Smart Cities Mission: A Step Towards Better India

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Cities hold nearly 31% of India’s existing population and generate 63 percent of the country’s GDP (Census 2011). By 2030, urban areas are projected to house 40% of India’s population and contribute 75% of the country’s GDP. This necessitates the development of a comprehensive physical, administrative, social, and economic infrastructure. All of these factors play a role in improving the quality of life and attracting people and investment, setting in motion a virtuous cycle of development and growth. Smart City development is a step in that direction. The Smart Cities Mission is an ambitious and modern initiative by the Indian government to accelerate economic growth and enhance people’s quality of life by enabling local development and leveraging technology to produce smart outcomes for citizens.

What is a smart city?

Smart cities concentrate on their most urgent issues and resources to change people’s lives. The cities use a variety of strategies such as digital and information technology, best practices in community planning, public-private partnerships, and policy reforms. The initiative always prioritizes people.

The Smart Cities Mission aims to encourage cities to provide key infrastructure and a decent quality of life to their residents. The cities should also strive for a safe and sustainable environment through the use of “Smart” solutions. The emphasis is on sustainable and inclusive growth to create a replicable model that will serve as a beacon for other aspiring cities. The Smart Cities Mission seeks to set examples that can be repeated both inside and outside of the Smart City, thus catalyzing the development of similar Smart Cities across the region.

How it started?

PM Modi unveiled the ‘100 Smart Cities Mission’ in 2015, shortly after taking office in his first term. By encouraging local development and harnessing technology, the Mission pursues economic growth and quality of life.

In India, the basic concept of a smart city translates into a city dwellers’ wishlist in terms of infrastructure, utilities, and other facilities “that describes his or her level of ambition.”

SMART CITIES MISSION STRATEGY

It is a transformative initiative under the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs of the Government of India that aims to boost economic growth and improve people’s quality of life by facilitating local development and using technology to produce smart outcomes for citizens.

Goal: To promote cities that provide key infrastructure and provide a decent quality of life for their residents, as well as a safe and sustainable environment and Smart Solutions implementation.

Focus: Build a replicable model that will serve as a lighthouse for other aspiring cities, with a focus on sustainable and equitable growth and a focus on compact areas.

A smart city’s key infrastructure elements also include:

  • Ample water supply
  • A constant supply of electricity
  • Sanitation, which includes solid waste management, is important
  • Urban mobility and public transportation that is efficient
  • Affordable housing, particularly for the poor, is a priority
  • IT connectivity and digitalization that is solid
  • Good governance, especially e-government and citizen engagement, is essential.
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Citizens’ safety and security, especially that of women, children, and the elderly
  • Education and health

The Smart Cities Mission’s Coverage and Duration

The Mission will cover 100 cities over the course of five years (FY 2015-16 to FY 2019- 20). The Mission can be continued after an assessment by the Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD) is completed, with the learnings incorporated into the Mission.

Smart Cities Mission Strategy

In the Smart Cities Mission, the strategic components of area-based growth are:

  • Improvements to the city (retrofitting)
  • Renewal (redevelopment) and 
  • expansion of the city (Greenfield development)
  • In addition, there are pan-city projects in which Smart Solutions are implemented across a wider area of the city

Why in News?

As part of the Smart Cities Mission, municipalities have begun to use their Integrated Command and Control Centres (ICCCs) as war rooms for Covid-19 response.

The ICCCs of 45 of the 100 municipalities participating in the Smart Cities Mission are online or operational.The Mission’s ICCCs are tasked with coordinating traffic control, monitoring, services, and grievance redress.They’re now being used to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

  • The ICCCs are introducing policies such as CCTV monitoring of public places such as Covid-19 war rooms
  • Covid-positive cases are mapped using GIS
  • Healthcare staff are being tracked using GPS technology
  • For virus containment across various zones of the city, predictive analytics (heat maps) are used
  • Doctors and healthcare professionals are receiving virtual training
  • Ambulances and disinfection facilities can be tracked in real time
  • Using video conferencing, tele counselling, and telemedicine to provide medical services

Why Do We Need Smart Cities?

India has the world’s second-largest population. According to the May 2020 update of the Unique Identification Aadhaar India, the country’s population will reach 1.39 billion in 2021. And, in the coming years, the urban population will grow, putting a greater strain on our country’s GDP. However, these cities face significant challenges in waste management, sustainability, water pollution, air pollution, traffic congestion, and other concerns such as crime. These issues need smarter solutions, which is why India’s government launched the “smart city project” to make our cities more sustainable and resilient to future generations’ needs.

Its goal is to promote cities that provide key infrastructure and a decent quality of life for people, as well as a safe and sustainable environment and solutions to city problems such as 24 hour power, clean drinking water, improved public transportation, and the use of mobile technology such as GPS.

Some smart city examples from around the world include Barcelona, which promoted solar energy to increase sustainability, Curitiba, which increased recycling through citizen rewards, and Boston, which installed a gunshot sensor to detect the location of a gunshot site, allowing for faster security responses, among many others.

Smart Cities and FY2021

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman gave the smart city mission the same sum as the previous year – INR 6,450 crore – in FY2021. The topics of cleanliness, mobility, and shelter could be grouped together as urban-centric concerns outlined by the finance minister in her budget address. The flow of funds for urban development could significantly increase in the near future. The scheme would improve core industries, boost economic growth, provide job opportunities for the youth, and make it easier for city dwellers to move around.

According to data from the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, 1,638 smart city projects have been completed out of a total of 5,151. So, post-Covid, the government has a huge opportunity to make a significant difference in people’s lives in this country. In terms of government spending, development projects worth INR 26,700 crore have been completed so far out of a total investment of INR 2,05,018 crore.

Smart city plans require successful and efficient preparation and implementation to have a long-term positive impact, so there is a need to increase investments in them as well as develop sustainability models for them.

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