GS-1, Uncategorized

Responding to rapid urban expansion

India’s urban population is expected to reach 600 million by 2031. However, much of this growth will not be in the core city but on its peripheries.

Major concern: ‘Urban Sprawl’ phenomenon

Population growth will not be in the core city. It will mainly be concentrated in semi urban or rural areas surrounding or adjacent to the core city – a phenomenon called ‘urban sprawl’.

  • Urban sprawl is basically another word for urbanization. It refers to the migration of a population from populated towns and cities to low density residential development over more and more rural land. The end result is the spreading of a city and its suburbs over more and more rural land (i.e. dispersed outgrowth of areas outside the city’s core, engulfing many villages around it).
  • A 2013 World Bank report, Urbanization Beyond Municipal Boundaries, found that rural areas adjacent to municipal boundaries are generating higher economic growth and employment than the city.

 

ca-picture_11th-august-16

Challenges:

However, this ‘urban sprawl’ phenomenon poses many economic, ecological and institutional challenges.

  • These areas are often characterized by the absence of basic infrastructure and services like water, sanitation, electricity, roads and transportation.
  • With changes in land use, as seen in the commercialization of agricultural land, theecosystem of the region is also threatened.
  • In the midst of such a transformation, the livelihoods of people in peri-urban areas is increasingly become precarious (insecure or unreliable).
  • Peri-urbanization areas are characterized by private developer-led growth and this only leads to the development of certain pockets like gated communities, with no attention paid to public infrastructure.

These areas are turning more dystopia rather than Utopian

Utopian” describes a society that’s conceived to be perfect. Dystopian is the exact opposite — it describes an imaginary society that is as dehumanizing and as unpleasant as possible.

For instance,

  1. The recent water-logging crisis in Gurgaon demonstrates how untrammelled development without the provision of basic urban amenities like a proper drainage system can result in anurban dystopia.
  2. In Bengaluru, the civic woes of peri-urban areas like Whitefield have arguably gotten worseafter its amalgamation with the municipal corporation in 2007.

While the area of the corporation grew by almost four times, its institutional capacity to respond to the needs of the newly added areas remains weak.

 

What should the state’s response be to such a phenomenon?

Initially, the state’s response was to discourage urbanization and contain the outgrowth of cities. While there are many benefits in keeping cities compact, urban expansion has become inevitable.

“The key question hence is not how to contain urban expansion, but how to respond to the challenges posed by it”.

  1. Proper planning:
  • Agricultural land in the urban periphery is acquired for mega-projects from farmers at very cheap rates and then transferred to various business and commercial units.
  • The landowners and cultivators are left out of the development process and are often made to relocate.

Therefore, with Indian cities growing outwards, we need a policy response that goes beyond callous neglect, hasty amalgamation and brazen land acquisition.

Instead of merely amalgamating peri-urban areas with the city or giving real estate developers a free rein over these areas, a better approach is to plan for the future by identifying areas for growth and taking steps to ensure that these areas are first provided with basic urban infrastructure and services.

  1. Apply principle of providing urban amenities first
  • In India, the Union government’s National Rurban Mission (and its earlier avatar, Provision of Urban Amenities to Rural Areas or PURA) seeks to provide high-growth rural areas with infrastructural amenities, economic activities and planned layouts similar to those available in cities.
  • While the Mission aims to develop 300 “rurban” growth clusters, the same principle of providing urban amenities first can be applied to peri-urban areas adjacent to India’s mega-cities which may not administratively come under an urban local body (ULB).
  • An interesting venture in this regard is the Urban Expansion Initiative, a project housed at New York University’s Stern Business School, which promotes a “making room approach” to urban expansion by identifying areas that are projected to urbanize and procuring land for public amenities beforehand.
  1. Good urban governance and sound institutional framework:

We need an institutional framework that adopts vibrant urban governance and planning processes to address the challenge of increasing urban expansion.

