Will they, won't they? Which cities in India get to be the first in line?
The list of 20 smart cities out of the > 98 shortlisted for the Smart Cities Mission is > was released on January 29 . These 20 cities will be the first to receive funds, thus kickstarting the process of developing them into smart cities.
Union Minister for Urban Development M. Venkaiah Naidu had earlier said that the Ministry had no role in the selection of the cities and an expert committee set up by the Ministry had looked into it.
The next two years will see the inclusion of 40 and 38 cities, respectively.
Of the 98 cities and towns that five years down will graduate into smart cities, 24 are capital cities, another 24 are business and industrial centres, 18 are culture and tourism influenced areas, five are port cities and three are education and health care hubs.
But what are smart cities, exactly?
A 'smart city' is an urban region that is highly advanced in terms of overall infrastructure, sustainable real estate, communications and market viability. It is a city where information technology is the principal infrastructure and the basis for providing essential services to residents. There are many technological platforms involved, including but not limited to automated sensor networks and data centres.
According to the documents released on the Smart Cities website, the core infrastructure in a smart city would include:
Adequate water supply
Assured electricity supply
Sanitation, including solid waste management
Efficient urban mobility and public transport
Affordable housing, especially for the poor
Robust IT connectivity and digitalisation
Good governance, especially e-Governance and citizen participation
Safety and security of citizens, particularly women, children and the elderly
Health and education
In a smart city, economic development and activity is sustainable and rationally incremental by virtue of being based on success-oriented market drivers such as supply and demand. They benefit everybody, including citizens, businesses, the government and the environment.
Also read: >Needed, smart solutions
Where did the idea come from?
The concept of smart cities originated at the time when the entire world was facing one of the worst economic crises. In 2008, IBM began work on a 'smarter cities' concept as part of its Smarter Planet initiative. By the beginning of 2009, the concept had captivated the imagination of various nations across the globe.
Countries like South Korea, UAE and China began to invest heavily into their research and formation. Today, a number of excellent precedents exist that India can emulate, such as those in Vienna, Aarhus, Amsterdam, Cairo, Lyon, Málaga, Malta, the Songdo International Business District near Seoul, Verona etc.
"In the approach of the Smart Cities Mission, the objective is to promote 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," says the statement from the Ministry.
Also read: >India's urban challenges
The success of the government’s Smart City Mission is largely dependent upon the finance generation at the State-level as well as private investments.
The Centre has set aside Rs. 48,000 crore for the mission and the money will be released to urban local bodies at frequent intervals in the next five years. The Centre has asked the State governments to generate the rest of the Rs. 48,000 crore as the grand total of the mission is estimated at Rs. 96,000 crore.