UPSC IAS Main Exam: GS Paper II: India’s Infrastructure needs and the Smart Cities Project

Infrastructure remains an important topic for the Civil Services Exam and this article provides the glimpse of the Smart cities project of the Government of India.

Created On: Sep 21, 2015 17:39 IST

India is one of the major emerging economies of the world. With increasing industrialization, India has witnessed a rapid urbanization.  In 1901, barely 11% of the Indians lived in cities. According to census 2011, 31% of the Indians live in urban areas and their contribution to GDP is 63%. The urban population is expected to increase rapidly, thus increasing the burden on resources in urban settlements. To counter the problems of rapid urbanization, government has launched a project to build 100 Smart Cities.

According to the mission statement of the Indian government, the objective of the Smart Cities Project is to provide cities that provide core infrastructure and give a decent quality of life to its citizens, a clean and sustainable environment and application of ‘Smart’ Solutions. The project aims at inclusive and sustainable development. The infrastructure is at the core of the project. There is no denial that without developing our infrastructure, we won’t be able to build smart cities.

The government has listed some core infrastructure needs of the smart cities:

1)    Adequate water supply
2)    Assured electricity supply
3)    Sanitation, including solid waste management
4)    Efficient urban mobility and public transport
5)    Affordable housing, especially for the poor
6)    Robust IT connectivity and digitalization
7)    Good governance, especially e-Governance and citizen participation
8)    Sustainable environment
9)    Safety and security of citizens, particularly women, children and the elderly
10)    Health and education

Strategies to Develop

The project talks about various strategies to improve infrastructure in the identified smart cities. It focuses on Area-based development in these cities which include three models, namely, Retrofitting, Redevelopment and Greenfield development.
Retrofitting is city improvement which would be implemented in an existing built-up area to improve the living conditions by providing more intensive infrastructure services.

Under Redevelopment, an existing built-up area will be replaced enabling creation of new layout with enhanced infrastructure.
Greenfield development will be introduced in new areas which were not occupied earlier. This will help in providing affordable housing by using new and innovative ideas. GIFT city is an example of Greenfield development. It will provide high quality infrastructure to attract industries from all over the world.

In addition to these three, pan city development strategy will be used to provide smart solutions to the existing urban infrastructure. It is important that each city uses its own innovative method to improve its efficiency and capabilities to provide world-class infrastructure to its people in an inclusive and sustainable manner.

The Smart cities will be developed according to the local needs and the availability of resources. It has been recognized that the same model cannot work in all the cities; so, same model should be imposed on all the cities. So, all the selected cities will have freed to choose their own Smart City Proposal (SCP). It will help in infrastructure upgradation according to the requirement of the said city.

However, some features are mandatory for all the cities to put in their SCP. These features include

(1) Assured electricity supply with atleast 10% from solar energy
(2) Treatment of waste water and its recycling and reusage of storm water
(3) Rain water harvesting
(4) Solid waste management
(5) Smart metering
(6) Digitalization and IT connectivity
(7) Encouragement to cycling and walking with pedestrian friendly pathways
(8) Intelligent traffic management
(9) Energy efficient street lightening system
(10) Visible improvement in the area

In addition to these, focus should be on green buildings, energy efficiency and affordable housing.

For better implementation of mission, Special Purpose Vehicles (SPV) will be formed. It will ensure operational independence and autonomy in decision making and mission implementations. Significant powers will be delegated to SPVs in relations to decision making and implementation of the project. SPV will have power to approve and sanction the projects, mobilize resources, execute SCP and ensure timely completion of projects. This will ensure the infrastructure development according to the local requirements and decentralization of implementing powers.

The mission will not be successful without convergence with urban development and infrastructure related schemes. Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) follows a project-based approach which can provide a great complementarity with the Smart Cities Mission which follows an area-based approach. Apart from this various other schemes such as Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM), Digital India, Housing for All, National Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana (HRIDAY), Skill development programme and other policies related to social infrastructure such as education, health, insurance and culture need to be converged with Smart Cities Mission to get better result.

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