'Integrated Development' For Cities Makes Them Liveable and Smart

The Mission is proving to be a game-changer with regards to not only directly improving citizens’ life, but also contributing to transforming the country into a digitally empowered society and a knowledge economy. It is setting a template for future development, establishing new institutions, concepts and developing institutional and professional capacity to make Indian cities cater to citizens needs in the best possible way. In a tete-e-tete with Poulami Chakraborty of BW Businessworld, Kunal Kumar, Joint Secretary and Mission Director Smart Cities Mission, Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, Government of India, asserted how the smart cities mission is impacting citizens life directly, for the better. Excerpts below:

The Government of India’s flagship project- Smart City Mission is on the verge of completing four years since its inception. Please share with us the current progress of Smart City project in the country.

Since the launch of the mission in June, 2015, the work has progressed at a brisk pace and all cities have shown significant progress. The 100 cities were selected between January 2016 and June 2018 through a two stage challenge process that involved extensive citizen consultations.  

A total of 5,151 projects with a net outlay of Rs.2, 05,018 crores have been proposed by the 100 cities, to be completed in 5 years of their selection. 45% of this funding comes from centre and state governments, 21% each from convergence and PPP, 5% from debt and loans, 1% from cities’ own sources and rest 7% from other sources. 

At the end of April 2019 — 3,492 projects worth ₹1, 32,068 crore have been tendered, 2,745 projects worth ₹87,131 crore have been grounded, and 860 projects worth ₹14,465 crore have been completed. This is significant increase in pace of implementation—289% increase in tendered projects and 358% in implementation/completed in last about 15months!

Mission Cities have successfully expedited work on key projects which include: Integrated Command and Control Centres (ICCC) in 71 cities with operational in 16 cities; Smart Road projects in 69 cities with complete in 23; Smart Solar projects in 47 cities with complete in 15; Smart Water projects in 67 cities with complete in 23; Smart Waste Water projects in 56 cities with complete in 23 and Public Private Partnership projects in 61 cities with complete in 26 cities. 

The Mission is proving to be a game-changer in this regard.  Not only it is directly improving citizens’ life, it is also contributing to transforming the country into a digitally empowered society and a knowledge economy. It is setting a template for future development, establishing new institutions, concepts and developing institutional and professional capacity to make Indian cities cater to citizens needs in the best possible way. The Mission is building capacity of cities to think strategically about urban development.

Q2.What according to you are the top key components that comprise a smart city? How should a smart city impact the lives of citizens?

Ans: Smart cities in common parlance are understood to be cities that use appropriate technologies for improving quality of lives of their citizens. Our Smart Cities are woven around the following principles: 

Citizen at the core: Citizens and the communities are at the centre of development; 

More from Less: Being conscious of resource constraints, they have to generate more impact/outcomes from use of less resources- energy, finance and others; 

Cooperative and competitive federalism: Cities are selected through competition in two stage challenges at State and Central levels; 

Integration, innovation, sustainability: It is not merely about the use of technology, but creation of integrated infrastructure and services. 

Technology is means, and not the goal: Careful selection of technologies, relevant to the context of particular cities, built around specific needs of their communities is important for the cities to work out solutions; 

Inclusiveness is a guiding philosophy: Cities are for the people and hence they have to be built around the principles of inclusiveness. Broadly, Smart Cities address three core issues: Liveability, Economic-ability and Sustainability. 

The notion of ‘integrated development’ which means all round development of cities based on their particular requirements and aspirations is also integral to the concept of Smart Cities. The vision is that cities use apt technologies for improving the quality of lives of their citizens, and creating a robust environment for sustained economic growth and innovation. 

Smart Governance, improved urban finance, capacity building and technology driven innovation are key enablers in performance of the smart cities. The objective of ‘Smart Cities’ is to promote cities that provide core infrastructure and give a decent quality of life to its citizens, a clean and sustainable environment and application of ‘Smart Solutions’. The focus is on sustainable and inclusive development and the idea is to look at compact areas, create a replicable model which will act as a lighthouse to other aspiring cities. The Smart City Mission will help set examples that can be replicated both within and outside the smart city, catalysing the creation of similar Smart Cities throughout the country.

Mission’s impacts on citizens’ lives can be grouped in four areas: Ease of Living, Smart Governance, Connected Communities, Urban Resilience. Some examples of how Smart Cities projects are making a difference is citizens’ lives are as follows: 

Ease of Living: Pune has transformed neglected urban spaces into social hubs thereby creating active neighbourhoods through Place-making projects. Public Bike sharing projects in Coimbatore, Bhopal and Pune are helping the sustainable transport agenda and also creating a greener healthier city.

