Smart City Development: In Slow Lane

There is some progress in some cities slated to be upgraded to the 'Smart City' status. But much more is required.

Launched in 2015 with much fanfare, the Smart Cities Mission or Smart City Mission is an urban renewal programme of the Mod-Government. It includes upgrading the infrastructure of 100 cities across the country. The implementation agency is the Union ministry of Urban Development in collaboration with the state governments. Today, the mission is to shift towards brownfield development and ‘making existing cities smart’. As part of city-based initiatives, cities have planned initiatives at two levels: area based development (ABD) and pan-city development.

Take for example the ongoing work at Karnal Smart City. US-headquartered infrastructure consultancy firm Louis Berger in a consortium led by KPMG is the project consultant for implementation of the Smart City Projects for Karnal Smart City. "One of the objectives of the Smart City Mission is ‘place-making’ - to create spaces in the Public realm that are accessible, walkable and recreational," says Atreyee M. Aggarwal, Head, Urban Development & Design, Louis Berger. The India arm of Louis Berger is currently involved with two Smart City projects —Karnal and Mangalore. It is also working on the Solapur Smart City, where it is working on the Detailed Project Report or DPRs on the water and waste water networks in the city. 

The Karnal Smart City project aims to decongest the city core, create public open spaces, beautify the existing streetscapes and enhance pedestrian facilities and comfort. "The projects undertaken immediately include the redevelopment of the Old Sabzi Mandi Area as a recreational area with food court, multipurpose hall, open air theatre, etc., the redevelopment of the Old MCK building as a commercial market complex and the development of the Mughal Canal area as a recreational cum street market place," says Aggarwal. "In addition, we are also working on the enhancement of the streetscapes at various junctions," she adds.

In Mangalore Smart City project, which is an old port city where open public spaces is a rarity in the Central Business District and the historic core, one of the main objectives for Louis Berger is to decongest the city centre and improve the pedestrian experience. Experts say Mangalore is a city with unexploited tourism potential. "We have been given an ambitious project of opening the waterfront to the people of Mangalore. With our experts we are looking at rezoning, re-densification, creation of waterfront promenades, boardwalks, bringing in hospitality and the food sector on a PPP basis, and adaptive reuse of the heritage structures strewn along the waterfront," says Aggarwal.

The infrastructure consultants are also working towards the development of the bus stand area in Mangalore. The plan is to decongest the city by moving the intercity buses to the outskirts and creating a public recreational facility with restaurants, interpretation and interactive zones for children, gaming areas, open air seating, play area, etc. – developing a gateway to the sea front. The company is designing the connecting roads into walkable streets, by defining the pedestrian corridors, furniture zones, colors and features such as street furniture, pavers, street lighting fixtures, etc.

How does it work?

Broadly within the Smart City mission the Area Based Development or ADB involves retrofitting of existing structures by upgrading the supporting infrastructure. It also involves redevelopment. Which simply means replacement of existing built environment with new layout and enhanced infrastructure using mixed land use and increased density. Then there is the third aspect of ABD. This is the Greenfield development of vacant area using innovative planning, financing and implementation.

The Pan-City initiative involved roll out of smart solutions that are applied covering the entire city. Under this the cities will see roll out of E-Governance and citizen services like electronic service delivery, online grievance redressal, video monitoring of the city in order to reduce crime etc. It also includes roll out of smart water, waste and energy management. Recycling and reduction of carbon footprint is also a key aspect of modern smart city. Host of smart activities will be an integral part of any Smart City. These includes smart meters for water, energy, parking, etc. Intelligent traffic monitoring is a must in any Smart City.

Incidentally, there are no single definition of a Smart City. But what every Smart City must include is pretty clear. These include creation of core infrastructure, providing decent quality of life - which means clean air and water. Sustainability plays a key role in every smart city. And last but not the least, there should be smart solutions to all civic issues.

Says Kshitish Nadgauda, Senior Vice President and Managing Director for Asia: "Smart cities require intelligent and innovative solutions to improve safety, enhance mobility and better address increasing population needs. He further added, “As India continues to develop its smart cities initiative, Louis Berger aims to position itself as a leading company integrating smart, sustainable solutions for modern cities."

Core Infrastructure

Every Smart City must have an adequate supply of water, electricity, sanitation solutions. Efficient public mobility and public transport, affordable housing, robust IT connectivity and digitization of public records, land deeds, architecture plans etc. is a must. Safety, security, better healthcare facilities and modern education is also a must-have for any Smart City, says experts.

Louis Berger is also working on the Smart Industrial Port City (SIPC) for Kandla Port for the Deendayal Port Trust. It is a smart infrastructure development for which the company is undertaking the complete master planning and detailed engineering for all the infrastructure. Like Louis Berger, there are a number of private infrastructure developers and consultants that are involved in redefining the Smart City projects across the country. Post elections, these projects are expected to get moving at even faster pace so as to meet the deadline of 2022 set by the Modi Government. A change of guard at the Centre may redefine the very project and the connected deadlines. Watch this space for updates.