About Smart Cities
What do we mean by a Smart City?
Smart cities are cities that work.
Most importantly, work for whom? And, what do we mean by cities that work? Cities are confluences of people; places where people live, come to meet, exchange ideas, earn livelihoods, access education, health and other services and enjoy a life of good quality. People are at the core of the city. Therefore, cities should work for their people. Cities that work for their people will continuously become better versions of themselves with each passing day.
“We shape cities, and they shape us.” – Jan Gehl
What do we mean by cities that work for their people?
To answer this question, we need to understand the reasons which make a city attractive to people in the first place. These reasons would be, to a large extent, different for different cities and different for different sets of people and therefore cannot be generalized. Some cities attract people for the opportunities that exist therein as markets and centers for manufacturing, some others due to the greatness of their cultures, or their cosmopolitan vibes, and others for their ability to provide better education and health facilities or a combination of factors and so on.
There are, largely, two kinds of factors, which attract people into cities - ‘push factors’, led by distress or scarcity in their place of origin – like droughts, violence, social rifts etc. and ‘pull factors’, like better opportunities for education, business and industry, leisure, art and culture etc.
Decoding the specific reasons for which people choose a certain city over others is at the core of understanding any city’s DNA – the foundational building blocks that drive the city. The aspirations of a city’s inhabitants evolve with time and hence these reasons have to be studied in the relevant contexts. In order to understand these reasons, smart city practitioners need to ask some crucial questions, for example – which are the different communities that constitute the city, what are their current needs, how have their needs evolved, what are their hopes and aspirations, what attracts outsiders to the city etc.
A city can be said to work for its people only if it supports them in their chosen pursuits. If one is a migrant, coming into the city for two years in connection to my job, his or her needs would hover around access to decent rental housing, efficient modes of public transport, recreational places and so on. However, if one is a student, his or her needs could be about availability of good educational institutions, safe cycling and walking infrastructure. This is different from the needs of an elderly citizen who may prioritize access to good quality healthcare above other things.
Clearly, not all people or sets of people desire the same things. In order to simplify the understanding of the diversity of needs expressed by a city’s diverse residents, it is useful to classify them under three broad pillars – liveability, economic-ability and sustainability. Imagine these as three folders on your computer that have multiple files of different types, dealing with different aspects.
These, thus, constitute the three broad outcomes that a city needs to target in order to work for its people. In other words, to answer the question ‘what is a smart city’ in another way; it is a city, which is liveable, sustainable and has a thriving economy offering multiple opportunities to its people to pursue their diverse interests.
Challenges/The Need for Smart Cities
Cities are engines of growth for the economy of every nation, including India. Nearly 31% of India’s current population lives in urban areas and contributes 63% of India’s GDP (Census 2011). With increasing urbanization, urban areas are expected to house 40% of India’s population and contribute 75% of India’s GDP by 2030. This requires comprehensive development of physical, institutional, social and economic infrastructure. All are important in improving the quality of life and attracting people and investments to the City, setting in motion a virtuous cycle of growth and development. Development of Smart Cities is a step in that direction.
- This is the first time an Urban Ministry programme used the ‘Challenge’ or competition method to select cities for funding and used the strategy of area-based development. This captures the spirit of ‘competitive and cooperative federalism’.
- States and ULBs will play a key supportive role in the development of Smart Cities. Smart leadership and vision at this level and ability to act decisively will be important factors determining the success of the Mission.
- Understanding the concepts of retrofitting, redevelopment and greenfield development by the policy makers, implementers and other stakeholders at different levels will require capacity assistance.
- Major investments in time and resources will have to be made during the planning phase prior to participation in the Challenge. This is different from the conventional DPR-driven approach.
- The Smart Cities Mission requires smart people who actively participate in governance and reforms. Citizen involvement is much more than a ceremonial participation in governance. Smart people involve themselves in the definition of the Smart City, decisions on deploying Smart Solutions, implementing reforms, doing more with less and oversight during implementing and designing post-project structures in order to make the Smart City developments sustainable. The participation of smart people will be enabled by the SPV through increasing use of ICT, especially mobile-based tools.
Smart City Features
In the approach to 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. The focus is on sustainable and inclusive development and the idea is to look at compact areas, create a replicable model which will act like a lighthouse to other aspiring cities. The Smart Cities Mission of the Government is a bold, new initiative. It is meant to set examples that can be replicated both within and outside the Smart City, catalysing the creation of similar Smart Cities in various regions and parts of the country.
