We face a number of problems ahead in the making of a smart city. Both Navi Mumbai and Mumbai have all the credentials to become one. In India, many major cities have the best chance to become a smart city if they are able to complete the yardsticks to make one with concerted efforts. There is no clear indication of the target or the completion dates for different projects either in the report or in the illustrated project details extensively publicised in the newspapers. It is known, however, that the Smart City Project has a five-year time frame ending 2022.
The Smart City Project has many interesting features, which include parks and wastewater management systems, pedestrian plaza, smoking zone, cycle sharing system, footpath development, restoration of 56 water bodies, bicycle lanes, multi-level car parking, smart classrooms, conversion of SVL (sodium lamps) to LED (light emitting diodes) lights, parking management, pedestrianized streets and solid waste management. The investment is estimated over Rs 1,000 crores through Centre-State partnership and raising funds from other sources including international multilateral funding agencies. It is time to raise balance amount through other state agencies to make up the leeway in funds management.
The city needs a major revamping of the sewerage and stormwater drain systems besides infrastructure for the collection, treatment, recycling and disposal of solid wastes and de-congestion and pedestrianisation of the hundreds of km of city roads. It is a herculean task to cut short the potholes and craters on the highways, freeways, flyovers, and main roads. All this cannot be accomplished with available funds. Therefore, the Smart City by itself is not and cannot be about making Shanghai out of Mumbai in five years.
The smart city project would smarten the selected cities. This clarification of its scope is not to diminish the project’s importance. Many component projects confine the smartening to one sub-project segment or geographical area but serve as models for easy replication at other locations without having to re-invent the wheel.
The term smart is meant to convey that smart cities are made capable of collecting and analysing vast quantities of data to automate monitoring resource usages, improving service quality, and make real-time decisions on many aspects of the city management. The purpose of the project is served by the inclusion of an integrated command control centre that can monitor traffic signals, city surveillance and manage the smart transport system. This is indeed an important facility of immense value.
The expectation from a smart project is different for each city according to its prevailing level of civic development. The installation of information technology constitutes one part, but for most Indian cities, smartness implies the basic modernisation.
There are a lot of expectations from the Smart Cities concept coming to India. Many of the proposed smart cities in India lacks basic infrastructure and the decision to include them is defeated with the drawbacks particularly like the lack of drinking water and other amenities. With increasing urbanisation and the load on the rural land, the government has now realised the need for cities that can cope with the challenges of urban living and also be magnets for investment. The announcement of ‘100 smart cities’ falls in line with this vision.
A ‘smart city’ is an urban region that is highly advanced in terms of overall infrastructure, sustainable real estate, communications, and market viability. It is a city where information technology is the principal infrastructure and the basis for providing essential services to residents. There are many technological platforms involved, including but not limited to automated sensor networks and data centres. Though this may sound futuristic, it is now likely to become a reality as the ‘smart cities’ movement unfolds in India.
(This is the first part of the Diary and the latter part will continue tomorrow.)
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)