How To Make The Ambitious Dream Of Smart Cities Come True?

Smart cities dream

Many parts of India are urbanising. Villages are becoming towns and towns are becoming cities. The existing cities have their own problems. For instance, Bengaluru was not planned or designed to accommodate the population that it currently has. There is a massive pressure on its urban infrastructure services such as its roads, water supply system and solid waste management system, due to which they are not able function properly. The citizens and the public administration officials of the city have started innovating new ways and technologies to solve these problems, thus trying to become smart.

The central government came up with the plan of developing 100 smart cities across the nation in order to improve the quality of life in our cities. The Smart Cities Mission is actually a competition among fellow cities in order to become smarter. The selected city would receive 50:50 funding from the central and the state governments for becoming a smart city. The city would form a special purpose vehicle(SPV) that would plan, approve, release funds, implement, operate, manage and monitor smart city development projects. It would consist of nominees from central government, state government and urban local bodies.

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The smart city project has two parts, one area based and the other pan-city. The strategic components of Area-based development in the Smart Cities Mission are city improvement (retrofitting), city renewal (redevelopment) and city extension (greenfield development). The other one is a Pan-city initiative in which smart solutions are applied covering larger parts of the city.

According to ‘Smart cities- Ranking of European medium-sized cities’ report prepared by Vienna University of Technology, a smart city is a city well performing in a forward-looking way in six characteristics, that is smart economy, smart people, smart governance, smart mobility, smart environment and smart living built on the ‘smart’ combination of endowments and activities of self-decisive, independent and aware citizens.

Here are some key steps for a city to become smart

1. A smart city must generate enough revenue on its own rather than depending on external sources. The urban local body must efficiently levy its property tax, octroi, advertisement tax, entertainment tax, parking charges, selling and leasing property, etc.

2. Citizen participation is a very important part of smart city development. Conventionally, cities are planned and developed by Top-down approach, leading to many problems at latter stage. Instead, cities must adopt bottom-up approach in which citizens and other stakeholders are involved right from the planning process. This point of contact can be achieved through channels of social media including twitter, facebook, mygov.in or other means. Crowdsourcing can result in many new innovative ideas.

3. E-governance is the application of information and communication technology for delivering governance services. E-governance ensures that the government is transparent in its dealings, accountable for its activities and faster in its responses. ICT allows efficient storing and retrieval of data, instantaneous transmission and processing of information. It increases the reach of government. E-governance has lead to increased efficiency in collection of property tax in our cities. It has lead to transparency in procurement process through e-tendering.

4. Silo working must be avoided. Generally in a city, the roads department works independent of sewerage or water department. Ultimately, sewerage department digs road right after new roads are laid, making all the efforts useless. There must be a central coordinating system integrating all services like water, transport, sewerage, solid waste management, storm water drainage, etc which instead of silo working takes up collective work and bring solutions for the cities problems.

5. The cities within India face similar problems when compared to cities in developed countries or those in very different geographical features. The cities must develop a database consisting of details of problems they have faced and smart features that they have developed in order to tackle them. Hence they can share each others learnings and try to implement it in their own cities.

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The fund released from Smart city mission will not be able to make the entire city a smart city, but it will definitely initiate a step towards the entire city becoming smart. One city has planned to use its fund to take its electric lines and overhead cables underground. While another has decided to link its lakes to prevent flooding during heavy rains. A city will not become smart until its citizens develop a sense of ownership of its infrastructure.

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