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Ashish Kumar, Director, Project Management, Colliers International India

The pace of urbanization in India has picked up considerably in the past two decades. By 2050, India will need to accommodate 500 million more people in cities, which means that about 30 cities like Delhi should be added to accommodate them. As per conventional planning norms, it will require an additional 50,000 sq km of land area equivalent to the entire forest cover of Maharashtra or 8% of India’s forest cover. The government has to turn this rapid urbanisation challenge into opportunities, thus creating dynamic, vibrant, and sustainable working environment for the citizens.

A smart city can be defined as one which monitors and integrates critical infrastructure including roads, metro, airports, seaports and buildings. The smart city also include preventive maintenance activities including monitor security aspects while optimising the resources and providing best services to the citizens. Therefore, planning smart cities will require an understanding of the complex factors that shape our cities such as land, economic and social drivers, Indian values, environmental aspects, and infrastructure. Building smart cities involves smart planning in which existing infrastructure is monitored and controlled, thus leading to sustainable development. As many cities lack basic infrastructure and governance, the smart city initiative includes a holistic vision/plan for the long-term growth of the city – one which recognizes the assets of the city and brings together the various stakeholders to create a vision for future policies. The vision needs to be supported by short-term plans which are reviewed periodically to be in-line with the vision for implementation. As part of the vision to develop a smart city, planning norms should be developed which include more responsive land policies and development controls so that one can review FSI, density, land-use etc., including mandatory guidelines for sustainability.

Planning of smart cities involves building ever-expanding cities with available resources, especially land. This can be achieved by developing vertical buildings to conserve land and providing services/infrastructure in a concentrated area more efficiently compared to a spread out city, thus minimising operational losses. The unused land in the vertical cities can be developed into vibrant and public and civic spaces such as parks, recreation spaces, etc. It also involves planning cities which integrate land-use planning and transportation, thus creating mixed-use districts/neighbourhoods. Development of mixed-use districts not only has the advantage of shorter commute time but also encourages use of public transport and sustainable development while discouraging use of private vehicles, thus promoting a much healthier lifestyle. The vertical city needs to be developed with high quality public services, metros, personal rapid transit, potable water, sewerage, solid waste management, roads, etc. All these services should be backed by an equally strong Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) so that they can be integrated and work as part of the system rather than as independent systems. Using the ICT network city control, centres can be built which can unify all the services, reduce management cost, provide service convergence that can control city facilities in real-time, and provide coordinated response during emergencies.

One important factor to keep in mind while developing smart cities is smart governance using the ICT network to provide all G2C services in a convenient and efficient manner. Currently, citizens have to face numerous challenges to manage all the government to citizen interfaces. This will enhance the accountability, transparency and responsiveness to citizens’ needs and will provide cost-effective methods of service provision to government departments and agencies. It will also provide efficient and real-time MIS and EIS to all the government departments for better planning and forecasting, thus enabling government departments to focus on their core functions and responsibilities.

smart city

Lastly, developing smart cities requires huge sums of investment which the government is not in a position to shell out for the entire requirements. However, the government will be able to attract investment from the private sector and encourage citizens’ participation in the planning process and develop the vision of smart cities. Through proper planning, smart cities can be developed to manage the complexity of urban living while making the existing infrastructure more robust and scalable.

NBM&CW July 2017