Smart cities in India and issues

By | November 24, 2015
  • NDA government at the center has launched an ambitious project of building 100 smart cities in India to meet it burgeoning urban migration, one of the fastest in the world.
  • The government has short listed 98 cities for the ambitious program and UP has got the maximum share of 13 cities followed by Tamilnadu
  • Ministry of Urban Development would be the apex ministry to execute the project and would be imposing fines on the states for delaying the projects.
  • It should be considered that Cities are a process and not a product”

smart cities

Definition of smart city:
  • Although there has been no specific definition regarding smart cities, they can be viewed from different perspectives.
  • From the government point of view, a smart city would be one with a self sustaining model, having an effective law and order situation, efficient administration and a good source of tax collection
  • From a citizen’s point of view, a smart city is one which has all the basic amenities to him/her to prosper, effective administration, clean and green surroundings and high quality of life
  • For an environmentalist, smart city is built on sustainable model, is sufficiently green, has rainwater harvesting techniques and is environmentally compatible
Facts and Figures:
  • There are nearly 7935 towns and cities in India
  • Cities cater to 2/3rds of the total GDP of India
  • Slum dwellers account for nearly 6.5 crore population in urban areas
  • There will be at least 1 smart city in every state, which would act as a growth pole for the entire state and lead to its development
Historical Perspective:
  • Cities have always been centres of economic prosperity from ancient times
  • They have been seats of power, trade, culture and centres of production
  • Indus Valley civilisation was an urban civilisation
    • Modern day urban planners can derive inspiration from Indus valley’s urban planning
    • Structure of houses. Toilets and kitchens were in same house but at two diagonally opposite corners
    • Roads cut at 90 degrees
    • Covered drainage in the city
    • Doors of houses never opened on main roads
    • Citadel and commoners’ houses were divided. Hence it represents that CBD of a city must be different from residential places
  • Historical urban centres of India include Patliputra, Ujjain, Mathura, Vaishali, Kaushambi etc
Facilities to be provided in smart cities as underlined by the government:
  • Maximum commute time should be 30 minutes in medium sized cities and 45 minutes in metros.
  • Water availability should be 130 liters per capita per day.
  • 95% homes should have shops, parks, primary schools and recreational areas within 400 meters.
Benchmarks would be slightly different for medium sized and metropolitan cities, brown field as well as green field cities.
Focus areas:
  1. Urban transportation: For a sustainable city, public transport has to be the main artery. With metro systems viable only in large cities, integrated bus systems should be primary. Only 30 out of 90 major Indian cities have a public bus system in place.
    • Modern technologies, operational profitability, adequate resource allocation and passenger comfort should be integrated in the overall system.
    • A city level Unified Metropolitan Transport Authority must be set up by legislation to facilitate coordinated planning and implementation of transportation projects.
    • Facilities like real time bus tracking, vehicle location, collection of online fares, should be put in place
    • Facilities for emergency services like ambulances, fire brigades, police vans should be made so that traffic bottlenecks don’t hinder their movements.
  2. Better e-governance: Penetration of Internet is fundamental to build smart cities being governed electronically and efficiently.
    • Wireless hotspots, wifi networks and fibre optic internet delivery at home remains fundamental
    • Complaint registrations, bill payments, crime reporting, public services should all made available through the Internet.
    • Health facilities like ambulances and fire extinguishing facilities should be put in place and easily & timely accessible
    • Real time informations regarding public transport systems needs to be put in place.
    • India ranks 118 out of 193 countries worldwide on e-governance development index as per UN e-governance Survey 2014
  3. Infrastructure:
    • Building quality roads and railway links and ports in littoral cities for transportation
    • Providing modern government buildings with all amenities
  4. Housing for all:
    • Bringing in smart technologies to make housing more affordable
    • Housing in India had been more site specific phenomenon. It needs to be shifted to factories to make it more efficient and economical
    • These pre fabricated modules would provide easy employment for labourers rather than going to different sites. It would also reduce pollution levels in urban areas due to construction related activities
    • These buildings are more cost efficient
  5. Land Titling: Providing affordable housing remains a challenge.
    • Providing the builders relief from red tapism, which stalls urban projects for 2-3 years for the processes of obtaining approvals.
    • Formal and digitized recognition of property rights
    • Incentives should be extended to the urban projects providing affordable housing. Incentives such as tax exemptions, cheaper land grants, direct subsidies can be provided to such projects.
