especially hearing impaired, blind and differently abled. Pune has increased the green cover by developing un-utilised land parcels which are often abused as garbage dumping sites (about 50 sites measuring 600 to 1000 sq. m each identified converting them to vibrant public open space meeting the needs of local residents.  Bhubaneswar is upgrading over 4 acre of under-utilised land (passive parks) to provide users diverse options for practising a healthier lifestyle.
  • Water and Waste Management: Water recycling plants to augment present sources and conserve fresh water are being set up. Surat has constructed 5 units of Water Treatment Plants with Zero Liquid Discharge at a cost of Rs. 50 crore, whereby approximately 24 MLD water can be reused as drinking water. Many cities have set up solid waste management projects using technologies like bio-methanation and Waste to Energy. For instance, WTE Plant in Jabalpur can generate 11.5 MW energy by recycling 600 tons of municipal solid waste per day, enabling reduction of 37,000 tons of carbon emissions annually

In addition to providing smart physical infrastructure, Smart Cities are implementing pan-city solutions which are innovative and launched for the very first time in the country. Pan city development envisages application of smart solutions to existing or new city-wide infrastructure. Following are some instances of pan city solutions.

·Integrated Command and Control Centres (ICCCs) – The Smart Cities Mission is in the process of setting up ICCCs in all 100 Smart Cities and aim to operationalise at least 50 centres by the end of the year.

·Public Wi-Fi – Hotspots for Wi-Fi access at various locations in the city have been implemented by Pune amongst other cities.

·Intelligent Traffic Management System (ITMS) – A system to intelligently manage public transport and other vehicles engaged in civic services implemented by Ahemdabad, Surat, Nagpur and Vishakhapatnam amongst other cities.

·Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) – Automation of water treatment and supply operations in the city with real time monitoring and maintenance alerts, has been successfully implemented by Ahmedabad city.

·Video Surveillance – Installation of video cameras at key junctions for monitoring crime, traffic and issuing traffic challans. Many cities including Pune, Rajkot, Vadodara, Surat and Ahmedabad have implemented survelliance projects to make cities safer.  

You often talk about the need to innovate for urban renewal process to be relevant and effective. What is the scope of innovation and technology in the Smart Cities Mission? How are more enterprises becoming a part of the mission?

Cities are active engines of economic growth and centres for job creation, not just for themselves but for the larger region. Hence, fostering an environment of creativity and innovation becomes crucial. Recognising this, the Government of India has through its various programmes supported start-ups, resulting in an eight-fold increase in the number of registered start-ups from 3,000 in 2016 to about 24,940 in 2019 as per data with DPIIT. 

In order to harness the existing efforts of various government programmes, platforms are being created in cities to support emerging start-ups at every step of their journey, including providing early-stage financing, linking them with knowledge partners and potential investors and mandating larger procurements from them to give them a level-playing field with respect to established businesses. Emphasis is laid on the creation of an interconnected and interdependent network of urban centres. This would have a multiplier effect on job creation amongst youth and growth of vibrant economies in cities.  

Surat Smart City has established SURATi iLAB, which provides a platform for innovation, research, startup incubation, trade facilitation and skill development. Similarly, B-Nest Foundation in Bhopal is supporting start-ups in several sectors and over 30 start-ups from sectors including waste management, home automation, Agri-tech, IOT, autonomous vehicles, heath care, digital marketing, drone surveillance and Fin-tech are operating out of the B-Nest facility. 

Through the mission, we are encouraging start-ups that offer innovative products or services that can be applied to areas in the smart cities, to solve urban problems. The objective is to create partnerships between the Smart Cities and start-ups with the help of knowledge partners who can customise the solution to the city’s specific needs. We organised the first of its kind event in Pune held in August this year which was attended by Smart City CEOs, start-ups and knowledge partners. By the end of the event, 55 MOUs were signed between cities and start-ups for scaling up innovative solutions in Smart Cities.

In addition to the projects that are being implemented, has the Mission undertaken any initiatives that may help the Smart Cities perform better and improve their liveability and sustainability?  

The Mission has launched several new initiatives that will not only ensure integrated development across various aspects of urban development and thus complementing the economic needs of our cities. The following initiatives are expected to catapult the mission to the next stage of development, make cities more liveable and resilient.

  1. Ease of Living Index, 2019 was introduced with the aim to assess the ease of living of citizens across three pillars: Quality of Life, Economic Growth and Sustainability which are further divided into 14 categories across 50 indicators. The Ease of Living indicators are strongly linked to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and this exercise will help our Country to track and achieve SDGs. The process of data collection has begun.  
  2. Municipal Performance Index (MPI), 2019 seeks to examine the sectoral performance of municipalities across a set of 5 verticals namely Service, Finance, Planning, Technology and Governance. 
  3. CimateSmart Cities Assessment Framework is first-of-its-kind public assessment framework on climate relevant parameters, provides a clear roadmap for the cities towards combating Climate Change while planning their actions within the city including investments. First Round of assessment has taken place, results will be announced in near future.
  4. India Urban Observatory established at the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA), is a state of the art interactive showcase of collective insights on Indian cities. It aims at providing reliable, up-to-date information on a meaningful set of indicators over various domains such as mobility, water, Sanitation, health, environment by leveraging advanced AI/ML, Data science, Analytics & visualization capabilities
  5. DataSmart Cities Strategy has been conceptualised and rolled out across 100 Smart Cities to catalyse the adoption of data-driven governance, performance monitoring and to leverage the potential of data to address complex urban challenges using innovation and co-creation. Under this 100 City Data Officers, one in each city have been nominated who have contributed roughly 3000+ datasets for research and development on smart cities data portal (

  1. Data Maturity Assessment Framework (DMAF) has been framed to assess a city’s data readiness across 100 Smart Cities. Objective is to assess the city data readiness over systemic and sectoral pillars comprising policy, process, people, technology, outcomes and sectoral readiness. First round of assessment has been completed and result will be announced in near future.

  1. City GDP There is no standardised methodology available for estimating city level GDP. Measuring city GDP enables cities to do improve their socio-economic and infrastructure planning. To develop a such framework for Indian cities, a consultation paper on framework for city GDP has been brought out and a technical committee is working to finalise the methodology.

  1. City Investments to Innovate, Integrate and Sustain (CITIIS) Challenge 13 Projects from 13 Smart Cities were selected for funding under this program in February 2019 which was launched in partnership with AFD, EU and NIUA. The total size of the programme is 100 Million Euros.