Smart Governance: Intelligent Traffic Management Systems in the cities of Ahmedabad, Surat and Visakhapatnam is making travel within the city seamless and more efficient.

Connected Communities: Smart Class room projects in NDMC, Kakinada, and Jabalpur are transforming schools through smart classrooms with marked improvement in results through better learning management and regular training of teachers. Lighthouse Project in Pune is imparting essential skills to allow poor urban youth to earn their livelihood and contribute to society. B- Nest Incubation Centre in Bhopal is fostering an environment of entrepreneurship in the City, which will lead to greater innovation and employment. Several cities have taken up similar projects to kick start the engine of innovation and create a culture of co-creation within their ecosystems

Urban Resilience: Waste to Energy Plant in Jabalpur is incinerating waste and producing power for thousands of households and reducing the city’s carbon footprint. Smart Water Management in Ahmedabad is driving efficiency in the use of scarce resources through SCADA implementation saving tax-payers money and saving precious water.

During your stint as the civic chief in Pune Municipal Corporation, you have introduced Municipal Bonds. What other methods according to you can raise assured funds for city ULBs?

Pune Municipal Corporation issued bonds amounting to Rs 200 crores in June 2017.  This has led to 8 more cities using Municipal Bonds as a financial tool for ULBs, to leverage around Rs. 3400 crore. 

Cities should further, explore opportunities to generate additional revenues for funding urban infrastructure projects through Public Private Partnerships (PPP), Loans/Debt from Multi-lateral agencies, and especially by the implementation of Value Capture Financing Tools such as Land Value tax, Fee for changing land-use, Development charges, Transfer of Development Rights (TDR), Vacant Land Tax (VLX), Tax Incremental Financing (TIF), Town Planning Scheme, Betterment Levy, Impact fees, Land Pooling System etc.

Other methods to raise funds would require States and Cities to leverage the support from the Ministry to implement transformative urban reforms for enhancing their own source revenues through Property Tax, Advertisement Tax and take up initiatives for reduction of Non-Revenue Water.

In what ways is MoHUA engaging start-ups for real-time solutions?

Smart Cities Mission is in the process of creating an innovation eco-system for start-ups in Smart Cities. This stems from Mission’s recognition that start-ups can contribute significantly to Urban Development in two ways, primarily-engaging youth in creating innovative solutions for citizens and cities, and contributing to urban economy and employment opportunities.

Innovation, therefore, has become one of the key drivers in the Mission which aspires to build the right partnerships and networks, create enabling environment for engagement, and put in place a fertile breeding ground for start-ups.  

One of the proposals in that direction is SPIRIT--Smart Cities Promoting Innovation Research and Incubation in Technology. It is an initiative in collaboration with Atal Innovation Mission (AIM) and Start-up India program harnessing the strengths of the three initiatives. This will foster the creation of an eco-system for innovations in Smart Cities, enabling local area development, harnessing technology and providing a boost to the economy. 

The cities are giving special emphasis to start-ups. 26 of them across the Mission have proposed incubation centres, shared working spaces, investment facilitation cells, and organising city level workshops for promotion of start-ups. 

One such project in Bhopal Smart City Mission, the B-Nest Foundation was set up in May 2018 with an intent to providing a thriving start-up ecosystem in central India. The focus is on six key sectors of Agri-Tech, Waste Management, App-Development, Citizen Surveillance, Healthcare and IOT-based solutions. The foundation  provides state-of-the-art facilities for start-ups including 24x7 working space; funding assistance; mentorship assistance; advice on legal, financial and marketing aspects of the business; access to cloud platforms and connectivity; idea validation and business modelling guidance; maker’s space and IOT lab; industrial connects; and networking opportunities. At present, over 30 start-ups from sectors like 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 in Bhopal. 

The initiative has started producing results. ‘B-NeST’ has resulted in the funding for one of its participants, Vizzbee Robotic Solutions, worth Rs1.20 lakh crore to from a Hong Kong based accelerator program “”. 

Similarly, Pune Smart City Development Corporation (PSCDCL) has set up a subsidiary, Pune Idea Factory Foundation (PIFF), to cater to the start-up needs of the city. PIFF, a fully owned subsidiary of PSCDCL is a non-profit organization dedicated to boost the start-up ecosystem in Pune. PIFF has strengthened the ecosystem by offering stakeholder’s opportunities and creating a strong pool of entrepreneurs supported by mentors, incubators and accelerator while connecting them to investors and other sources of funding.   72 start-ups got funded between 2014-2016, with a total amount of $435 Mn. PIFF raised over $250 million in 2016, a year in which most cities were unable to raise funds—a ‘winter year’ for the start-up ecosystem.

