The Government of India has recently allocated Rs. 48,000 crore for building 100 Smart Cities over five years. Under the project, new cities are to be built by states with central assistance of Rs. 100 crore annually during this period. The vision to set up 100 smart cities across the country was announced soon after the recent Government came into power in 2014.
The basic infrastructure requirement for such Smart Cities would have assured water and electricity supply, sanitation and solid waste management, efficient mass transit networks and public transport systems, citizen participation, and the safety and security of citizens. Use of renewable energy, green building norms, smart parking and intelligent traffic management systems would also be part of Smart urban development initiatives.
The Smart Cities Council India has been recently formed to this effect. It is part of the US-based Smart Cities Council, which is a consortium of experts with members operating in over 140 countries. With the Council in place, the next step would be the identification of the 100 cities. The initiative is currently awaiting the Government’s announcements for the main guidelines that states across the country are to follow. States will then be expected to nominate their cities for the project, following which the final cities/sites will be chosen for Smart City development, making them eligible for receiving the Central fund of Rs. 100 crore on a yearly basis for five years.
It is envisioned that each state will get at least one Smart City. To this end, a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) will be created for each city to implement the Smart City action plan. The SPV will be signed with the urban local body, state government and the Centre for implementation of the project. Going forward, the Smart City development plan could either be carried out on Greenfield locations by introducing smart solutions using innovative urban planning; or by retrofitting an existing built-up area within a municipal ward through citizen participation; or even through the redevelopment of an existing built-up area by preparing a new design plan with enhanced infrastructure inputs.
What Makes a City Smart?
A careful study of sustainable cities around the globe—from Copenhagen, Curitiba and Cape Town to San Francisco, Sydney and Singapore—would reveal the following points that are common to all:
• Smart governance at the municipal level
• Holistic urban planning approach for economic, social and environmental sustainability
• Smart policies being more effective in early development stages over investment quantum
• Citizen involvement
• Smart technology
• Integrating green initiatives with human development focus
• Addressing challenges of informal urban settlements
Although it has received a lot of attention in the last few years, the Smart City concept is still nascent in India. In recent times, several cities—such as Chennai, Hyderabad, Coimbatore, Bengaluru, Mangalore, Jamshedpur, Kanpur, Delhi and Mumbai—have begun deploying smart technologies to efficiently provide civic services. These efforts include advanced communications systems, metro rail systems, smart meters, GPRS for solid waste management, GIS to manage property tax, online water quality monitoring, and online building plan approval schemes, among others. Certain new cities—such as the Kochi Smart City, the Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT), and Lavasa—are also currently being developed as model cities through private sector participation.
Ever since the government’s announcement of its intent to build a hundred smart cities in India, the nation has been abuzz with definitions of, fund allocations for, and city identification of such development. With good reason too, since the implementation of such ambitions would ultimately result in national wealth creation—to help our cities become sustainable and livable urban centers of growth.
Effective urban planning holds the key to promoting Smart Cities in India, and making them a distinct reality. The lack of proper policies to manage planned urban development may jeopardise the nation’s physical, economic and social growth. More clarity is sought, therefore, on promoting planned development, and working with all stakeholders in a coordinated and collaborative manner for leveraging sustainable and inclusive growth of local municipal communities—and by extension, the federal states and the nation.