The buzzword ‘Smart Cities’ has gained a lot more meaning now after the selection of the 20 top cities as Smart Cities out of a total of 98 through a competitive process of selection. 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 program. 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 Smart Cities selection process, Bhubaneswar tops the list, followed by Pune and Jaipur in the second and third places. JLL India’s Strategic Consulting team was instrumental in preparing the proposals for two of the 20 selected cities, namely Bhubaneshwar and Chennai. Over the next two years, the Government will identify 40 and 38 more cities respectively through another round of competitive selection.
India’s Smart City Mission marks the country’s next phase of urbanisation, and will contribute to the growth of the nation in a big way. The Smart City Proposals and Vision 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 Smart City proposals:
1. Access to better public transport
Growing urbanisation has increased the number of private vehicles on public roads, leading to massive traffic congestion in almost all Indian cities. All selected Smart Cities have undertaken to develop or strengthen their public transportation networks to encourage their increased use and thereby reduce the use of private vehicles. The Smart Cities propose to provide 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 Smart Cities, the ones which are focusing on ICT solutions for urban mobility are Pune, Jaipur, Surat, Davanagere, Indore, Belagavi, Udaipur and Chennai.
2. Putting pedestrians first
‘Pedestrianisation’ and Non-Motorised Transport 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 Non-Motorised Transport Policy in India. Citizens will enjoy wide footpaths with public seating at regular intervals and easy mobility for the differently-abled. Car-free Sundays will make streets available for citizens to interact and engage in street activities.
Since pedestrians are the victims in a large number of major road accidents, on-street parking will be managed and organized to increase their safety. 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. Citizens will have the option to use cycles to commute to their destinations from the public transport mode.
3. Availability of adequate parking
Intelligent parking management, a part of many of the winning Smart City proposals, will help citizens find parking with ease and even pre-book their parking slot along with online payment modes. 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 in the Smart City contest are Bhubaneshwar, Davanagere, Indore, Udaipur, Guwahati and Chennai.
4. Reduced traffic congestion
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 enjoy easier transport modes and routes, and also have smart phone access to estimated travel time to their destination by Passenger Real Time information on arrival of buses, trains and e-rickshaws. Traffic Signalling Prioritization of BRTS buses and video surveillance will further ensure safety and prevent traffic violations.
5. Safer living
Safety of residents is another aspect that has been assured in Coimbatore, Kakinada, Udaipur, Guwahati and Chennai. Initiatives such as LED street lighting will boost 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 that the identified Smart Cities are targeting is e-governance, meaning a single platform from where citizens can access all and any details and also help them get all services done. Most importantly, this will enable citizens’ engagement in all aspects of city functioning, as the data sharing or transparency between 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 (NDMC), Belagavi, Ludhiana and Bhopal.
7. Safety against natural disasters
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 to a great extent. The coastal areas are often badly affected by cyclones and flooding, so cities like Chennai and Vishakhapatnam will concentrate on ICT-based disaster management techniques like sensors, weather forecasts, zero flooding zones, storm water management, etc. to make them safer places to live in.
8. Neighbourhood sanitation
Solid Waste Management through smart solutions for clean roads and a healthy environment is considered as an important factor by cities of Jaipur, Jabalpur, Indore and Kakinada. Recycling of waste will produce renewable energy, ensure safe disposal of solid waste, prevent soil and environmental pollution and reduce depletion of resources.
9. Easy access to all basic infrastructure
Smart Cities aim to maintain basic infrastructure with best quality and 100% 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 lighting, 24×7 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. City beautification
All identified Smart Cities are focusing on developing more ‘lung spaces’ within the city. Smart components like cycling, street furniture, jogging tracks, designated spaces hawkers, etc. 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. All this also plays a major role in creating a healthy and a sustained environment.
Smart City citizens stand to benefit significantly if the smart cities initiatives are implemented effectively. Implementation through the formation of SPVs is integral to 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.
Smart City citizens can expect their city authorities and the involved nodal agencies to work efficiently towards finalizing 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.