The Smart Cities Mission has completed three years, and a number of mission cities have been in the news for launching projects like integrated city command & control centre, smart parking, city surveillance & security, municipal service delivery over internet, kiosk, mobile, etc. IT-based projects like city command & control centre have progressed faster than urban infrastructure projects, like extending the water pipeline network, area redevelopment, etc.
Proactive leadership seems to be one of the factors that impacted the pace of implementation. Consequently, most cities like Bhopal, Indore, Ahmedabad, Surat, Bhubaneswar, Jaipur and Pune have also demonstrated consistent performance in other schemes like AMRUT and Swachh Bharat.
Convergence across schemes and initiatives has been the other key differentiator. The recent MoU between the ministry of housing & urban affairs (MoHUA) and the ministry of railways outlining potential partnership models between the Smart City SPV and the Railways for redeveloping city railway stations as part of an integrated transit hub is a step in this direction. But there have been instances of limited coordination between city-level agencies like municipal corporation and city police authorities.
The other key aspect is financing, where the results have been mixed. While over 80 cities have gone in for getting their credit rating assessed, only a few like Pune and Hyderabad have leveraged these ratings for issuing municipal bonds. There have been few instances of government land being made available to the SPV for monetisation purposes. The issue of inadequate user charges vis-a-vis cost of service delivery for key municipal services like water supply and sanitation continues to be largely unaddressed.
Going forward, as the number of cities that are able to demonstrate a tangible impact of their smart solutions on the quality of urban services increases, it would be important for the mission to communicate these outcomes to citizens. Extensive citizen consultation was one of the cornerstones during the smart city plan development, and this focus should continue during its implementation as well. The other area that requires a focus at the city level is the linkage to economic development initiatives.
At the central government level, this would require increased coordination between MoHUA and the DIPP, which is implementing industrial corridors and manufacturing clusters. The same coordination would need to be replicated at the state level between the urban development and industries departments. Finally, the necessary policy and institutional framework for adopting a suitable tariff/user charge mechanism that enables recovery of cost of service delivery needs to be put in place for ensuring financial sustainability. A holistic strategy incorporating all these elements should help the Smart City Mission leave a lasting impact on the country’s urban transformation landscape.
The Author is Partner, Deloitte India