Cities are critical to the economic health of every country, including India's. By 2030, urban areas in India are predicted to contain 40% of the population and contribute around 75% of the country's GDP. This can be attributed to the country's rapid urbanisation.
But this fast pace of urbanisation has created a slew of problems, including more slums, a declining level of living, environmental degradation, and city congestion. To address these problems, India's government has launched the 'National Smart Cities Mission.' in 2015. The government hopes to use the programme to turn 100 cities across the country into compact, sustainable communities.
What makes a city 'Smart'?
A city with sufficient infrastructure that enables a reasonable standard of life while simultaneously promoting a clean and sustainable environment via the use of smart solutions. It is a citizen-centric strategy in the sense that it prioritises persons. The purpose of smart cities is to develop replicable "area-based approaches" both within and outside of smart cities.
A smart city is characterised as one that makes use of information and communication technologies to meet market (citizen) demands, while also requiring community involvement. Thus, a smart city is one that not only possesses ICT technology in specific sectors but also uses such technology to benefit the local population.
Use of Information and Communication Technologies in Smart Cities
Use of electronic and digital technologies to build communities and cities.
Use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to improve living and working circumstances in the region.
Integrating these ICTs into public systems.
The territorialization of practices that link ICTs and people in order to maximise the creativity and knowledge generated by these technologies.
Some other characteristics of Smart cities are:
Integrated digital citizen services and e-governance mechanism
Effective management of waste and recycling and upcycling
Management of water resources for sustainable development
Energy conservation and use of alternative sources of energy and their efficient management.
Smart transport systems for point to point mobility using public transport.
Financing for Smart Cities
This is a government-led endeavour, with the Central Government proposing to invest Rs. 48,000 crore in the mission averaging around Rs. 100 crore per city. The state/UT government will be required to make a matching contribution. The private sector's participation has also been emphasised through Public-Private Partnerships (PPP).
The cities have to compete with each other for the grants and so far 99 cities have been announced in 4 rounds.
Convergence with Other Publicly Funded Programs
This objective of creating smart cities is intrinsically linked to the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) and the Atal Mission for Affordable Housing in Urban Areas (AMHUA).
Numerous schemes and programmes such as the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM), the National Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana (HRIDAY), Digital India, Skill India, and other social infrastructure initiatives in the areas of health, education, and culture also find convergence in the development of smart cities. By focusing on underdeveloped states, the smart cities mission can also help the Indian government reduce regional imbalances.