  • However, even after the passage of the 74th constitutional amendment which sought the empowerment of elected municipal governments, India’s urban governance and planning regime remains paralysed.
  • Though the amendment tasked the ULBs and the Metropolitan Planning Committee (MPC) with urban planning, various ‘development authorities’ working under the state governments continue to perform this function in most cities.
  • For responding to a phenomenon like peripheral urban growth, an institutional framework that provides for a metropolitan-level planning and governance mechanism is essential.
  • But to ensure that these processes do not get overly centralized, it needs to be supplemented by appropriate mechanisms at the city and neighbourhood level.

Hence, each level of urban governance—ward, zone, city and region—needs to be fortified. A useful framework for multi-scale urban planning is provided under the Union government’s Model Urban and Regional Planning and Development Law, which provides for planning at state, metropolitan and local level.

Conclusion:

  • Thus, an institutional framework that provides for the formulation and implementation of plans and policies at multiple scales can ensure that the vision of overall development of the metropolitan region as well as the needs of specific localities are in sync or settled through an inter-institutional dialogue.
  • Hence, the challenges posed by urban sprawl can be better addressed by an institutional framework that establishes multi-scale governance and a policy approach that prioritizes the provision of urban amenities in peri-urban areas.

Connecting the dots:

  • What do you mean by urban sprawl? Discuss the recent trends in urbanisation in India and briefly describe the main characteristics and problems of the major Indian cities.
  • “The city of future is the future of city”. Comment.
  • The story of Indian cities is nothing but growth without commensurate civic infrastructure. Do you agree? In this context, what role can the Smart City projects play? Analyze.
GS-1, Uncategorized

Responding to rapid urban expansion

Summary:

With its urban population expected to reach 600 million by 2031, India should all be geared up to encounter anurban revolution.

How different will this urban revolution be?

Population growth will not be in the core city. It will mainly be concentrated in semi urban or rural areas surrounding or adjacent to the core city. Interestingly, this has also been confirmed by the World Bank in its report Urbanization Beyond Municipal Boundaries.

Challenges posed by this kind of development?

This kind of urban sprawl poses many economic, ecological and institutional challenges.

  • These areas are often characterized by the absence of basic infrastructure and services like water, sanitation, electricity, roads and transportation.
  • With changes in land use, as seen in the commercialization of agricultural land, the ecosystem of the region is also threatened.
  • In the midst of such a transformation, the livelihoods of people in peri-urban areas will also become precarious.

urban-sprawl

Why state’s intervention is necessary?

New expansions are largely led by private developers. Hence, the state cannot afford to turn a blind eye to growth led by private developers in these areas as it only leads to the development of certain pockets like gated communities, with no attention paid to public infrastructure. The recent water-logging crises in Gurgaon and Bangalore demonstrate how untrammelled development without the provision of basic urban amenities like a proper drainage system can result in an urban dystopia.

Also, often the agricultural land in the urban periphery that is acquired for mega-projects from farmers at very cheap rates and then transferred to various business and commercial units, leaves landowners and cultivators out of the development process. They are then forced to relocate.

How should the state respond to this change?

  • With urban expansion becoming inevitable, the state can no more discourage or contain the outgrowth of cities. Hence, it is in its best interest for the state to plan for the future by identifying areas for growth and taking steps to ensure that these areas are first provided with basic urban infrastructure and services.
  • An interesting venture in this regard is the Urban Expansion Initiative, a project housed at New York University’s Stern Business School, which promotes a “making room approach” to urban expansion by identifying areas that are projected to urbanize and procuring land for public amenities beforehand.
  • Alongside National Rurban Mission, which aims to develop 300 “rurban” growth clusters, the government should also develop peri-urban areas adjacent to India’s mega-cities which may not administratively come under an urban local body (ULB).
  • For responding to a phenomenon like peripheral urban growth, an institutional framework that provides for a metropolitan-level planning and governance mechanism is essential. But to ensure that these processes do not get overly centralized, it needs to be supplemented by appropriate mechanisms at the city and neighbourhood level.

Conclusion:

The rapid pace of urban development is resulting in social and economic costs to the society and businesses due to a lack of consideration for the social, environmental and economic impacts of urban development activities. However, urban growth is also contributing to economic growth and raising government revenues, although the benefits of this growth are not distributed evenly. Urbanization is a complex and dynamic process, with many actors and systems interacting and influencing each other. And despite the efforts of governments and planning authorities, the outcomes of these interactions are difficult to control and are sometimes unpredictable.

