The ideal blueprint for India's smart cities

Sep 03, 2015, 11:55 IST | Hassan M Kamal

If we move away from the nomenclature and branding of the campaign, we see, the idea is basically repackaging of the basic facilities that every city should offer to its citizens

If we move away from the nomenclature and branding of the campaign, we see, the idea is basically repackaging of the basic facilities that every city should offer to its citizens. This is what a urban planner friend commented after hearing about NDA’s Smart City Challenge.

Graphic: Uday Mohite

Nevertheless 98 cities from across India are going to compete with each other for funds to become the next smart city(ies) of India. And to successfully pass the challenge, each must meet certain pre-requisite conditions which includes offering basic facilities such as water, electricity, healthcare, security and grievance redressal, among others, but using modern technologies.

The state of Maharashtra has nominated ten cities including Greater Mumbai, Thane, Dombivli-Kalyan and Navi Mumbai from the Mumbai Metropolitan region along with Solapur, Nashik, Pune, Amravati, Aurangabad and Nagpur for the challenge. As per the challenge, each city will be required to work along with private companies, which have already been shortlisted.

The government is offering a total of Rs 48,000 crore for the project, which will be released over five years starting from financial year 2015-16 to 2019-20. Each city will be given R100 crore to carry out the project every year. However, the state government/union territories, will have to match up with an equal amount for the project.

What is a smart city?
According to the government, there’s no concrete definition for a smart city. It changes from city to city, people to people, and country to country.

Our vision: Our blueprint
A smart city, for us, is an approach to improve the efficiency of city operations, the quality of life for its citizens and help grow the local economy. It’s also a city where its citizens are educated and aware of how to make use of these technologies for a better tomorrow.

Easy grievance redressal
E-platform for payments and grievance redressal

High speed wireless connectivity
Non-stop cellular connectivity, high-speed Internet connectivity and public Wi-Fi hotspots

City app
A comprehensive city guide app for citizens as well as tourists

Single emergency help line
A single, easy-to-remember helpline for citizens for all emergency situations

24x7 Information kiosks
Self-operated dynamic information kiosks that provide real-time information concerning traffic, weather, news, directions as well as details on public welfare schemes and plans.

Shelter homes for homeless
State-run shelter homes offering accommodation and rehabilitation of the homeless

Eco-friendly and sustainable transport
Utilise all modes of transport including roadways, railways as well as waterways, promote a sharing model and use eco-friendly means of transport

Online libraries
Digitised, connected libraries with facility for e-borrowing

Intelligent traffic system
Automated traffic signals with mechanism to recognise offenders and issue fines.

Crime Prevention and monitoring
Real-time monitoring and prevention of crime and safety and security of citizens particularly women, and the elderly

Smart storage system
Prevent wastage of food and other resources using smart methods and technologies

Sanitation and smart waste management
Modern, clean toilets, and a system for segregation and recycling of waste

Accessible infrastructure for the disabled
Easy-to-access public facilities and buildings for people with disabilities

Smart Disaster Management
Crisis response system for smart climate prediction and warning about natural calamities

Open green areas, pedestrian and cycling tracks
Gardens and theme parks for recreation, and designated space for pedestrians and cyclists

Smart housing
Affordable houses with centralised control of lighting, heating, ventilation, air conditioning, appliances and locks in gates and doors to offer improved comfort, convenience, energy efficiency and security

Total number of cities who have applied for the challenge. Maharashtra has nominated 10 cities.

Number of cities which will be selected for first round of funding based on their Smart City Plans (SCPs)

Buildings in case of redevelopment and greenfield models of Smart Cities, should be energy efficient and green buildings.

15% of the total housing provided in greenfield development should be in the affordable housing category

10% of the Smart City’s energy requirement should come from solar energy

Plans are to be carried out using four models
>> Redevelopment (city renewal for area 50+ acres) 
>> Greenfield Development (expansion in previously vacant area (over 250 acres)
>> Retrofitting (city improvement of over 500 acres)
>> Pan-city (Smart Solutions are applied covering larger parts of the city)


Tamaal Roy, CEO, Biomatiques

It’s a bold idea. But, we are rushing towards it. Instead of focusing on 98 cities, we should have chosen one city, and built upon it. We could’ve picked a smart taluka / village, and then gone to create a smart city. Or, we could have taken it to coastal villages, or landslide-prone areas and used modern technology to solve these problems. Besides, this project will give more money to the same municipal corporations, responsible for the mess in India’s cities. The Rs 48,000 crores will also burden the taxpayer.

Ali Poonawala, Architect (specialises in green methods)
The plan aims to provide essential services to citizens in a smart way. It’s a good initiative but its success will depend a lot on how well do citizens and people like architects, developers and engineers take it up. People need to be consciously aware of these technologies and see the benefit in them. It will also require policy changes that offer benefits (such as tax exemptions) to those who use these smart/sustainable technologies. The success will also depend on the implementation and execution of these plans without causing too much discomfort to citizens. For e.g. the Monorail construction at Currey Road has been going on for nearly two years now. In the same time we could have also upgraded the station and the bridge.

Mishi Choudhary, Legal Director, Software New York
We are talking about smart cities but we are not ready to move towards such scale of connectivity when user rights in data protection and privacy remain undefined. There is corporate surveillance, mass surveillance, targeted surveillance, all of which need to be addressed. Without clarity on Right to Privacy and strict rules about data collection and usage, Internet of Things, which is where all devices, whether wearable gadgets or our vehicles or our kitchen appliances report on our lives, are the start of the data value chains. This is the last generation that gets a choice to decide what kind of world they wish to live in.

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