Within months of his election in May 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a bold commitment to build 100 smart cities throughout India. Cut to present. The smart cities movement is gathering pace. Last week, Chandigarh, Lucknow, Panaji and Raipur are among the 13 urban areas that were selected to be developed as smart cities. The new additions are to the list of 20 cities that were selected in January; 40 more will be added to the list by the year-end. Each city will be given R500 crore by the Centre over five years. The states will have to make a matching contribution.
“The new additions to the list of 20 smart cities are from the 23 fast track cities which had been asked to submit their updated plans by mid April. With these additions, it is expected that the distribution of smart cities across individual states will become more balanced,” says Arindam Guha, senior director, Deloitte in India.
Meant to change the way urban India lives, smart cities will enjoy uninterrupted power and water supply, internet connectivity, e-governance along with quality infrastructure, says Jagan Shah, director, National Institute of Urban Affairs. “The mission for smart cities is very clear in its objective that the identity of the city in terms of heritage and economic activities will be retained while strengthening the core infrastructure and improving the quality of life.”
Without doubt, cities’ ambitions to become “smarter” range from the use of information and digital infrastructure to manage the energy and water use in buildings to the creation of intelligent transport networks to minimise congestion. “However what is more important is what kind of models individual cities will adopt for procurement and implementation,” says Guha of Deloitte. “We are already seeing widely varying models with some cities going for two packages, one for the PAN city solution and the other for area development. Certain other cities are in the process of appointing a single project management unit which would then support them in procurement of specialised solution providers in areas like solid waste management, water supply, sanitation etc.”
Rajasthan shows the way forward
Meanwhile, Rajasthan is moving ahead at a rapid pace in terms of development of smart cities. In January this year, the Modi government announced a list of the first 20 cities to be developed as smart cities, and Jaipur and Udaipur made it to that list.
Rajasthan was the first state to submit smart city plans in January this year. The state has proposed a total investment of R6,457 crore over the next five years for developing Ajmer, Jaipur, Kota and Udaipur as smart cities, as part of the Smart City Challenge.
Rajasthan has also taken the lead in setting up special purpose vehicles (SPV) for the implementation of smart city plans. The state has set up an 11-member SPV for Jaipur and a 13-member body for Udaipur. These vehicles will approve, sanction and execute the projects besides mobilising resources from various sources to ensure timely and efficient execution of plans.
Industry forum Ficci and Udaipur Municipal Corporation (UMC) have signed a memorandum of understanding for developing Udaipur as a smart city. The two came together to collaborate in areas of creation of financial plans for various sectors and creation of innovative sources of the municipal finance, project based support for projects in areas like transport, solid waste management, water supply, housing, sewerage, health, education, storm water drainage etc.
Rajpal Singh Shekhawat, urban development and local self government minister in Rajasthan government, told FE: “A smart city is about inclusive growth, quality of life, happiness index, convenience of living and being green. Some cities may have been ‘smart’ earlier but to be counted as ‘smart’ in 2016 was different in the context of having planned core infrastructure as well as a clean and sustainable environment.”
Shekhawat said that each city has its own strength in terms of heritage, geographical location and environment. The Smart City Mission will keep these factors in mind while developing smart cities in Rajasthan. “There cannot be a universal formula for developing a smart city—however making governance citizen friendly and cost effective will be one of the key objectives. It will also expand housing opportunities for all.”
Manjit Singh, principal secretary, local self government, said Rajasthan government is fully geared up for the smart city projects. Special purpose vehicles (SPVs) have already been created. The project management consultants (PMC) will be appointed by the end of this month and the work will begin by June 15 next month. (see interview).