Editorials, GS-2, Uncategorized

Reaching the last village

Indian Express

As per the 2011 Census, there are 6,40,930 villages in India, of which around 6,00,000 can be regarded as inhabited.

Census’s definition of urban area:

  • If a settlement is under a municipality, corporation, cantonment board or a notified town area committee, it becomes a statutory town and is hence urban.
  • Another definition of urban is linked to demographic characteristics: If in a population size of 5,000, 75 per cent of the male working population is engaged in non-agricultural pursuits and the population density exceeds 400 people per sq km, this becomes a Census town, regardless of whether it is a statutory town or not.
  • This reclassification — a deviation from the traditional notions of urbanisation, which we link to the natural rate of growth in urban areas or rural-urban migration — also results in urbanisation.
  • In fact, between 2001 and 2011, a large chunk of increased urbanisation was because of Census towns and not statutory ones.

Urban outgrowth and village:

  • When a village (or hamlet) is physically contiguous to a town and possesses urban features; it is then treated as an urban agglomeration.
  • Therefore, anything other than a statutory town, Census town or urban agglomeration is a village.
  • In that sense, the village is residual, regardless of its population size.
  • The population can be 10,000 people or it can also be 100 people. ‘

National Capital Territory villages:

  • Only 222 villages according to 2011 census in the (National Capital Territory)
  • There is a process for transition to the “urban”, but that hasn’t yet occurred for these 222 villages.
  • There is a notification, land is acquired by the DDA and during the transition from a panchayat to municipality, there is understandable speculation on the land.
  • You can thus find one side of a road that is “urban” and an opposite side still “rural”, like the area near Masoodpur village.

Reason:

  • At one level, there is a governance issue.
  • Use of the word “village” too loosely, across a very heterogeneous category.
  • For Census purposes, we have in mind a revenue village but there may be many clusters of habitations/hamlets within the same revenue village.
  • Inside forest areas, there may be non-surveyed villages. Just as we have habitations as sub-categories of villages, we have gram panchayats as categories higher than villages. Therefore, we have something like 2,50,000 gram panchayats.
  • Delivering public goods and services in a village with a population size of 10,000, where there is a gram panchayat, is relatively easy.
  • Delivering it in a village with a population size less than 200 is much more difficult.
  • Delivering it in every habitation within the village is even more difficult.
  • I forgot to mention that some villages with small population sizes are in difficult geographical terrain.
  • How has this changed? The only decent answer we have seems to be from the ICE (income and consumption expenditure) 2014, undertaken by PRICE (People Research of India’s Consumer Economy).
  • This tells us an expected story of greater integration of larger (population sizes more than 5,000) villages with the mainstream, primarily because of better transport connectivity.
  • The radius of development, so to speak, is getting larger, but there are still the smaller villages.
GS-1, Uncategorized

Housing for All by 2022

Fulfilling housing dream of every Indian family by 75th year of independence.


 


 

  • PM Modi- ‘By the time the Nation completes 75 years of its Independence, every family will have a pucca house with water connection, toilet facilities, 24×7 electricity supply and access’
  • To achieve this objective, Govt has launched a comprehensive mission ‘Housing for All by 2022’
  • The programme is launched by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation (MoHUPA) <not ministry of urban development>

Features

  • It will be implemented during 2015-2022
  • Will provide central assistance to implementing agencies through States and UTs for providing houses to all eligible families/beneficiaries by 2022
  • Will be implemented as Centrally Sponsored Scheme (CSS) except for the component of credit linked subsidy which will be implemented as a Central Sector Scheme <what’s the difference b/w centrally sponsored and central sector schemes? Answer in comments>
  • Mission with all its component has become effective from 17 June, 2015 and will be implemented upto 31 March, 2022
  • All 4041 statutory towns as per Census 2011 with focus on 500 Class I cities would be covered in three phases: <what is a statutory town? Answer in comments>
  1. Phase I (April 2015 – March 2017) to cover 100 Cities selected from States/ UTs as per their willingness
  2. Phase II (April 2017 – March 2019) to cover additional 200 Cities
  3. Phase III (April 2019 – March 2022) to cover all other remaining Cities