The core infrastructure elements 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 digitalization, good governance, especially e-Governance and citizen participation, sustainable environment, safety and security of citizens, particularly women, children and the elderly, and health and education. Some typical features of comprehensive development in Smart Cities are described below:
- Promoting mixed land use in area-based developments — planning for ‘unplanned areas’ containing a range of compatible activities and land uses close to one another in order to make land use more efficient. The States will enable some flexibility in land use and building bye-laws to adapt to change;
- Housing and inclusiveness — expand housing opportunities for all;
- Creating walkable localities — reduce congestion, air pollution and resource depletion, boost local economy, promote interactions and ensure security. The road network is created or refurbished not only for vehicles and public transport, but also for pedestrians and cyclists, and necessary administrative services are offered within walking or cycling distance;
- Preserving and developing open spaces — parks, playgrounds, and recreational spaces in order to enhance the quality of life of citizens, reduce the urban heat effects in Areas and generally promote eco-balance;
- Promoting a variety of transport options — Transit Oriented Development (TOD), public transport and last mile para-transport connectivity;
- Making governance citizen-friendly and cost effective — increasingly rely on online services to bring about accountability and transparency, especially using mobiles to reduce cost of services and providing services without having to go to municipal offices; form e-groups to listen to people and obtain feedback and use online monitoring of programs and activities with the aid of cyber tour of worksites;
- Giving an identity to the city — based on its main economic activity, such as local cuisine, health, education, arts and craft, culture, sports goods, furniture, hosiery, textile, dairy, etc;
- Applying Smart Solutions to infrastructure and services in area-based development in order to make them better. For example, making Areas less vulnerable to disasters, using fewer resources, and providing cheaper services.
The purpose of the Smart Cities Mission is to drive economic growth and improve the quality of life of people by enabling local area development and harnessing technology, especially technology that leads to Smart outcomes. Area-based development will transform existing areas (retrofit and redevelop), including slums, into better planned ones, thereby improving liveability of the whole City. New areas (greenfield) will be developed around cities in order to accommodate the expanding population in urban areas. Application of Smart Solutions will enable cities to use technology, information and data to improve infrastructure and services. Comprehensive development in this way will improve quality of life, create employment and enhance incomes for all, especially the poor and the disadvantaged, leading to inclusive Cities
The strategic components of Area-based development in the Smart Cities Mission are city improvement (retrofitting), city renewal (redevelopment) and city extension (Greenfield development) plus a Pan-city initiative in which Smart Solutions are applied covering larger parts of the city.
Below, are given the description of the three models of area-based smart city development.
- Retrofitting will introduce planning in an existing built-up area to achieve Smart City objectives, along with other objectives, to make the existing area more efficient and liveable. In retrofitting, an area consisting of more than 500 acres will be identified by the city in consultation with citizens. Depending on the existing level of infrastructure services in the identified area and the vision of the residents, the cities will prepare a strategy to become smart. Since existing structures are largely to remain intact in this model, it is expected that more intensive infrastructure service levels and a large number of smart applications will be packed into the retrofitted Smart City. This strategy may also be completed in a shorter time frame, leading to its replication in another part of the city.
- Redevelopment will effect a replacement of the existing built-up environment and enable co-creation of a new layout with enhanced infrastructure using mixed land use and increased density. Redevelopment envisages an area of more than 50 acres, identified by Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) in consultation with citizens. For instance, a new layout plan of the identified area will be prepared with mixed land-use, higher FSI and high ground coverage. Two examples of the redevelopment model are the Saifee Burhani Upliftment Project in Mumbai (also called the Bhendi Bazaar Project) and the redevelopment of East Kidwai Nagar in New Delhi being undertaken by the National Building Construction Corporation.
- Greenfield development will introduce most of the Smart Solutions in a previously vacant area (more than 250 acres) using innovative planning, plan financing and plan implementation tools (e.g. land pooling/ land reconstitution) with provision for affordable housing, especially for the poor. Greenfield developments are required around cities in order to address the needs of the expanding population. One well known example is the GIFT City in Gujarat. Unlike retrofitting and redevelopment, greenfield developments could be located either within the limits of the ULB or within the limits of the local Urban Development Authority (UDA).
- Pan-city development envisages application of selected Smart Solutions to the existing city-wide infrastructure. Application of Smart Solutions will involve the use of technology, information and data to make infrastructure and services better. For example, applying Smart Solutions in the transport sector (intelligent traffic management system) and reducing average commute time or cost to citizens will have positive effects on productivity and quality of life of citizens. Another example can be waste water recycling and smart metering which can make a substantial contribution to better water management in the city
- The Smart City proposal of each shortlisted city is expected to encapsulate either a retrofitting or redevelopment or greenfield development model, or a mix thereof and a Pan-city feature with Smart Solution(s). It is important to note that pan-city is an additional feature to be provided. Since Smart City is taking a compact area approach, it is necessary that all the city residents feel there is something in it for them also. Therefore, the additional requirement of some (at least one) city-wide smart solution has been put in the scheme to make it inclusive.
- For North Eastern and Himalayan States, the area proposed to be developed will be one-half of what is prescribed for any of the alternative models - retrofitting, redevelopment or greenfield development.