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Smart city mission: Greatest opportunity to improve lives

According to a leading report on the cities of India, cities lodge approximately 31% of India's present population and contribute around 63% of GDP (Census 2011). It further states that urban areas are anticipated to house 40% of India's people and contribute around 75% of India's GDP by the year 2030. Smart cities aren’t just a concept or a dream of the future rather it is the greatest opportunity to improve lives in India. It focuses on sustainable and inclusive development models in India and primarily inclines towards the compact areas to generate a model which will act as a lighthouse to other aspiring cities.

smart city

It is an innovative initiative under the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, Government of India launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2015 to drive economic growth and improve the quality of life of people by enabling local development and better technology as a means to create smart outcomes for citizens.

Why we need smart cities?

India is the world’s second-most populous state. According to Unique Identification Aadhar India, updated May 2020, its population will cross 1.39 billion in 2021. And, by the coming years, the urban population will increase, creating more impact on the GDP of our country. But these cities are facing huge problems in the areas of waste management, sustainability, water pollution, air pollution, traffic jams, and other issues like crime. These problems need smarter solutions which is why the government of India launched the 'smart city mission'  and make our cities sustainable ad resilient enough to face the needs of future generations.

Its objective is to promote cities that provide core infrastructure and give a decent quality of life to citizens, a clean and sustainable environment and solutions like 24 hour electricity supply, clean drinking water, better public transportation system, use of mobile technology like GPS, to address the problems of the city.

Some examples from around the world of smart city include Barcelona that promoted solar energy to increase sustainability, Curitiba that increased recycling through citizen incentives, Boston that introduced gunshot sensor to pinpoint the location of gunshot spot which helps in immediate security responses, among many others.

India’s ministry of urban development is responsible for implementing this mission in collaboration with the state government of respective cities with a deadline for completion of projects set between 2019 and 2023. Cities are selected based on smart city challenge where they compete in a countrywide competition to obtain the benefits from this mission. It is a five-year program in which, except West Bengal, all Indian states and union territories are participating by nominating at least one city from their states.

In FY2021, the smart city mission was allocated the same amount as in the previous year – INR 6,450 crore by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. Urban-centric issues highlighted by the finance minister in her budget speech could be broadly grouped around the themes of cleanliness, mobility, and shelter. The flow of funds for urban development may improve substantially in near future. The scheme will boost core sectors, provide a fillip to economic growth, create employment opportunities for the youth and enhance ease of mobility for urban residents. 

According to data from the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, of the 5,151 smart city projects, 1,638 projects have been completed. So, post-Covid, there is a huge opportunity in this area for the government to make a substantial change in the lives of people. In terms of expenditure of the government, of the total investment of INR 2,05,018 crore, developments amounting to INR 26,700 crore have been accomplished to date.

There is a need to increase investments in the identified smart cities and also to create sustainable models for them as smart city plans need effective and efficient planning and execution to create a long-term positive impact.

This blog has been authored by Dr. Rouhin Deb.