Ministry, however, will have flexibility regarding inclusion of additional cities in earlier phases in case there is a resource backed demand from States/ UTs

  • The mission will support construction of houses upto 30 square meter carpet area with basic civic infrastructure
  • The minimum size of houses constructed under the mission under each component should conform to the standards provided in National Building Code (NBC)
  • The houses should be designed and constructed to meet the requirements of structural safety against earthquake, flood, cyclone, landslides etc. conforming to the National Building Code and other relevant Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) codes
  • The houses should be in the name of the female head of the household or in the joint name of the male head of the household and his wife, and only in cases when there is no adult female member in the family, the house can be in the name of male member of the household
  • Implementing Agencies should encourage formation of associations of beneficiaries under the scheme like Resident Welfare Association etc. to take care of maintenance of houses being built under the mission

Components

The Mission will be implemented through four verticals giving option to beneficiaries, ULBs and State Governments

housing-for-all


 

Beneficiaries

  • The mission seeks to address the housing requirement of urban poor including slum dwellers

What is a slum? It is defined as a compact area of at least 300 people or about 60-70 households of poorly built congested tenements in unhygienic environment usually with inadequate infrastructure and lacking in proper sanitary and drinking water facilities

  • Beneficiaries include Economically weaker section (EWS) and low-income groups (LIGs)

The annual income cap is up to Rs 3 lakh for EWS and Rs 3-6 lakh for LIG. EWS category of beneficiaries is eligible for assistance in all four verticals of the Missions whereas LIG category is eligible under only Credit linked subsidy scheme (CLSS) component of the Mission

  • A beneficiary family will comprise husband, wife, unmarried sons and/ or unmarried daughters
  • The beneficiary family should not own a pucca house either in his/ her name or in the name of any member of his/ her family in any part of India to be eligible to receive central assistance under the mission
  • The total housing shortage envisaged to be addressed through the new mission is 20 million<what is the actual housing shortage in the country? What %age of it is in LIG and EWS category? Answer in comments>

 

Follow this story for updates on housing scheme- India’s urbanisation agenda

Editorials, GS-1, Uncategorized

Cities at crossroads.

Public service delivery improved only in cities where state governments provided an enabling environment for innovation and better governance.

Urbanisation is the talk of the town. A number of new initiatives have been launched by the government of India in the last two years, raising the level of ambition of Indian cities — smart cities, clean cities (Swachh Bharat), rejuvenated cities (Amrut), and housing for all.

The first recognition of the importance of urbanisation, after years of neglect by both the Centre and the states, came in 2005 when the government of India launched the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) in December 2005. The mission ran its course till March 2014, with mixed results.

Public service delivery improved only in cities where state governments provided an enabling environment for innovation and better governance.

For the new initiatives to succeed:

  1. Though some funding through the new missions will help, as in the case of JNNURM, our cities have to be empowered with finances and capacity by the state governments and helped by the government of India. Without this, private funds will not come forth to supplement the limited funds of the government and the hope of public-private partnership will not materialise.
  2. Greater autonomy to the elected urban local governments in the running of city affairs. This will improve the quality of life of their citizens and also play their role as engines of rapid growth.

Why cities matter?

  1. To make GDP growth of 8 to 10 per cent per annum, which is necessary to improve economic conditions in India and remove/ reduce poverty within a short period, this can only be driven by industry and services sectors, which can grow much faster than agriculture.
  2. After having grown at close to 4 per cent per annum during the Eleventh Plan period (2007-08 to 2011-12), agricultural growth in India has slowed down to less than 2 per cent in more recent years. Undoubtedly, Indian agriculture can and should grow at 4 to 4.5 per cent per annum and, for this, we need to make large investments in research and development, soil and water management and agricultural extension. But rapid growth of GDP will have to be driven by non-agricultural sectors.
  3. Structural transformation: Faster growth of industry and services leads to a decline in the share of agriculture in both GDP and employment.

