AIR spotlight summary on “Launch of New Smart Cities”
- In the future decade in the Asia-Pacific region, more than half of the continent’s 4.3 billion population is expected to live in cities by 2018. The regions rapid urban growth is set to take place in India. McKinsey Global Institute has estimated that India’s urban population will rise from 340 million in 2008 to 590 million by 2030. This is the unprecedented rate of urbanisation compared to other countries.
Need for Smart Cities
- Existing cities are struggling with overcrowding, extreme poverty, lack of basic amenities like water, housing and electricity. Other issues include water pollution, piles of untreated waste and some of the worst air quality levels in the world. We have seen Delhi reeling under vector borne diseases which are because of over population and lack of infrastructure. Cities such as Mumbai and Chennai are frequently affected by catastrophic floods because of urbanisation and improper city planning.
- Keeping these issues in mind Government of India announced Smart Cities Mission in July 2015. The urban development ministry has come up with new list of Smart Cities.
Progress in Smart Cities Mission
- The first phase included 20 cities. There after there was a need felt across the country and consequently 13 cities were shortlisted. As per the mission guidelines these cities were required to formulate as Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) headed by a CEO. Most of the cities have constituted the SPV and appointed the CEO.
- Smart City is an open ended term. As per the mission guidelines the whole objective is to improve/upgrade the quality of life of the citizens. Each chosen city has been given a consultant who engages with citizens and come out with specific solutions the city is looking for.
Aims and objectives of Smart Cities Mission
- Smart city Mission aims to create some portion of the cities to be smart, user friendly, and the model can be replicated in the other part of the city and country as well. Key focus is on Sustainability and Inclusivity.
- The funding varies depending on the solution sought by the respective citizens. There is a provision of Municipal bonds, pooled financing and funding from multilateral and bilateral financing bodies.
- The important component of the mission is to utilise the existing funds of Government of India schemes and state government schemes. The funds from Make in India, Skill India, Digital India and Swachh Bharat will be utilised.
- The challenge is that the state government and Urban Local Bodies must also match the centre’s contribution.
- India being the federal country and many of the state governments and local bodies do not have a good financial position.
- For this the biggest motivation in India is the occurrence of Crisis or Disasters where the cities need to plan and build necessary infrastructure.
- Citizens have also realised and it’s time for the city administration to charge the property tax and other taxes from the citizens and also ensure that the quality of service the citizens get in return is at par.
- There is a provision that State Government and ULBs will have to agree for the Mission guidelines
- The smart city list has started to expand because states have gone ahead and have announced their own cities like in Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra. The state governments are taking the best features of the Smart Cities Mission and try to adopt it in the local circumstances and improve the quality of life in cities.
- The selection framework of Government of India was very objective which includes expert from the government and its agencies like National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA) and other global experts.
- The only sector in the mission which might see an impetus would be Affordable Housing. Government has long term vision of investing in Infrastructure which will be running simultaneous to the Smart Cities Mission.
- Key towards success or failure will depend on:
- Procurement guidelines that come under Smart Cities Mission.
- Spatial planning and land use: Whether expanding geographic size of the city or vertical expansion
- Governance rules: In Indian cities the role of Mayor is ceremonial in nature. We need to decide whether the role of city administration is only to provide services or to govern cities like in western countries in New York and London.
- The Landmark provision in the Smart Cities Mission is that the citizens are empowered in true sense. Each and every project under the Mission will be determined by the citizens and the implementation will be governed by them.
The Mission has got the international attention where USA was the first country to adopt Allahabad, Ajmer and Visakhapatnam. Subsequently UK, Germany, France and many other countries through their Diplomatic mission have conveyed their willingness to come forward.