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.