There is a need to go beyond the traditional ways of planning to support the smart city initiative.
India´s urban population was 377.1 million in 2011 and urban population to total population was 31 per cent. There were over 7,935 urban centres and out of these as many as 53 metropolitan cities with population more than a million. The urban sector contributed to about two-thirds of gross domestic product in 2009-10. There is robust economic growth at the national level; however, the percentage of urban poor continues to be high. The all-India head count ratio for urban poverty was 20.9 per cent in 2009-10 and total number of urban poor was 76.47 million in 2009-10. In India, there is a strong realization that its urban areas need to improve for the country to achieve fast and sustained economic development.
Empowering Local Governments
The 74th Constitutional Amendment Act came into force in June, 1993 which sought to strengthen decentralization. Many States have not transferred functions, funds and functionaries to ULBs. Revenue powers of ULBs are often not in consonance. There is also no consistency about term, powers and method of election of Mayors. In most States, Mayors do not have executive powers as they are vested with the Commissioners. Implementation of the Act needs strengthening.
The High Powered Expert Committee (HPEC) on Urban Infrastructure chaired by Dr. Isher Ahluwalia initiated its work in June 2008 and submitted its report in March 2011. It has estimated investment requirement for urban services in the country over 2012-31 at Rs 39.2 lakh crore ($871.11 billion) at 2009-10 prices. The operation and maintenance of old and new assets will account for half of total costs. The report argues that the challenge of managing urbanization will have to be addressed through a combination of increased investment, strengthening the frame¡work of governance, and comprehensive capacity building programmes at all levels.
The government of India had undertaken several reform-linked urban initiatives for urban local bodies like the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM). It was launched on a mission mode for a period of seven years to bring about planned urban development in urban India. With its two sub-missions, Urban Infrastructure and Governance and Basic Services for urban poor, the mission formulated reforms and projects, aiming at rendering ULBs empowered and financially sustainable in accordance with the spirit of the 74th Amendment Act for successfully managing the urban agenda. A review of JNNURM´s performance for the past five years shows that States and ULBs differ significantly in availing their respective grants from the government of India for project funding. Major lessons learned from JNNURM are: poor planning process, failure to adopt service benchmarks, lack of capacity, one size fits all does not work and incomplete reforms. Overall goals for urban development in India are sustainable, inclusive and development ofsmart cities. India has to improve urban infrastructure and governance to achieve economic development goals and provide jobs for the youth.
We should have sustainable and inclusive smart cities. The focus of urban transport should be on public transport and not individual transport. There should be spaces for cycling and walking. Land use plans are integrated with public transport and there is high density mixed land use.
Moreover, improved revenue base of urban local bodies could be through unlocking of land values.
For future urban programmes, these steps are recommended: complete the reforms, preparation of City Development and Financial Plan, shifting of focus from projects to programme, 10-year mission period, leverage funds through Private Public Participation, separate capacity building mission, incentives for taking more complex reforms, extensive use of Information, Communication and Technology (ICT), etc.
This article has been authored by Prof Chetan Vaidya, Director School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi.