In yet another concrete step towards the 100 smart city mega plan, the Government has decided to engage standalone agencies – either private or public entities – to involve citizens to work together to deliver on that grand vision.
PRIME Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of 100 smart cities in the country is set to move a step closer to reality with the Government deciding to set up an agency that will involve citizens in the development process.
Realising fully well that the people’s involvement is one of the major challenges in the smart city concept as the success of such cities depends on residents, entrepreneurs and visitors becoming actively involved in energy saving and implementation of new technologies, the Government is doing its utmost to ensure that they play an active role right from the planning stage itself.
“The first step that we have planned towards creation of smart cities is engaging the citizens,” Urban Development Ministry Secretary Shankar Aggarwal disclosed to Realty & More in a candid chat.
An agency, either from the private or public sector, would be set up to carry out the task, he said, and added there would be multiple agencies pan-India.
The agency will talk to different groups of citizens to gather their expectations, aspirations and needs. “It will talk to housewives, students, traders, business class,office-goers,small farmers and hawkers etc. ” said Aggarwal emphasising on people’s participation in the entire process.
Once the collected data is put on a framework,a ‘city development plan’ would be made for the proposed smart cities.
“We are meeting a lot of people on smart cities,we are discussing with a lot of people,” Aggarwal said.
The draft concept paper is already on the website of the urban affairs ministry and it is getting a lot of comments as well. Based on the feedback, “we are refining it”, he said. The ministry has also received a number of presentations on the issue.
With ever-increasing urbanisation and the load on rural land, the government has turned its focus on the cities that can cope with the challenges of urban living and also be magnets for investment. Finance Minister Arun Jaitely’s allocation of t7,060 crore in this year’s Budget for the development of 100 smart cities falls in line with this vision of PM Modi.
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.
To ensure that the much-needed smart cities project is able to see the light of the day at the earliest, the urban development ministry has already initiated a dialogue with all the state governments. “Very shortly, we will do more meetings and finalise things,” Aggarwal added, disclosing that “things should be finalised” by the end of December.
Elaborating the procedure involved, the secretary said after a an initial city development plan is formulated on the basis of public feedback, GIS mapping and IG plan etc. will be incorporated in the final city development plan. “Once the city development plan is made,it wiII be decided as to how the development work of a particular city is to be done,” said Aggarwal.
There could be many approaches for the development, he said. It is possible that some cities might require redevelopment of existing townships. It is also possible that instead of redevelopment,a city can be developed on greenfield project model,in which case land will be allotted as per the requirement of that particular city. In such cases, he said, it will be done through the private sector. Later, these new cities may be given road connectivity,etc. “This will benefit both the new city as well as the existing township,” the secretary informed Realty & More.
Stressing on the active role of the people in the entire process, Aggarwal said: “All this will depend on the city plan and on the expectations and the aspirations of the citizens. Ultimately it has to be ensured that these should provide employment, and also the future employment remains and economic activity increases.”
Keeping the core requirement of smart city-quality of life-in mind,the UD Secretary said: “We will have to ensure that the quality of life improves and the environment is not only sustainable, but there is continuous improvement in the environment.” He confirmed that satellite towns of all the mega cities will qualify for smart cities.
Acknowledging the daunting task ahead, Aggarwal said: “This is a very complex work, because urban development comes under the state governments’ purview.” Also,he said,within the state governments,it is the responsibility of the urban localbodies to execute, and these are elected bodies. “So,there has to be a co ordination between the central government, a state government and the urban local bodies, which is very chaIIenging,” he said.
But Aggarwal is not the one to get deterred with challenges. In fact, every fresh challenge brings out the best in him. So, with a man like him heading officialdom in the urban affairs ministry and an equally dynamic minister like Venkaiah Naidu supervising the blueprint of smart cities,Prime Minister Modi’s concept may not take long to come to fruition.