A smart city is not only about cutting-edge technology, gadgets guiding your lifestyle or using ICT (Information and Communications Technology) but also to string together a man-machine interaction that will drive our socio-economic engagement in the society.
India, as a nation, is aspirational, with our citizens keen to explore ways for a better livelihood. This mindset has been supported by the recent focus on access to digital technology which brings an awareness of development globally. The willingness and adaptability of our residents towards new practices have been the essential factor for launching the smart city project.
A smart city is not only about cutting-edge technology, gadgets guiding your lifestyle or using ICT (Information and Communications Technology) but also to string together a man-machine interaction that will drive our socio-economic engagement in the society. Yes, these techno-gadgets will definitely drive smartness in urban habitats and will play an enabling role in driving the sustainable and smart habitat, but they are not the means to an end to the current haphazard urbanisation. When a city is self-sufficient and self-sustainable, it means that the city is generating its own employment opportunities, resulting in improving its economy and reducing the migration of the local population to larger cities. Visions for smart cities encompass several challenges, regarding, for instance, revenue streams, data, sustainability, prioritisation, integration and at least as important, the human essence. We can consider that the first smart city of the world was first conceived in India way back in 2,700 BC- Harappa. This city of the Indus Civilisation was a home to the largest of the four ancient urban civilisations of Egypt, Mesopotamia, South Asia and China.
Recent studies carried out by top research firms, across the globe, have seen that by introducing smartness to cities or transforming cities towards smartness, the quality of life increases by 10-30 per cent, fatalities reduce by 8-10 per cent, average commute time is saved by 15-20 per cent, disease burden lowers by 8-10 per cent, emergency response time improves by 15-20 per cent and the environmental pollution reduces by 10-12 per cent.
Today, close to 50 per cent of the population lives in urban areas and this number would tend to increase and would cross 60 per cent by 2050. In India, urban areas are expected to house 40 per cent of the population and contribute 75 per cent of India's GDP by 2030. This requires a comprehensive development of physical, institutional, social and economic infrastructure. Hence, a strong core infrastructure, a clean and sustainable environment, and application of smart solutions are the objectives to focus on the inclusive development.
While analysing the world's top smart cities, it is seen that authorities have considered one of the three approaches to becoming smart, safe and sustainable.
a. Historic importance or direction in which the city is growing.
b. Need base.
c. Scattered approach.
What a city need?
In the first scenario, cities deploy a single key application for which there is a clear and pressing need, then add others over time as they also become necessary. In the need based approach, cities focus on building the technology infrastructure required to deliver any manner of smart applications and services. In the last route, which is a scattered approach, authorities consider multiple pilots to see how they perform, without too much concern in the early phases of the long-term deployment.
One can see that there are several approaches and no one size fits all. Still, both successful smart city projects and successful evolutions towards smart cities share some common traits. What needs to be taken care of is:
a. Avoidance of silos between various government departments.
b. Usage of available data and accessibility to various available information.
c. Scalability or integral solutions and flexibility of solutions.
d. Selection of the right technology.
e. Citizen engagement initiatives.
The vision of the Government of India is massive. The Smart Cities Mission has identified 100 cities to be transformed into smart cities. The total urban population that would get benefitted by this mission would be more than 99 million population of urban India. Overall, projects worth Rs 2 trillion have been identified for all the 100 smart cities across the country. Of this, Pan City solutions projects are about Rs 389 billion and the rest are Area-based Solutions. As on date around, 1,333 projects worth Rs 506 billion have been completed or are under implementation or at the tendering stage.
Investments needed for a complete implementation require the Central and the state, and Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) funds and as per reports by leading analyst firms, 60 per cent of the amount has to be roped in from private firms. Financially viable projects for private investments have to be identified and such projects have to be taken up under Build Operate Transfer (BOT) through the Public-Private Partnership module, which has been one of the proven methods of repayment. We, at Shapoorji Pallonji, foresee many opportunities to participate in the smart cities endeavour, across all infrastructure and ICT-based projects.
There are several successfully implemented projects under the smart city projects across the globe through PPP module. Most of them include infra projects such as smart street lighting, water supply and sewerage systems, etc. where revenue generation or cost saved are paid back to the investor. We, at Shapoorji, under PPP or BOT (hybrid annuity model) module have also proposed to transform a small town in Andra Pradesh to a smart city. The project includes the development of infrastructure and IOT projects in two years and recovers the capital invested in 10 years during the operation period.
Authored by BS Sudhanvan, Vice President and Head of Smart Cities, Shapoorji Pallonji Engineering and Construction.
Transforming the existing cities is a bigger challenge than creating a new city, as it involves retrofitting the existing legacy. We are also involved in transforming Varanasi into a smart city. With a flourishing tourism industry, which aims to increase the footfalls by over 25 per cent, Varanasi has all the elements to become a unique smart city. We are working with many stakeholders on the following principles laid out by them: Suramya Kashi (picturesque); Samunnat Kashi (progressive); Surakshit Kashi (secure); Sanyojit Kashi (organised); Nirmal Kashi (pure) and Ekikrit Kashi (unified). Our Varanasi Smart City project is focused on Varanasi's socio-economic growth, cleanliness, smooth traffic movement, parking solutions, smart street lighting, mobile apps and e-governance, solid waste management, integrated command control center and disaster recovery.