With far too many people dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods, productivity of labour is low in Indian agriculture as farmers engage in labour-intensive farming. This limits their potential to earn a higher income. Since it is not possible for the existing rural population to earn a decent living in rural areas, they have to, and do, move to the cities. To absorb the exodus of people from rural to urban areas, we need to fix our cities. We need to provide employment, skills and opportunity for people to engage in industry and services sectors.

  1. By generating economies of agglomeration and by acting as centres of knowledge and innovation, they make investments in industry and services more productive.
  2. Existing problems like the severe air pollution in Delhi, traffic congestion in Bangalore, the floods in Chennai or the garbage menace in a number of cities, technology provides only a small part of the solution.

State governments will have to come on board in a partnership mode with the urban local bodies, the community and the private sector to make public-private partnerships work.


Making cities clean and sustainable?

Concerns:-

The sewage treatment capacity in cities would have to be expanded by 63 per cent.

Only 20 per cent of solid waste can be treated scientifically at present.

As of now wastes are transferred to landfills and untreated sewage is released into hidden waterways.

Promising Initiative:-

Centre has asked fertilizer companies to sell municipal compost.

This will reduce waste pile up in society.

Suggestions:-

Communities  can be encouraged to create food gardens in every area possible using this resource.

Residents can start segregating their waste at home, and municipalities acquire the systems to manage it.

Contract loopholes:-

Tonnage-based contracts issued by cities have created a vested interest in transporting waste to landfills, rather than to reduce it through rules that require segregation, composting and recycling.

Changing the perspective:-

Swachh Bharat Mission should move from citizen behaviour and the visual appeal of clean cities to waste reduction and recycling.

A variety of financial instruments like Central funds, corporate sponsorship and the Swachh Bharat cess on services can be used.

Conclusion:-

Achieving sustainable clean cities will ultimately depend on the attention devoted to human development and environmental governance.

Cities need inclusive city planning, affordable housing, water and sanitation

Editorials, GS-1, Uncategorized

‘Smart Cities’ mission

20 smart cities &amp; smart solutions - IE [30 jan]-page-001The core infrastructure elements in a Smart City would include:

  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 digitalisation,
  7. > good governance, especially e-Governance and citizen participation,
  8. > sustainable environment,
  9. > safety and security of citizens, particularly women, children and the elderly, and
  10. > health and education.

    Smart City features
    Promoting mixed land use in area-based developments — planning for ‘unplanned areas’ containing a range of compatible activities and land uses close to one another in order to make land use more efficient. The states will enable some flexibility in land use and building bye-laws to adapt to change;> Housing and inclusiveness — expand housing opportunities for all;
    > Creating walkable localities — reduce congestion, air pollution and resource depletion, boost local economy, promote interactions and ensure security. The roads are created or refurbished not only for vehicles and public transport, but also for pedestrians and cyclists, and necessary administrative services are offered within walking/cycling distance;
    > Preserving and developing open spaces — parks, playgrounds, and recreational spaces in order to enhance the quality of life of citizens, reduce the urban heat effects in areas and generally promote eco-balance;
    > Promoting a variety of transport options — Transit Oriented Development (TOD), public transport and last mile para-transport connectivity;
    > Making governance citizen-friendly and cost effective — increasingly rely on online services to bring about accountability and transparency, especially using mobiles to reduce cost of services and providing services without having to go to municipal offices; form e-groups to listen to people and obtain feedback and use online monitoring of programs and activities with the aid of cyber tour of worksites > Giving an identity to the city — based on its main economic activity, such as local cuisine, health, education, culture, sports goods, furniture, hosiery, textile, dairy, etc;
    > Applying Smart Solutions to infrastructure and services in area-based development in order to make them better — making areas less vulnerable to disasters, using fewer resources, and providing cheaper services. What is novel in the selection of these cities, is that the winners from 11 states and the Union Territory of Delhi were selected after a competition between cities. Of these cities accounting for a population of 3.54 crore, five have a population below 5 lakh each, four in the range of 5-10 lakh, six in between 10-25 lakh, four between 25 and 50 lakh and only Ahmedabad having a population above 50 lakh.

