Tangible Outcome: Progress under the Smart Cities Mission

Progress under the Smart Cities Mission

India is increasingly banking on smart technologies to address the country’s urban ex­plosion. This new strategy has allowed the government to use its resources and plan infrastructure development in a more sustainable and effective manner, as well as improve overall city operations.

Among the 100 Indian cities targeted in the Smart Cities Mission (SCM), the Ministry of Hou­sing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) identified In­dia’s top 20 smart cities as the first to recei­ve funds for the development of smart projects. So far, 100 smart cities have tendered 6,928 projects worth Rs 1,912.38 billion, issued work orders for 6,282 projects worth Rs 1,655.03 billion, and completed 3,576 proje­cts worth Rs 599.58 billion.

Nonetheless, numerous programmes un­der the SCM, which is partially funded by the centre, remain unfinished as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, which halted many projects in 2020. As a result, the implementation deadline for the­se cities has been extended till June 2023. As of March 4, 2022, the government has granted Rs 292.13 billion towards 100 smart cities, of which Rs 251.77 billion (86 per cent) has been spent.

Making gradual headway

As of March 4, 2022, the SCM is implementing 789 smart road projects worth Rs 267.94 billion to boost non-motorised transport and improve pedestrian amenities, which will result in the reduction of congestion, environmental pollution and greenhouse gases. Similarly, 95 solar po­wer projects worth Rs 13.01 billion are now un­der implementation. A total of 316 smart water projects worth Rs 240.29 billion and 268 sm­art wastewater projects worth Rs 179.83 billi­on have been accepted. These and several more programmes that contribute to greenhouse gas reduction, pollution reduction and resource conservation are all part of the mission.

According to MoHUA, in 2021, roughly 47 per cent of national projects were completed. The government launched around 10,000 in­te­r­nships as part of the Urban Learning Intern­ship Programme to provide learning opportunities for recent graduates. Additionally, the government has built digital infrastructure and tools to ensure data accessibility, as well as undertaken skill-building efforts to develop solutions for citizen-centric governance as part of the Na­tio­nal Urban Digital Mission.

The Climate Center for Cities (C-Cube) has been built under the National Institute of Ur­b­an Af­fairs to assist climate action across citi­es. In 76 smart cities, integrated command and control centres (ICCCs) have been ope­ra­tio­nalised. These ICCCs contribute significantly to the growth of traffic control, solid waste ma­­n­age­ment and water distribution management. Dis­a­ster management is an integral part of their ob­li­­ga­tions. Smart cities have successfully em­pl­oy­ed ICCCs and linked smart infrastructure to im­prove their response to the Covid-19 outbreak.

With the goal of achieving a green recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, several national-level challenges have been launched under the mission to promote safer, healthier and more en­vironmentally friendly cities, including the Streets4People, India Cycles4Change, Trans­port­­4All, Nurturing Neighbourhoods, and Eat­Smart Cities Challenges.

New Delhi, Chennai and Indore are the cities with the maximum completed projects, with over 80 per cent completion status. So far, the initiatives implemented have been qui­te diverse. For example, in the city of Agra in Uttar Pradesh, a se­ries of flagship projects are being implemented ranging from micro-skill de­velopment to sm­art health centres and sm­art classes in two mu­nicipal schools that have the potential to significantly improve educational quality. Mangaluru is investing in renewable energy by installing solar panels throughout the city, which will re­duce electricity bills by up to Rs 6 million ($78,000) over the next 25 years. The city of Tumakuru in so­uthern Kar­nataka has developed a smartphone app that connects individuals directly to the police in order to improve city security.

Outlook and future targets

While India’s SCM has had mixed success thus far, it has received an extremely encouraging re­s­ponse throughout the country. These initiatives have already improved the quality of life for In­dian inhabitants in various places. The mission should be viewed as a long-term un­dertaking rather than a project that must be completed within a few years. Moreover, the SCM is collaborating with the World Economic Fo­rum to establish the Artificial Intelligence Strategy for Urban India. This strategy will serve as a road map for all cities to deploy and manage these technologies. Furthermore, there are possibilities for MoUHA to integrate the national schemes with smart cities in order to amplify the benefits.