India is rapidly urbanizing and the urban population in 2031 is expected to increase to 600 million, which will be crucial to the country’s economic growth and they will require massive restructuring to support the future population. Smart cities propose a solution to mitigate the problem of urbanization. They integrate Information and Communication Technology (ICT), energy efficiency and sustainability to support future generations.
In order to implement an extensive undertaking such as a ‘Smart City’ 5 crucial elements are necessary: Power, Infrastructure, Funds, Technology and Social Capital. Smart Cities require clean and continuous supply of power and for this there is a need to develop alternative energy sources to make the cities financially and ecologically viable. Both physical and social infrastructure developments will be crucial. In addition to this up gradation and maintenance of the existing infrastructure is necessary. Developing innovative and viable mechanisms to secure funds for developing smart cities is essential. Strategies to engage multiple stakeholders will be necessary. Finally smart cities require technology advancements that can support the overall objective of the initiative. Promoting innovations in technology and providing skilled human capital that can create, engage and sustain the future cities will be an integral element.
The report further states that irrespective of the categorization, all smart cities integrate ICT into different components. These components include, Energy, Transportation, Smart Buildings, Governance, and Social Infrastructure. However the scope and extent of this integration and application may greatly vary between cities.
Sanjay Dutt, Executive Managing Director, South Asia, Cushman & Wakefield, said “The government plans to develop 100 smart cities over the next 20 years which will require the government to look at New cities, satellite towns near megacities, up gradation of mid-sized cities as well construction of settlements along industrial corridors will be undertaken, as part of this initiative.”
Smart cities depend on non-renewable resources for generating power, promote mixed use developments to encourage walkability and reduce wastage of resources. Efficient energy management though smart grids and smart metering are an important feature. These cities provide seamless integrated public transportation that allows efficient and swift mobility across the city. Smart cities will consist of energy efficient buildings that reduce the overall carbon footprint. Every citizen will have access to quality social and physical infrastructure. In addition to this, reformed governance structure with accountable and empowered urban local bodies will support effective implementation and future sustenance of the cities.
Sanjay further added, “While there is a need to address these challenges, there is political will and commitment of the central government to bring in large scale reforms. Additionally, the government has the opportunity to utilize the existing skilled human capital that can aid in the future development of ICT integration. A smart city requires the engagement of its empowered citizens to achieve its overall objective of building a sustainable and thriving city; steps to empower the citizen and solicit their complete support are vital.”
India is currently lagging behind on sustainability of its urban areas, due to overcrowding and congestion, inadequate infrastructure, and several other factors that result in poor living conditions. There is a need to address some of the critical issues before retrofitting or building new smart cities. Poor governance structures that result in limited financial autonomy of the urban local bodies are a serious hindrance in developing smart cities. There is jurisdictional overlap within government agencies and a dire need for a shift towards decentralized planning. A unified vision across different government bodies is essential for a swift implementation. Smart cities also need to address the issue of complex social structure in order to design equitable cities that provide accessibility to basic necessities for all its citizens.