Will India overcome challenges to build smart cities?

Nice post on India’s smart cities project.

Apart from the advantages and disadvantages in the project, article draws what different Indian cities are upto.

The objective of India’s smart cities program is “to promote cities that provide core infrastructure and give a decent quality of life to its citizens, a clean and sustainable environment and application of ‘smart’ solutions,” according to India’s Ministry of Urban Development, which is spearheading the smart cities program. It wants to focus on “sustainable and inclusive development” and create “replicable models” of compact city areas that will act “like a lighthouse to other aspiring cities.”

The ministry has identified responsibilities for the cities, which include providing water and sewage infrastructure, waste water treatment, solid waste management and sanitary landfills, primary education and health care, slum upgrades, local roads, public transport and street lighting.

The cities were selected based on scores they received from their responses to a detailed questionnaire. Among other aspects, it covered their track record over the past three years in areas such as improved livability, sustainability and economic development, the use of technology, as well as how they leveraged citizen engagement.

“It is a completely bottom-up process,” said Sameer Sharma, joint secretary (smart cities) in the Ministry of Urban Development at the “One Globe: Uniting Knowledge Communities” conference held recently in New Delhi, where the main theme was smart cities. “The focus is on competition, on results orientation and do-ability, and not just ideas … [Having a] vision is fine, but every step has to be tied into that vision.”

Among the cities the country selected, big metropolitan areas such as Mumbai and Bangalore lost, while much smaller Kakinada (population about 300,000) in Andhra Pradesh state won. He noted that Kakinada scored points with an innovative feature that allowed differently abled people to participate in the conceptual process, such as with Braille keyboards.

All these developments are far more important than the macro noise which dominates media space.

It is nice to see small cities waking up to the challenges as big cities are either sleeping or just too full to do anything. This will really help in India’s transition to a more even urbanisation. As of now, much if it is hell with just traffic and congestion everywhere.

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