The cities of the 21st century are the largest sites of human settlement today, and are increasingly acting as critical nexus points of social, economic, ecological and technological change. - United Nations Environment Program (UNEP)
Urbanization, a process, characterized by more and more people living in the urban areas is one of the most important transformations the world has witnessed in recent decades. As per Ministry of Urban development and National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA), the number of metropolitan cities currently (by 2011 provisional census) are 53 and people living in urban areas are 377 Million; by 2031 its estimated that number of metropolitan cities would leap to 87 and 600 Million people will live in urban areas. The current level of urbanization is 31% which by 2039 is expected to reach at the level of 50%. The challenge is to take advantage of the potential benefits of urbanization and agglomeration in an inclusive way.
To manage this change, India would have to spend US$1.2 trillion in its urban areas over the next 20 years to make it “Smart”. There is neither an internationally accepted definition of a ‘smart city’, nor does India have any national policy on urbanization in the first place; however as Gartner puts it, “A smart city is based on intelligent exchanges of information that flow between its many different subsystems. This flow of information is analyzed and translated into citizen and commercial services. The city will act on this information flow to make its wider ecosystem more resource-efficient and sustainable. The information exchange is based on a smart governance operating framework designed for cities sustainable.”
In a recent visit to Japan, India’s PM Narendra Modi signed a memorandum of understanding with his counterpart Shinzo Abe, to develop the city of Varanasi into a ‘smart city’ with help from Kyoto. The Union Budget has earmarked US$11.5 billion for the 2014–2015 financial year to develop 100 smart cities in the country.
Making of a “Smart City” would encapsulate development at various fronts, few of them could be:
- Developing satellite towns around the existing city as eco friendly and user friendly townships with re-use and recycled waste water, solar energy utilization;
- Enhancing Government agencies to control and regulate: labor migration of population beyond holding capacity, real estate market, employment and housing policy for informal sector; increase education on urban development and planning.
- Strengthening public transportation, setting up a multi-modal transport network; modernize the present bus fleet and increase pollution-free vehicles; making public transport less expensive; using of GPS system to control public transport to enhance the use of buses.
- Using technology to capture traffic data and information for monitoring purposes as well for dissemination to the population on the territory to adjusting public commuting schedule;
- Setting up of basic trunk infrastructure like water and energy distribution systems, roads, railways, airports etc and Intelligent use of ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) to enable smart services like Smart Street Light, Smart Parking, Location based services, Mobile banking etc
Throughout the world, smart cities show that innovations in transport and the power sector are low-hanging fruits. The biggest challenge is to internalize high-tech solutions within the existing social ethos, urban planning and governance of the country.
- Report On Smart-Sustainable Cities And Communities Initiative In India by EBTC (European Business and Technology Center) and The Indo-Italian chamber of Commerce and Industry