    • Increasing the population density of urban areas through innovative methods
  6. Energy availability: 24 hour energy availability is the need to build smart cities. However, the current energy shortages in the country and no imminent solutions, the problem is to aggravate further.
    • Green cities must be planned which are self sufficient in energy by using green and renewable energy sources. Solar and wind energies need to be efficiently tapped.
    • Fossil fuel use must be discouraged and green house emissions must be curtailed to improve air qualities.
    • Concept of net metering
    • Decentralisation in production of energy. Eg: By installing solar rooftops
    • Smart e grids to be setup to avoid power losses and thefts.
  7. Good health and educational facilities:
    • Provisioning of good quality government schools and hospitals
    • Presence of community dispensaries
    • Capacity buildup against different epidemics
    • Regular cleanliness drives under Swachh Bharat
    • Building of community toilets
  8. Providing effective, efficient and reliable irrigation facilities: The government plans to evolve and effective PPP model to rope in private sector for developing urban irrigation systems, especially in 109 smart cities and 500 cities shortlisted under AMRUT
    • Provisioning rain water harvesting
    • Leaving fallow spaces, which may act as regions for ground water recharges
  9. Tackling the environmental issues and pollution levels:
    • Development of green parks and forest belts in cities which may act as lungs for the city
    • Using stringent methods to control vehicular emissions
  10. Managing the urban waste:
    • Setting up of waste to energy plants
    • Treating the waste water and recycling and reusing it
    • Waste to compost to be introduced
  11. Tackling disasters and their management:
    • Having a geological survey of the area
    • Listing of the disasters to which the city is prone
    • Preparation of contingency plans
    • Sensitising the families living in the region
    • Ways to tackle disasters and maintenance of contingency funds
    • Infrastructure to be built in the city must be immune to disasters
  12. Encouraging regional involvements, planning and regional architectural designs, rather than outsourcing them to foreign firms. Only regionally designed places tend to sustain over longer periods
Problems and their solutions:
  1. Administrative problems:
    • India’s municipal corporations are not designed in a way to handle projects related to smart cities
    • Excessive bureaucratic hurdles would have to be removed
    • A new framework will have to be created which involves effective devolution of powers and funds to the municipalities for an effective bottoms up approach
    • Municipalities should be given powers to raise their own funds to make them self sustaining
  2. Financing:
    • Smart cities would require huge amounts of investments and there is dire shortage of funds in India
    • Not only on building, but maintaining such civic amenities would be ambitious, given the present condition of cities
    • Private sector will have to be involved in a large way
    • Foreign companies and investment firms should be attracted to share funds and expertise in developing cities
    • Serivces provided to the citizens by the government should be charged nominally
Why do we need smart cities?
  • They are harbingers of economic progress and social change
  • They act as significant growth poles with both centripetal and centrifugal influences
  • Cities would emerge as centres of consumption, acting as growth drivers
How will the government execute the project?
  • Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) companies would be formed for all 100 smart cities, headed by 1 full time CEO with nominees of the central, state and local governments
  • SPV will be a limited company registered under Companies Act’ 2013
  • A Smart City Advisory Forum would be established at the city level to advise and enable collaboration among various stakeholders. This advisory forum would include the DC, MP, MLA, CEO of SPV and Mayor, local youth, technical experts and citizens
  • A large number of consulting firms and handholding agencies would be engaged in different stages of smart city development
  • Indian administration had a reactive approach to every adversity. The approach needs to change to proactive one and problems need to be forecasted and solved before hitting the people
  • Transparent and efficient governance needs to be ensured
  • Vertical and horizontal integration in governance is the key to manage cities
  • New knowledge and skills need to be incorporated to keep the cities modern and aligned with the changing world. Administrators must have a continuous skill development and knowledge enhancement activities.
  • Citizens should be encouraged to participate in city’s developmental and maintenance process. This would develop a feeling of ownership among them.
  • The diversity of the place and city must be kept in mind while designing and planning the city. A One Size Fits All approach cannot prove successful for all the cities
  • Sustainable development and sustainable goals should be the ultimate goal of developing smart cities

2 thoughts on “Smart cities in India and issues

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