Many Start-ups are participating in the PPP and other projects across the 100 smart cities. For example, Public Bike Sharing projects, which are being developed in more than 26 Smart cities, have given the opportunity to many start-ups to provide solutions for these projects. Several others are engaged in website creation, app development and providing smart solutions. 

Q5.Will there be an influx of more government funds into the Mission? Please elaborate.

Ans: The vision of the mission has been to implement initiatives that bring about transformation at scale and speed that enhance the quality of people’s lives and contribute to sustainability. The budgetary allocation for the mission was done at the time of the inception of the project. It is unlikely to change. 

It is also important to bear in mind that the Mission progress is NOT hampered by a lack of funds in any way. There is sufficient provision of funds for the work planned so far. At any rate, the Mission aims to empower cities enough so they are not dependent .on government funding. Its success can be seen in the fact, as I mentioned in an earlier answer, government funding is only 45%, the rest is raised through other means including international bilateral/multilateral organizations.

I am of the view that gradually cities will need to become more accountable for their budgets and development. They will have to raise more resources for the implementation of their plans. There is a need for greater devolution of financial powers to the cities and also for cities to look into using existing powers more efficiently. 

Q6. Please share with us some of the key initiatives that the Mission is implementing in the Indian urban ecosystem.

Ans: The Mission has launched several new initiatives that will not only ensure integrated development across various aspects of urban development but also catapult the mission to the next stage of development. Some of these key initiatives include the following:

India Smart Cities Fellowship Program: The India Smart Cities Fellowship Program is designed to provide valuable experience to the youth interested in smart cities specifically, and urban renewal sector in general and will bring in new ideas, passion, and energy to the challenging but exciting work of implementing cutting edge, high-impact solutions to key urban problems. This program will cultivate young leaders, strengthen their understanding of the Indian urban sector and prepare them for greater leadership roles in future. MoHUA has engaged 35 young graduates/postgraduates and PhDs in the fields of Urban Planning, Urban Design, Engineering, Information and Technology, Urban Mobility, Finance, Social Sector, and Environmental issues as Smart Cities Fellows. For a period of 1 to 3 years, they will provide the necessary support to the Mission in terms of analytics, research, documentation, independent assessment, visualization or any other related activities including preparation of reports, etc.

Smart Cities Digital Payment Awards-2018:  The Smart Cities Digital Payments Awards (SCDPA) 2018 ‘100 days Challenge in 100 Smart Cities’ was launched on 9th July 2018 as part of the initiatives of MoHUA to promote ease of living for India’s urban residents. The objective of these awards was to guide, motivate, recognize and reward the Smart Cities for promoting digital payments and carrying out innovative payment initiatives in their respective cities. The SCDPA awards were given away during the 2nd Apex Conference of Smart City CEOs on 26 February 2019.

City Investments to Innovate, Integrate and Sustain (CITIIS) Challenge: City Investments to Innovate, Integrate and Sustain (CITIIS) was launched on 9th July, 2018 by the Smart Cities Mission, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs in partnership with AFD, EU and NIUA. The program, the total size of which was 100 Million Euros, was open to all the 100 smart cities During the Challenge process for the selection of projects under CITIIS, 36 Smart cities submitted a total of 67 proposals belonging to various themes. Of these, 27 were shortlisted in the first round by a distinguished jury comprising of nine experts from India and France. Another round of evaluation was done to select the final project awardees. The CITIIS awards were given away during the 2nd Apex Conference of Smart City CEOs on 26 February 2019.

Ease of Living Index 2019 and Municipal Performance Index 2019:- The first framework on ‘Ease of Living’ Index for cities was launched in June 2017 with the objective of framing an index to enable a shift to data driven approach in urban planning and management and promote healthy competition among cities. As a part of improving the index, a new edition The Ease of Living Index 2019, more focussed on outcomes and aims to assess the ease of living of citizens across three pillars has been launched. These pillars are: Quality of Life, Economic Ability and Sustainability which are further divided into 14 categories across 50 indicators. The Municipal Performance Index, 2019 is a first of its kind initiative by the Ministry which seeks to examine the sectoral performance of Municipalities across a set of 5 verticals namely Service, Finance, Planning, Technology, and Governance. The EoL 2019 focuses on outcome indicators, accompanied by MPI 2019 which would assess the performance of cities based on enablers. 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.