    Article Link

GS-1, Uncategorized

A, B, C, D of Sagarmala Project

The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Modi, on March,2015 gave its‘in-principle’ approval for the concept and institutional framework of Sagarmala Project.

What’s the prime objective of Sagarmala?

The prime objective of the Sagarmala project is to promote port-led direct and indirect development and to provide infrastructure to transport goods to and from ports quickly, efficiently and cost-effectively.

What’s the current issue and background of ports in India?

  • At present there are around 200 ports (small and big) in the country, of these, only 12 are major ports which are government owned ports, which handle about 58% of sea-borne traffic.
  • These major ports operate as Trusts under the Major Ports Trust Act, 1963, except for the Port of Ennore, which is a company under the Companies Act.
  • There are legacy issues with these govt owned major ports, they do not keep pace with emerging technology, requirements of international trade, emerging trends in containerisation, flexible rules, size of ships etc.

Which are the 12 Major Ports ?

These are Kolkata (including Dock Complex at Haldia), Visakhapatnam, Chennai, V.O. Chidambaranar (Tuticorin), Cochin, New Mangalore, Mormugao, Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT), Mumbai, Kandla and Ennore.

Just, Look back into the history?

In 2003, then PM Vajpayee proposed Project Sagarmala with following features:

  • Setup Sagarmala Development Authority (Similar to National highway authority of India).
  • It will get money via Maritime development cess. (5 paise per kg on cargo).
  • It will improve ports, shipping industry, inland water transport, coastal shipping.
  • PPP and FDI to gather more investment.

Then, which are the Key pillars to achieve Smart-development ?

  • Supporting and enabling Port-led Development through appropriate policy and institutional interventions.
  • Providing for an institutional framework for ensuring inter-agency and states’ collaboration for integrated development.
  • Port Infrastructure Enhancement, including modernization and setting up of new ports.
  • Efficient Evacuation to and from hinterland.

What are some of the measures to make Smart Ports?

  • Ports should be registered as Companies under Companies Act.
  • The port administration should only look after the provisions of infrastructure and safety and not day-to-day running of the port
  • There is still no regulation to control the trade practices.
  • Hence, there is a dire need to introduce a regulatory architecture that takes care of ex-ante declaration of rates of services.

Then, what’s the plan to implement such a vast initiative?

  • For a comprehensive and integrated planning for “Sagarmala”, a National Perspective Plan (NPP) for the entire coastline shall be prepared within six months.
  • It will identify potential geographical regions to be called Coastal Economic Zones(CEZ).
  • While preparing the NPP, synergy and integration with planned Industrial Corridors, Dedicated Freight Corridors, National Highway Development Programme, Industrial Clusters and SEZs would be ensured.

What are the suggestions for effective mechanism at state level?

  • Set up State Sagarmala Committee to be headed by CM / Minister in Charge of Ports.
  • Sagarmala Coordination and Steering Committee (SCSC) shall be constituted under the chairmanship of the Cabinet Secretary and others.
  • This Committee will provide coordination between ministries, state governments and agencies connected with implementation and review the progress of implementation of the National Perspective Plan.

How does it ensure the sustainable development in CEZ?

  • This would be done by synergising and coordinating with State Governments and line Ministries of Central Government through their existing programmes.
  • Such as those related to community and rural development, tribal development and employment generation, fisheries, skill development, tourism promotion etc.
  • In order to provide funding for such projects and activities that may be covered by departmental schemes a separate fund by the name ‘Community Development Fund’ would be created.

What’s the role of Institutional Framework ?

  • It has to provide for a coordinating role for the Central Government.
  • It should provide a platform for central, state governments and local authorities to work in tandem and coordination under the established principles of cooperative federalism.

What’s the role of NSAC?

A National Sagarmala Apex Committee (NSAC) is envisaged for overall policy guidance and high level coordination, and to review various aspects of planning and implementation of the plan and projects.

So, Is it Good to have smart ports on the line of Smart Cities?

Can you answer some questions?

#1. Can you examine the bottlenecks in Indian port infrastructure and list the initiative taken in recent times to address this issue?

