The success of India’s ambitious plan to develop 100 smart cities hinges on five crucial elements – power, infrastructure, funds, technology and social capital – according to a recently released report by global real estate consultancy Cushman & Wakefield.
The report titled ‘Modern Urbanisation – Challenges in setting up smart cities’ said smart cities required clean and continuous supply of power and therefore there was need to develop alternative sources of energy in order to make the cities financially and ecologically viable. The other necessary elements for developing smart cities, it noted, were physical and social infrastructure development, upgradation and maintenance of existing infrastructure, development of innovative and viable mechanisms for securing funds, strategies for engaging multiple stakeholders and technology advancements that supported the overall objective of the initiative. It added that innovations in technology and skilled human capital were critical for creating, engaging and sustaining the future cities.
The report said that all smart cities integrated Information and Communication Technology into energy, transportation, smart buildings, governance and social infrastructure. The scope and extent of integration into these components and their application varied between cities.
Smart cities require renewable sources to reduce dependency on coal for energy generation, promote mixed use developments and encourage walkability, and reduce wastage of resources. Some of the primary features of such cities include efficient energy management though smart grids and smart metering, seamless integrated public transportation to enable efficient and swift mobility, energy efficient buildings to reduce the overall carbon footprint, access to quality social and physical infrastructure and reformed governance structure with accountable and empowered urban local bodies.
Focusing on hindrances in the way of developing smart cities, the report said India currently lagged behind on sustainability of its urban areas due to several factors including overcrowding, congestion and inadequate infrastructure. It stressed on the need to address these issues before retrofitting or building new smart cities.
The report pointed out that poor governance structures limited the financial autonomy of urban local bodies and hence posed a serious challenge to development of smart cities. It emphasised on the need to shift towards decentralised planning in order to deal with jurisdictional overlaps within government agencies, adding that a unified vision across different government bodies was imperative for swift implementation of smart cities. Addressing the issue of complex social structure would help design equitable cities that provided all citizens access to basic necessities, the report said.
India’s urban population is expected to increase from 377 million in 2011 to 600 million by 2031. During the same period, the number of cities is projected to grow from 50 to 87. With almost 50 per cent of the total population expected to live in urban areas, smart cities have been proposed by the government for dealing with rapid urbanisation.