Written by Irfan Ahmed
A smart city can mean different things to different people from different perspectives. The general understanding and perception of the Smart City concept can vary from country to country, as well as within regions of the same country. Generally, Smart Cities use the deployment of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) to improve the services offered to its inhabitants to enhance their living standards and promote sustainable development.
The Smart Cities Mission was launched by the Government of India on 25th June 2015 . Initially launched for a period of five years, this Mission covered 100 cities across India with all states throughout the country participating in the Mission. The Mission targeted a total of 7,763 projects across the 100 cities, with an estimated outlay of Rs. 1,81,575 crores. As of 10th January 2023, 5,134 projects, with an expenditure of Rs. 94,673 crores have been completed, while 2,629 projects with an outlay of Rs. 86,902 crores are still ongoing .
Some of the Smart Solutions proposed in the policy document to be incorporated within the Smart Cities were as follows:
- Improvement in E-Governance and Citizen Services of the city municipal body through Public Information, Grievance Redressal, Electronic Service Delivery, Citizen Engagement, Crime Monitoring using Video Surveillance, etc.
- Efficient and improved Waste Management by converting waste to energy and fuel, converting waste to compost, wastewater treatment facilities, and recycling and reduction of construction and demolition waste
- Improved Water Management by using Smart Meters and Management, leakage identification and preventive maintenance and monitoring of water quality
- Improvement in Electrical Energy Management by using Smart Meters and Management, increasing the use of renewable energy sources and promotion of energy efficient and green buildings
- Improvement in Urban Mobility facilities by using Smart Parking, Intelligent Traffic Management, and integration of multi-modal transport services
- Improvement in other general facilities such as the use of tele-medicine and tele-education, setting up of Incubation/Trade Facilitation Centers and Skill Development Centers
Smart City Features
Some typical features to be incorporated within the Smart Cities, as outlined in the Mission, follow:
- Area-based developments promoting mixed land use in order to have a range of compatible activities and land uses in close proximity to make land use more efficient
- Expansion of housing opportunities for all
- Creation of walkable localities by reducing congestion, air pollution, and resource depletion, boosting of local economy and ensuring security. Improvement in road networks, not only for vehicles, but for pedestrians and non-motorized vehicles as well, and offering of essential municipal services within walking or cycling distance
- Preservation and development of open spaces such as parks and playgrounds to enhance the quality of life of the citizens and generally promote eco-balance
- Offering a variety of transport options with interconnectivity of different modes of public and private transport so as to offer last-mile para-transport connectivity
- Development of online services in administrative matters to increase transparency, reliability, and efficiency
- Identification and promotion of the main economic activity of the city to maximize economic benefits to its citizens and provide the city with a distinct identity
- Application of Smart Solutions in area-based development in order to improve them.
Area-Based Development Strategies
The Smart Cities Mission envisages area-based development using any of the following three models for the targeted area:
- Retrofitting provided for upgrading of an existing built-up area to incorporate the Smart City features within that area. The existing structures in the area remain intact, with new additions and up-gradations to be made to achieve the Smart City objectives.
- Redevelopment targets a replacement of the existing structures within the selected area with new structures incorporating the Smart City features and objectives. The Bhendi Bazaar Project in Mumbai and the East Kidwai Nagar project in New Delhi are examples of the redevelopment model undertaken through the Smart Cities Mission.
- Pan-city development to include possible Smart City features throughout the city so as to give the citizens of the entire city a feeling of being a part of the Smart Cities project.
Apart from these three models, Greenfield development is also envisaged within the Mission. Greenfield development involves selecting a previously vacant area in close proximity to the city and developing it as per the Smart Cities vision.
A Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) was created in each of the 100 cities selected under the Mission to implement, manage, and monitor the development projects in each city. The SPV is headed by a full-time CEO and has representatives of the Central Government, State Government, and the Urban Local Body (ULB) on its board.
Financing of Smart Cities
The Smart Cities Mission is a centrally sponsored scheme, with the central government allocating a fund of Rs. 48,000 crores over five years for the mission. The States and Urban Local Bodies are expected to provide an equal amount, on a matching basis. These funds are expected to cover only a part of the scheme. The balance fund is expected to be mobilized from internal and external sources, including financial intermediaries, State/ULB internal sources, other central government schemes, innovative mechanisms such as municipal bonds, user fees, etc.
Current Status of the Smart Cities Mission
Even though the cities included in the mission have not been able to achieve the targets fully as envisaged in the initial five-year plan, there have been substantial changes and improvements on the ground. The cities of Indore, Belagavi, Raipur, Tumakuru, and Ajmer lead the way in the highest number of project tenders issued; whereas New Delhi, Chennai, Indore, Surat, and Coimbatore have the highest number of projects completed among the participating cities. 100% of the allocated Central funds have been transferred to the SPV of 64 cities, with Dharamshala, Itanagar, Pasighat, Namchi, and Panaji having received the highest percentage of allocated Central funds. The highest percentage of matching State government funds were received by Faridabad, Chennai, Atal Nagar, Coimbatore, and Silvassa. The highest utilization of funds by percentage was achieved by Rajkot, Indore, Ujjain, Bhopal, and New Town Kolkata3. Overall, the progress of the Mission has been best in the states of Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, and Gujarat. Other states and Union Territories that have done well are Bhubaneswar, Delhi, Haryana, Chhattisgarh, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, and West Bengal. States and Union Territories that are lagging include Bihar, Punjab, Telangana, Jammu, Kashmir, Sikkim, and Assam.
The projects implemented across India vary in their scope and vision across different states. The levels of success have varied across different projects but it still represents a significant improvement over the city conditions that existed before the Smart Cities Mission was launched. There is now a significant and conscious effort on the part of the central and state governments, as well as the Urban Local Bodies, to inculcate smart solutions in the management of the affairs of the cities, as well as to integrate planning as cities in India continue to expand. The Smart Cities Mission has set in motion innovative developments and solutions for the cities in India; a process that is sure to reap huge benefits for the cities and its citizens with time.
- Mark Deakin & Husam Al Waer (2011) From intelligent to smart cities,Intelligent Buildings International, 3:3, 140-152, DOI: 10.1080/17508975.2011.586671
- Rumi Aijaz, “India's Smart Cities Mission, 2015-2021: A Stocktaking,” ORF Special Report No. 155, August 2021, Observer Research Foundation.
This article was edited by Sidharth Sabyasachi.