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Unraveling the Hype Around Smart Cities : What Needs to be Done Before We Can Actually Become Smart Residents?

Originally a premise of the developed economies, Smart cities have generated a lot of buzz in the country even since the Prime minister outlined his vision of creating 100 smart cities by 2022. In tune with this announcement, a Union Budget allocation of Rs 7060 crores was made for developing 100 Smart cities by 2022. Smart cities with its numerous advantages surely look promising. However, the process of gathering the necessary resources to bring the “Smart India” dream to fruition will encounter obstacles, the primary factor being monetary resources.

Although gathering the enormous amount of funds required to build 100 smart cities is quite an uphill task, hope stems from the fact that the government is seeking support from developed nations in addition to allocating a part of the Union Budget for this purpose. In fact, Japan has expressed interest in developing Varanasi as a Smart city while Singapore has expressed its interest in developing a new “Smart” capital for the state of Andhra Pradesh. The involvement of other nations will be crucial to realizing smart cities in India because these nations will not only bring along financial support but also the crucial technical knowhow of building smart cities. Moreover, given that previously no smart cities have been developed in the country, alliances with experienced foreign counterparts will definitely highlight the ground realities that need to be addressed before we begin to smarten our cities.

Speaking of Ground Realities, basic amenities such as electricity and water supply still lack in a majority of the areas that have been identified as potential sites for developing smart cities. Hence, developing Smart cities will not be an easy task. First, facilities for transport, waste disposal, water supply and traffic security management will have to be put in place before smart cities can be developed. More significantly, a city cannot be smart without continuous power supply. Hence, transmission and distribution systems that facilitate 24×7 uninterrupted power supply will have to be developed.

Further, the government is lobbying with private investors in the country to attract funds for Smart cities. However, it will definitely not be easy to attract private investments because business men are willing to take business risks but the political perils associated with a government initiative such as Smart cities is likely to act as a deterrent.

Other than garnering support from all over, the government will need to take care that it does not fall prey to its policies. In a nation otherwise known for its business risking notorious red tapes, special measures will have to be taken up to ensure that environmental clearances and other regulations do not act as deterrents.

On the cusp of urbanization, the urban population in India is set to grow by 75% by the year 2050. Hence, Smart cities are not only present an opportunity for other industries but also represent a solution to the growing woes of ensuring a quality lifestyle in urban hotspots. And for the successful execution of smart cities, a seamless integration of home bred talent and global smart city experts would be crucial. Indian talent has a better understanding of the groundwork to be completed before smart cities can be constructed. On the other hand, global experts will bring along their previous experiences with developing and sustaining smart cities. Further, with private investors beginning to express an interest in Smart cities, the “Smart City” project seems to have begun on the right note. Nevertheless, the future outcome will be dictated by how supportive private investors and overseas alliances prove to be in the future. Additionally, support from Indian Inc could be expected.

This Blog is written by Akansha Sahoo, Sr Analyst with DART Consulting