DataSmart Cities Strategy, Assessment Framework and Open Data, India Urban Data Exchange (IUDX) Portals: The need for the City governments to take ‘digital leadership’ has become more pronounced than ever before. The mission has launched a suite of measures to make cities ‘Data Smart’ to realize the full potential of technology interventions and innovation ecosystems in cities. 

To catalyse the adoption of data-centric governance, Smart Cities Mission has conceptualized ‘DataSmart Cities’-Strategy to leverage the potential of data to address complex urban challenges in 100 Mission Cities. In the path towards the creation of a culture of Data in cities, the Data Maturity Assessment Framework (DMAF) has been framed. The intent of DMAF is to provide a comprehensive set of indicators to assess each city’s readiness towards using data for effective governance. 

IUDX is an open source software platform that will facilitate secure, authenticated and managed exchange of data amongst various data platforms, 3rd party authenticated and authorised applications and other sources, data producers and consumers, both within a city to begin with and scaled up across cities eventually at a national level, in a uniform & seamless way. Built-in accounting mechanisms will enable it to connect with payment gateways which will form the foundation for a data marketplace. The whole platform will be developer friendly, via definitions of open APIs and data schema templates (formats for interpreting data), so that a whole new application ecosystem gets created.

India Urban Observatory: A state-of-the-art India Urban Observatory has become operational in the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs. As cities begin to implement ‘smart’ solutions, data is becoming a significant asset and an enabler for data-driven governance, leading to urban transformation. The Observatory will plug into various sources of data from cities both from real-time and archival sources for generating insights through analytics for cities, academia, industry, and governments. This will greatly contribute to evidence-based decision making and policy making.

National Urban Innovation Stack (NUIS) Blue Book NUIS aims to catalyse transformative collaboration in the urban ecosystem through establishing a shared digital public good. NUIS will strengthen the capacity of the urban ecosystem to solve complex programs quickly and scale by unlocking the power of urban data, build capacity among all actors of the quadruple helix, driving discoverability and collaboration between urban stakeholders, and enabling responsive and data-driven governance.

National Urban Innovation Hub (NUIH): To drive the new urban transformation agenda of the Government of India through innovation and delivery, there is a growing need to nurture a well-knit ecosystem of urban innovation- to encourage innovation in technology, governance, financing, and citizen engagement. It is envisaged that NUIH with necessary physical and digital infrastructure will anchor the innovation efforts of the government and build necessary capacity for urban transformation. The vision of NUIH is to stimulate and steer the transition to providing improved quality of life in urban India through systemic innovation and comprehensive capacity building. The mission is to strengthen the capacity of the urban ecosystem to identify and solve problems at scale and with speed. NUIH will be the apex national level institution that will drive the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUAs) whole-of -system innovation through a Hub-and-Spoke network across states and UTs and will be the GoI’s preferred institution for delivering the capacity building and governance reforms in urban sector. It is envisaged that the existing National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA) will be restructured and converted into a Sec 8 Company under the Companies Act, 2013 and will be reorganised as NUIH. This will present an opportunity to leverage the existing strengths of NIUA and build on an institution in which GoI has invested considered resources.

Capacity Building Frameworks on the National Urban Learning Platform (NULP): The National Urban Learning Platform is an answer to that need. It’s a content-neutral, scalable and multi-channel platform that can be used for producing and delivering capacity through a 360 degree approach.

ClimateSmart Cities Assessment Framework 2019: The Framework is a first-of-its-kind public assessment framework on climate-relevant parameters, including those of the recently launched National Clean Air Programme. The objective is to provide a clear roadmap for the cities and urban India as a whole, towards combating Climate Change. The ClimateSMART Cities assessment framework consists of 30 diverse indicators across five categories namely; (i) Energy and Green Building, (ii) Urban Planning, Green Cover and Biodiversity, (iii) Mobility and Air Quality, (iv) Water Resource Management and (v) Waste Management. It attempts to address both the mitigation and adaptation sides and evolves the weight of the sectors across both the above in the Indian urban context.

Consultation Paper on City GDP Measurement Framework: Measuring city GDP enables cities to do better socio-economic and infrastructural planning. However, there is no standardised methodology for estimating city level GDP. To develop a framework to estimate city level GDP for Indian cities, a consultation paper on a framework for city GDP has been brought out by the Ministry for city GDP estimation.