The Hindu for IAS Exam: Smart Cities Mission in India
The Smart Cities Mission (SCM) is a visionary mission of the government of India. Based on the SCM, questions can be asked in IAS Exam, so the IAS aspirants should have proper understating the Smart Cities Mission and how it will affect the infrastructure development in the country.
Around 81 out of the list of 90 cities under the Smart City Mission (SCM) seek funds for affordable housing, new schools and hospitals, and redesign of roads. There are a lot of aspects other than the funds required to achieve the goal of urbanisation of cities in India. It seems that the government has decided to evade such a fundamental problem by adopting a ‘managed urbanisation’ approach in the chosen cities, with the powers of municipal councils delegated to a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV), under the Companies Act, that will act in its own wisdom. Given that this is the model adopted by the two-year-old Mission, the Government must present a status report on what the SPVs have achieved so far.
The concept of smart city varies from city to city and country to country, but in case of India, the concept of smart city is that it has to provide for the aspirations and needs of the people of the country, urban planners ideally aim at developing the entire urban eco-system, which is represented by the four pillars of comprehensive development-institutional, physical, social and economic infrastructure.
Background of India’s Smart City Mission
The Smart Cities Mission (SCM) is a holistic city rejuvenation programme for 100 cities in India launched on June 25, 2015, by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The SCM initially covers five years (2015-16 to 2019-20) and may be continued thereafter based on an evaluation. Under the SCM, the core infrastructure elements in a smart city include:
- adequate water supply,
- assured electricity supply,
- sanitation, including solid waste management,
- efficient urban mobility and public transport,
- affordable housing, especially for the poor,
- robust IT connectivity and digitalization,
- good governance, especially e-Governance and citizen participation,
- sustainable environment,
- safety and security of citizens, particularly women, children and the elderly, and
- health and education.
The strategic machinery of an area-based development in the SCM are a city improvement (retrofitting), city renewal (redevelopment) and city extension (green-field development) plus a pan-city initiative in which smart solutions are applied covering large parts of the city.
Smart City Features
1. Promoting the mixed land use in the area-based developments like planning for 'unplanned areas' containing a range of compatible activities and land uses close to one another in order to make land use more efficient. The States will enable some flexibility in land use and building bylaws to adapt to change;
2. Housing and inclusiveness - expand housing opportunities for all;
3. Creating walkable localities –reduce congestion, air pollution and resource depletion, boost the local economy, promote interactions and ensure security. The road network is created or refurbished not only for vehicles and public transport, but also for pedestrians and cyclists, and necessary administrative services are offered within walking or cycling distance;
4. Preserving and developing open spaces - parks, playgrounds, and recreational spaces in order to enhance the quality of life of citizens, reduce the urban heat effects in the Areas and generally promote eco-balance;
5. Promoting a variety of transport options like Transit Oriented Development (TOD), public transport and last mile para-transport connectivity;
6. Making governance, citizen-friendly and cost effective - increasingly rely on online services to bring about accountability and transparency, especially using mobiles to reduce the cost of services and providing services without having to go to municipal offices. Forming e-groups to listen to people and obtain feedback and use online monitoring of programs and activities with the aid of a cyber tour of worksheets;
7. Giving an identity to the city - based on its main economic activity, such as local cuisine, health, education, arts and craft, culture, sports goods, furniture, hosiery, textile, dairy, etc.;
8. Applying Smart Solutions to infrastructure and services in area-based development in order to make them better. For example, making Areas less vulnerable to disasters, using fewer resources, and providing cheaper services.
Sources: Ministry of Urban Development, Government of India
Smart Initiatives under Smart Cities Mission
- For the Government, it will be very challenging to improve the quality of life in choosing cities, but it will depend on how the Central and State governments are approaching the data regarding the evolving needs of the communities in the country.
- The smart initiative will be taken to estimate the flow of vehicles and pedestrians, for instance, a sensor will estimate the flow of vehicles and pedestrians and create Smartphone applications for the public to report on a variety of parameters. There are several international examples now, such as the Array of Things sensors being installed on Chicago streets, which let people download the raw data on air quality, transport, pedestrian movement and standing water.
- Making such estimated data open would enable citizens’ groups to themselves come up with analyses to help city administrators make decisions, boost transparency and make officials accountable.
- India’s Smart Cities Mission has identified more than 20 priority areas; interventions by the respective agencies are weak.
- Access to special funding should make it mandatory for all public transport providers — city bus corporations, Metro Rail and suburban trains — to provide real-time passenger information in the form of open data, an inexpensive global standard that raises both access and efficiency through Smartphone applications.
- Making street-level waste management, data public would lead to a heat map of the worst sites, compelling managers to solve the problem.
- Clearly, there is a lot of low-hanging fruit on the road to smartness, and a nimble policy approach can tap this quickly.
- More importantly, the ideology that guides the plan should recognise that the vibrant life of cities depends on variety and enabling environments, rather than a mere technology-led vision.
- Pollution-free commons, walkability and easy mobility, with a base of reliable civic services, is the smart way to go.