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Q. Being smart about Smart Cities Mission: Discuss the challenges that are involved in the smart city mission.
Jun 27, 2017 Related to : GS Paper-3

Ans :

Introduction-

The Government aims to develop cities into engines of growth, while improving the quality of life of its citizens. With the latest inclusions, there are 90 cities smart cities mission list, each of which proposes to turn ‘smart’, utilizing core funding from the Centre and other resources. By all accounts, the provision of basic services in urban India has been worsening, and this is clearly reflected in the winning city proposals: 81 of the selected plans seek funds for affordable housing, new schools and hospitals, and redesign of roads. 

Challenges involved in the Mission:

  • Retrofitting existing legacy city infrastructure to make it smart: There are a number of latent issues to consider when reviewing a smart city strategy. The most important is to determine the existing city’s weak areas that need utmost consideration, e.g. 100-per-cent distribution of water supply and sanitation. The integration of formerly isolated legacy systems to achieve citywide efficiencies can be a significant challenge.
  •  Availability of master plan or city development plan: Most of our cities don’t have master plans or a city development plan, which is the key to smart city planning and implementation and encapsulates all a city needs to improve and provide better opportunities to its citizens. Unfortunately 70-80 per cent of Indian cities don’t have one.
  • Three-tier governance: Successful implementation of smart city solutions needs effective horizontal and vertical coordination between various institutions providing various municipal amenities as well as effective coordination between central government (MoUD), state government and local government agencies on various issues related to financing and sharing of best practices and service delivery processes.
  • Providing clearances in a timely manner: For timely completion of the project, all clearances should use online processes and be cleared in a time-bound manner. A regulatory body should be set up for all utility services so that a level playing field is made available to the private sector and tariffs are set in a manner that balances financial sustainability with quality.
  • Reliability of utility services: For any smart city in the world, the focus is on reliability of utility services, whether it is electricity, water, telephone or broadband services. Smart cities should have universal access to electricity 24×7; this is not possible with the existing supply and distribution system. Cities need to shift towards renewable sources and focus on green buildings and green transport to reduce the need for electricity.

Conclusion:

The Centre has apparently decided to skirt such a fundamental problem by adopting a ‘managed urbanization’ approach in the chosen cities, with the powers of municipal councils delegated to a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV), under the Companies Act, that will act in its own wisdom. Clearly, there is a lot of low-hanging fruit on the road to smartness, and a nimble policy approach can tap this quickly. More importantly, the ideology that guides the plan should recognize that the vibrant life of cities depends on variety and enabling environments, rather than a mere technology-led vision. Pollution-free commons, walkability and easy mobility, with a base of reliable civic services, is the smart way to go.


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