It takes more than a smart idea

Radheshyam Jadhav | Updated on January 27, 2019 Published on January 27, 2019

When the Indian government launched its ambitious Smart City Mission in 2016, it made it very clear that it wasn’t about to borrow ideas from other smart city models around the world. Experts agree that India’s problems are unique, but they also say the basics of any Smart City or livable city remain unchanged.

Efficient land use, good public transport system, effective waste management, sustainable economy, environment-friendly growth, green technology, resourceful human capital, good governance, water, sanitation, housing and health system for all citizens are some of the basic parameters that any city has to fulfil. Hardly any Indian city, including the 100 cities vying to become ‘smart’, meet these criteria.

“Even when things are going so terribly wrong, there are opportunities that must be leveraged right now to prevent the cataclysm,” says Anumita Roy Chowdhury of New Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment (CSE). “If 60 per cent of the building stock that India will have in 2030 is yet to be built, we have to get the template right now. If 60 per cent to 70 per cent of daily urban commutes are still by public transport, walking, and cycling, urban renewal policies will have to build on that strength and prevent mistake,” adds Chowdhury.

The world over, many cities are experimenting with sustainable urbanisation. With limited land and water resources Singapore is using modern technology to overcome its disadvantages. Stockholm has drafted its Vision 2040, which aims to transform it into a climate-smart city that prioritises cycling, walking and public transportation. An efficient, climate-smart transportation system is combined with greater consumption of renewable energy.

Children are guaranteed a non-toxic environment and more organic food is served at city facilities. The City Council has set up a target for emissions of no more than 2.3 tonnes of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalents) per resident by 2020. Since 1990 total emissions of greenhouse gases have fallen by almost a third and the target is to achieve the goal of a fossil-fuel free Stockholm by 2040.

Meanwhile, the Smart City project, launched with much fanfare four years ago, is behind schedule: almost two-thirds of the projects have either not started or are only at the tender-issuing stage. Projects worth ₹2,05,018 crore for 100 cities were included in the original proposals. Of this, only 1,675 projects worth ₹51,866 crore are being implemented or have been completed. That means 3,476 projects — 67 per cent of the total — are either just tendered or haven’t even reached that stage, according to Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs data presented to Lok Sabha in December 2018.

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Published on January 27, 2019
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