The Constro 2016 precursor lecture series kick started with Dr A. Ravindra introducing the concept of Smart Cities, itsaspects and its relevance in the Indian Context. He identified 2 significant events of 2008 and their intersection, which brought about the idea of the concept of a smart city:
1. Urbanisation: Almost 50% of the world’s population lives in Urban areas today.
2. Technology: Transition from Wired to Wireless.
India at 30% rate, is behind in terms of its rate of urbanisation as compared to China. However, India faces major challenges like Management of existing resources, inadequate infrastructure, Urban Pollution and most importantly the ‘Urban divide’ or unequal growth of the Indian cities. This is a serious concern for Indian cities in terms ofsustainability. So, are smart cities the answer to these challenges? Digital, Wired, Interconnected are words often associated with smart cities. But what do they translate into? Dr. Ravindra uses the following broad points to explainthis Western concept:
1. Urban Activity: It is real time, user centred and responsive.
2. Open data apps to inform citizens help.
So, are there any existing smart cities? Yes, one of the best examples is Barcelona, Spain which boasts its productive human scale neighbourhoods within a hyper connected, hi speed and zero emission metropolis. Another example is Singapore whose mission is creating a ‘smart nation’. India’s take as per the Ministry of Urban Development is “A smartcity will have to provide a very high quality of life comparable to any developed European city to its citizens”.
The government has broadly come up with three approaches to create these smart cities:
1. Retrofitting an area of about 500 acres in an existing city within a time frame of 3 years.
2. Redevelopment in about 50 acres of area within a time frame of 5 years.
3. Greenfield or creating a new city altogether in a minimum area of 250 acres over a period of about 10 years.
Examples of such green cities include the GIFT City in Gujarat, Kochi Smart City, the 7 proposed Smart cities alongthe Delhi, Mumbai Industrial Corridor.
Also any city which is termed a smart city needs to be aligned with the Government of India flagship programs like theSwatch Bharat Abhiyaan, Digital India campaign etc.
Firstly, the planning process needs an integrated approach towards all aspects like spatial, economic, social andenvironmental planning. In India, this very aspect of planning is flawed as we follow the Master Plan approach whereeach aspect is dealt with separately instead of as a whole. This creates problems during implementation and results ina poor output. Secondly, India still needs to work and evolve its technology and make it available to all. Thirdly, is financing. Indian government alone doesn’t have the funds for this smart city mission. Funds here largely depend on the which have both advantages and disadvantages. The main issue being the sustenance of this funding.
Lastly, and most importantly, is the city governance. There are multiple bodies that govern different aspects of ourcities. The absence of a clear leadership at city level creates confusion and chaos.
1. Co-operative Federalism: Independent powers need to be assigned to the local government.
2. Assign a Political Executive at the city level, who will be answerable to the people.
3. Have an apex planning body which also acts as a coordinating body.
4. Personnel Policy: Lack of professional manpower in the planning bodies leads to improper, incomplete planning.
5. Lastly, and most importantly, set priorities for Smart Cities.