#Q.2 Indian port infrastructure can be revamped by Sagarmala project by effective management? critically comment.

Thank You! 

                                                                                                                                                            Courtesy to Civilsdaily.
GS-1, Uncategorized

Uniqueness of India’s smart cities

India is moving to its cities and it is now widely accepted that urban centres will be critical to country’s overall cultural and economic growth.

Urbanisation is taking place at a faster rate in India. Population residing in urban areas in India, according to 1901 census, was 11.4%. This count increased to 28.53% according to 2001 census, and crossing 30% as per 2011 census, standing at 31.16%

  • The smart cities mission is a good step in this direction. It aims to improve the quality of urban life and build sustainable cities. It emphasizes the devolution of funds and functions to urban local bodies and also calls for wider stakeholder consultations that would involve citizen participation.
  • This mission would also deliver jobs and attract new investment through several important global partnerships.

Investment opportunities:

  • According to an estimate, the smart cities market worldwide is projected to hit $1.5 trillion by 2020.
  • Because of its enormous potential, a multitude of experts, analysts, public and private firms are rushing into India with ideas ranging from the use of information and digital infrastructure to manage the energy and water use in buildings, to the creation of intelligent transport networks to minimize congestion.

Smart cities mission uses a tech-savvy approach and assures greater livability, sustainability and improved public accountability. However, a technology-first approach to smart city development, without a clear understanding of local conditions, traditions and realities, will often fail to result in sustained, community-wide change.

  • The idea of smart city should not be limited to the deployment of technology-driven solutions to urban challenges.
  • The mission should also try to meet private industry’s ambitions for effective uptake and public leaders’ desires for local impact.
  • A bottom-up approach would better deliver the needs of urban areas.

How smart cities of developed countries differ from that of developing countries?

Places such as Barcelona, Helsinki, Toronto, Singapore and San Francisco are often at the top of most lists of “smart cities” because they have the resources and expertise to be good business partners and navigators of the public interest.

  • But the challenges and opportunities for smart cities in developing countries like India—that are urbanizing at a dizzying pace—need to focus more on the basics: clean and reliable energy, safe and secure streets, transparency and citizen engagement.
  • A better example to watch may be Nairobi because of its focus on broadband, mobile apps and government efficiency.

How should India’s approach be?

  • A city needs to be sustainable in order to be smart. This will mean that the interventions under the Smart Cities Mission need to align their goals, objectives and processes to the overarching principle of sustainability.
  • A smart city has to imbibe the characteristics of good governance for achieving sustainability. For example, transparency, accountability, participation and consensus-building are some of the key characteristics of good governance, which form the foundation for ensuring equity.
  • Governance of cities is critical to the sustained prosperity of their citizens and economy. In this regard, it is important to contrast and recognize the different role of each level of government within India compared to other countries.
  • While globally, most smart cities are governed at the city level, this is not the case in India. Smart cities in India are part of a national effort driven by New Delhi, but it is the states that still wield great authority. Nearly 70% of government decisions are made at the state level. States should be given some free space in this regard.
  • Devolution of authority to the cities and local municipalities is very much necessary for the success of the smart cities initiative. Significant and urgent political reforms are required for this to happen in the country.

Why do we need smart cities?

It is estimated that about one third of India’s population now lives in urban areas, overcrowded cities and towns with infrastructure bursting at the seams. This problem will only worsen with little or no intervention happening.

  • The proportion of the urban population can only go in one direction — upward — as more Indians migrate to the cities and towns in search of jobs. Cities are engines of growth, and as a result attract a lot of people.
  • Hence, to address the challenges posed by rapidly growing cities it is necessary to develop smart cities.
  • The country’s urban population also contributes over 60% of India’s GDP and in 15 years this will be 70%.

Conclusion:

To achieve its stated targets, the smart cities mission has to make sure that it responds to the unique challenges within India’s cities and not simply clone efforts going on worldwide. More local autonomy is a must if cities are to fix themselves and invest wisely in creating the infrastructure they need. There is also a need for a holistic approach to urban development. This will require an integration of physical, institutional, social and economic infrastructure.