By 2020 about 500 million people shall be living in urban India. The world population currently is around 7,300 million. It is desirable that cities which attract a huge number of people of various age and income categories are able to respond to their growing aspirations. This is not an easy task. The need for robust institutional, physical and social infrastructure is crucial to sustenance of a city and its hinterland that support the burgeoning population. It is quite common for citizens to spend several hours on the road commuting between workplace and home. With projected increase in the number of cars by four times between 2011 and 2025, it is an obvious outcome. Dry taps and long-drawn power cuts grapple citizens, particularly in harsh seasons. Today most large Indian cities feature amongst the top 100 polluted cities of the world. The quality of life remains a major area of concern with increasing crime rate, rising cost of healthcare and education, and difficulties in seeking public services. The concept of smart cities is a welcome move of the new government that intends to address all these issues holistically and transform cities so that they are made more livable and expandable.
While the provision of robust infrastructure would be critical to the realisation of this target, an equal and concerted effort is required towards cutting down on wastages and inefficiencies. With government estimates of $1 trillion investment requirement for infrastructure over 12th Plan Period, while the GDP of India was $1.87 million in 2013, there is a serious challenge on meeting the infrastructure gap with rising cost of financing, inadequate fuel supply, policy bottlenecks and constrained business environment. The government has estimated an annual requirement of about R35,000 crore ($5.8 billion) as investment requirement for 100 smart cities of 1 million population each. It is obvious that a robust financial architecture with equity from the private sector is necessary to realise the vision, while government can provide the viability gap support. The smart city concept is anchored around creating robust infrastructure (physical, institutional, social and economic) as its pillars to achieve the desired quality of life in the cities.
Smart initiatives around the world
There are several international success stories on smart city initiatives. Barcelona, for example, has a robust smart city initiative comprising of smart lighting to remote-control street lighting in addition to transitioning to energy-efficient lighting solutions in select streets; it has implemented smart metering to enable energy efficiency at the household level; smart irrigation controls in city parks; district heating and cooling for select neighbourhoods, and smart transportation systems. Barcelona has introduced a new orthogonal bus network that enhances commercial speed and frequency and any point in the city can be reached for 95% of cases with a single transfer.
The city of Yokohama in Japan is another example where several layers of smartness have been successfully incorporated to move towards a low-carbon city. The city has a strong demand response system that targets housing, commercial complexes and factories. A strong energy monitoring cum management system has been put in place at an individual consumer level to be able to track, monitor and manage energy consumption. Suitable incentives are in place to motivate consumers to save energy. This, coupled with an equally robust photovoltaic programme, with targeted generation capacity of 27 MW, is enabling the city to move towards a low-carbon regime, without compromising on the quality of life of its 3.7 million residents.
Cities in India need to be made habitable where people of all age and income groups should experience a liveable and safe city with equitable access to energy, water and transport. So, what are the parameters for a smart and sustainable city?
Efficient last-mile connectivity is a must. Smart cities need to be walkable and have emphasis on non-motorised transport such as cycling. Improved public transport, road networks and infrastructure for cycling and walking are key determinants of a smart city. Smartness can be enhanced by IT-enabled ticketing, parking, signalling, fleet management and other transport-related services.
Reliable utility services in the form of 24x7 availability of power, clear water are crucial for a city. The use of smart metering, smart grid and smart demand response systems can reduce wastage and optimise demand/supply gap. Water supply and management can be made robust and sustainable through smart provisions such as leakage detection, optimised network planning, smart irrigation and monitoring cum management of water supply and distribution, including billing.
Sanitation and solid waste management are keys to healthy and clean cities. In addition to segregation at source, collection, recycling and reuse of waste, use of smart technologies and systems can be deployed to detect overflowing community dustbins, and manage solid waste collection, disposal and treatment.
Connectivity and availability of information over fast internet and telephony is a very important aspect of a smart city. Social infrastructure in the form of education, healthcare and entertainment facilities shall enable cities to be self-contained in providing necessary social support to its citizens and enhance their quality of life.
Smart governance, implementation and monitoring citizens participation shall be extremely crucial to deliver the desired objectives of a smart city. This would require the urban local bodies and the citizens to be sensitised adequately.
A smart city is a dream destination where citizens can commute without worrying about reaching their workplace or home on time, where women can come home safely at night, where children shall have good education and safe playgrounds, where one does not have to wake up at night over a power cut, where clean water is always available, where citizens are not choked by pollution and, most importantly, where citizens care for each other and the government is transparent and ever ready to help. We do hope that we achieve the dream under our new leadership.
Source: Financial Express
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