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10 things to expect from India’s 20 smart cities

Citizens stand to benefit significantly if the initiatives are implemented effectively.

The buzzword ‘Smart Cities’ has gained a lot more meaning now after the selection of 20 cities out of a total of 98, through a competitive selection process. It bears mentioning that the selection process for the ambitious 100 Smart Cities mission is the first of its kind in India. Also, the selection timelines were met without any extensions. This is quite significant, since most Government-related submissions usually tend to get extended for various and sometimes no reasons.

This fact clearly evidences firm intent and interest of the involved city managers and citizens to have their cities included in the Smart Cities programme. All cities participated with proposals to develop better infrastructure in terms of assured water and power supply, sanitation and solid waste management, efficient urban mobility and public transport, IT connectivity, e-governance — and, most importantly, citizen participation.

In the selection process, Bhubaneswar tops the list, followed by Pune and Jaipur in the second and third places. Over the next two years, the Government will identify 40 and 38 more cities respectively through another round of competitive selection.

The Mission marks the country’s next phase of urbanisation, and will contribute to the growth of the nation in a big way. The proposals of the top 20 cities clearly focus on what citizens want, and the various issues prevailing in most of the cities. From the initial stage till implementation, one underlying question will dominate — what can citizens expect from these Smart Cities?

The following deliverables are part of most of the proposals:

1. Access to public transport

All selected cities have undertaken to develop or strengthen their public transportation networks to encourage increased patronage and thereby reduce the use of private vehicles. Focus will be on providing easy access to public transport and enhance mobility by use of ICT (Information & Communications Technology) solutions. Public transport will aid faster, easier, and cheaper commuting and the modal shift from private to public transport will be instrumental in significantly mitigating inner city congestion.

Of the 20 selected cities, the ones which are focusing on ICT solutions for urban mobility are Pune, Jaipur, Surat, Davanagere, Indore, Belagavi, Udaipur, and Chennai.

2. Priority for pedestrians ‘Pedestrianisation’ and Non-Motorised Transport (NMT) are integral factors in the proposed ‘smartening up’ programme of cities like Pune, Belagavi, Udaipur, and Chennai, the latter also being the first city to implement a NMT policy in India. Wide footpaths with public seating at regular intervals and easy mobility for the differently-abled will be provided. Car-free Sundays will make streets available for citizens to interact and engage in street activities.

On-street parking will be managed and organised to increase the safety of pedestrains. Also, cycle sharing and feeder systems will help citizens achieve better last mile connectivity, which is the major hurdle for the successful functioning of public transport. Apart from this, the option to use cycles to commute to their destinations from the public transport mode will be facilitated.

3. More parking space

The proposed intelligent parking management system will help citizens find parking with ease and even pre-book their parking slot by using online payment options. On-street parking management will be a reliable revenue source for the cities, and can be used to further strengthen their public transportation systems. Managing on-street parking will reduce traffic congestion, increase the effective carriageway width available for vehicles, and reduce fuel consumption and pollution, among other benefits. The cities which have identified this as a prime winning proposition are Bhubaneshwar, Davanagere, Indore, Udaipur, Guwahati, and Chennai.

4. Decongesting traffic

Intelligent traffic management systems to manage city traffic via various ICT solutions have been considered by Bhubaneshwar, Surat, Ahmedabad, Davanagere, Indore, Udaipur, and Chennai. Citizens will have smart phone access to estimated travel time to their destination. Traffic signalling prioritisation of BRTS buses and video surveillance will further ensure safety and prevent traffic violations.

5. Safety measures Safety of residents is another aspect that has been assured in Coimbatore, Kakinada, Udaipur, Guwahati, and Chennai. Initiatives to set up LED street lights will ensure pedestrians’ safety, as will video surveillance via a Common Control Centre — which will simultaneously help reduce traffic violations and ensure efficient on-street parking management.

6. Hassle-free civic services

Another big initiative is e-governance, meaning a single platform from where citizens can access details and avail services. Most importantly, this will enable citizens’ engagement in all aspects of city functioning, as the data sharing or transparency between the government and citizens will act as a forum for citizens to understand exactly how their city is functioning. Some of the smart solutions such as integrated fare cards, smart unified city governance, ‘one city one website’, GIS (Geographic Information System) mapping, and Wi-Fi hotspots have been considered by Bhubaneshwar, Kochi, Ahmedabad, Vishakapatnam, Davanagere, New Delhi Municipal Council, Belagavi, Ludhiana, and Bhopal.

7. Disaster management

Natural disasters are, almost by definition, impossible to prevent; however human interventions in terms of precautionary measures can help in minimising losses to life and property. The coastal areas are often badly affected by cyclones and flooding, and therefore, cities like Chennai and Vishakhapatnam will concentrate on ICT-based disaster management techniques like sensors, weather forecasts, zero flooding zones, storm water management, and so on.

8. Going green

Solid waste management through smart solutions for clean roads and a healthy environment is considered as an important factor by these cities: Jaipur, Jabalpur, Indore, and Kakinada. Recycling waste will produce renewable energy, ensure safe disposal of solid waste, prevent soil and environmental pollution, and reduce depletion of resources.

9. Efficient infrastructure utilisation

Smart Cities aim to maintain basic infrastructure with best quality and 100 per cent efficiency. The efficiency of the utilities in our cities has been an elusive factor till date, thanks to inadequate monitoring and responsiveness. Electricity, sewerage, storm water drainage, and water supply will be strengthened in the Smart Cities with a smart layer of ICT applications. Citizens in Pune, Kochi, Solapur, NDMC, Kakinada, and Belagavi will benefit from ICT-enabled initiatives such as zero-loss monitored by smart meters, LED street lights, 24x7 water supply by source augmentation, waste water recycling, and sensors to detect sewer system leakages. Pune is focusing on healthcare for low income households and providing training in digital literacy, and Solapur is incentivising conservation of water. Chennai aims to create water sources using desalination plants and recycling water to use for various purposes.

10. Maintaining green spaces

All identified Smart Cities are focusing on developing more ‘lung spaces’ within the city. Smart components like cycling, street furniture, jogging tracks, and designated spaces for hawkers, will enhance the aesthetics of the city. Green spaces will get a new dimension with new soft and hard landscapes equipped with Wi-Fi hotspots, providing ideal areas for citizens to relax, exercise, and interact. Citizens stand to benefit significantly if these initiatives are implemented effectively. This is integral to the success of these proposals and will determine the success of Smart Cities Mission as a whole; failure to consider this route seriously can prove to be a major stumbling block.

Citizens can expect their city authorities and the involved nodal agencies to work efficiently towards finalising and implementing the committed proposals, keeping them involved through the citizen’s engagement process, and to see their respective cities compete successfully with others in attracting investments.

The writer is National Director - Strategic Consulting, JLL India

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Printable version | Jul 2, 2020 7:15:52 PM |

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