Smart Cities – The Future Lifeline Of India

With urbanisation in India, increasing at a rapid pace almost 40% of Indians (600 million people) will be living in cities by 2030.  As a result of this sustained urban migration that will further pressure our already over-burdened cities, there is a very real and urgent need for ‘Smart Cities’ that are capable not only of creating new, sustainable resources but of managing existing resources in a sustainable, smart way. It is expected that India will need at least 100 such cities, over the next 10 years to cope with this influx. Technological development will undoubtedly be the key factor in the management of  these issues and providing a smart urban landscape.

With an eye to the future, the Prime Minister of India, launched the Smart Cities Awas Yojana Mission (CSM), in 2015. His ‘Smart City Mission’ focuses on promoting and developing ‘Smart Cities’, that provide core institutional, physical, social and economic infrastructure; improve quality of life; maintain a sustainable environment and offer smart solutions to their urban citizens. The 5-yr-plan is to develop 100 smart cities in India between 2015 – 19.

What is a ‘Smart City’?

A smart city uses digital technology to increase efficiency and provide sustainable development on all fronts. In the West, this can often be accomplished simply by augmenting existing infrastructure. However in India, where even our major metros face severe challenges posed by overcrowding, poor governance and a lack of basic infrastructure, there is urgent need for a comprehensive plan that facilitates positive changes and structured development leading to eco-friendly, technologically integrated and meticulously planned cities, with a sharp thrust on the use of information & communication technology to improve efficiency.

With these objectives in mind, 98 cities from all over India were long listed for the Smart Cities Project, including the cities of Mangaluru, Belagavi, Shivamogga, Hubbali-Dharwad and Tumakuru, in Karnataka.

Core Features of a Smart City

  • Affordable Housing for all citizens but especially for the poorer sections of society. Mixed developments of residential and commercial properties at close quarters to reduce traffic & travel times.
  • Efficient and well managed public transport system to reduce travel times and improve mobility.
  • Designated pedestrian/cyclist lanes and/or zones to reduce pollution and encourage exercise.
  • Efficient Management of Basic Infrastructure – this includes adequate, potable water supply, continuous and uninterrupted power supply, adequate sanitation and waste management, efficient pollution control.
  • Efficient management and maintenance of the infrastructure through robust IT connectivity and digitalisation.
  • Good Governance, transparency of processes and active citizen participation.
  • Eco-friendly management of available resources promoting sustainable development. Designated parks and green and open spaces to improve ecological balance and reduce air pollution.
  • Assured safety and security of all citizens, particularly, women, children and the elderly.
  • Affordable and efficient healthcare options for all citizens.
  • Affordable education.

Smart City Challenges

Long-term Planning – The creation of a Smart city is not an overnight accomplishment. It is more of a 10-20 year project that needs concentrated focus and efforts on multiple fronts. Developing the city without simultaneously developing the surrounding region would be detrimental to development in the long run. The two should be developed in sync and to complement each other’s strengths and cancel out weaknesses.

Strong Economics – Long-term viability of the city depends on the strength of its economic foundation. A clear plan with focus on economic growth and job generation is vital to the city’s economy. Only when economic drivers are strong will the citizens thrive.

Technology Upgrades – In today’s fast-paced world, any smart city is only as good as it’s technology! There must be provision for regular upgrades in technological advances so that communications and connectivity always stay current. This is the lifeline of a Smart city and any laxity in this area will seriously affect development and progress.

Infrastructure building and maintenance – Water, power, and waste management are all vital areas of any city. A Smart city must be able to adapt and change its systems and processes according to the needs of its inhabitants.

Transportation – An essential requirement of a Smart city is the presence of an efficient & easily accessible public transport system. This can often lead to a need for State and Centre to co-ordinate their efforts with regards to road building and other transportation projects. A robust transport system promotes growth and improves quality of life.

Benefits of Smart City Living

Hassle-Free Urbanisation – when India’s Smart cities are up and running, they will offer millions of people a significant improvement in their quality of life in a clean, green and sustainable environment; while also offering them the benefits of living in a well-connected, well integrated vibrant society.

Efficient Infrastructureas Smart cities use & adapt innovative technologies to meet the challenges of day-to-day management and long-term maintenance of basic infrastructure, inhabitants will experience a significant improvement in their overall quality of life. Innovation in the core areas of transport, waste management, pollution control, healthcare, education, communications and other civic services, will most certainly result in liveable, breathable spaces.

The Road Ahead

Although the Government is focused on developing Smart cities all over India, this is by no means an easy task. They may be the norm in the future, but they require large tracts of land, comprehensive urban planning, massive funding, and bureaucratic transparency in the present to become & stay viable. It is up to the Indian Government to address these stumbling blocks, improve synchronicity between policy and implementation, energising the Mission and improving its chances of success.

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