The journey of the Smart Cities Mission (SCM) has faced hiccups and delays due to the Covid-19 pandemic and its associated implications. While the mission was launched in 2015 with an envisaged completion time of five years, the deadline for implementation has now been revised to 2023.
The 100 selected cities have been successful in establishing their Smart City Advisory Forum. They will receive financial support of Rs 480 billion from the central government over the course of the mission, which is an average of Rs 1 billion per city per year, with an equal amount to be contributed by the respective state governments and urban local bodies. As on July 8, 2022, the government had released Rs 307.51 billion in funds, of which 90 per cent has been utilised by the states. A total of 7,822 projects worth Rs 1,906.6 billion have been tendered while work orders have been issued for 7,649 projects worth Rs 1,809.96 billion, and 4,085 projects worth Rs 669.12 billion have been completed.
A look at the key highlights of the mission over the past year…
- Performance of top seven states: The top performing states with the highest number of completed projects are Karnataka with 66 per cent projects completed followed by Gujarat (62 per cent), Rajasthan (61 per cent), Madhya Pradesh (57 per cent), Uttar Pradesh (54 per cent), Tamil Nadu (45 per cent) and Chhattisgarh (40 per cent).
- GIFT city setting an example for smart cities: Gujarat International Finance Tec (GIFT) City in Ahmedabad is India’s first operational smart city and is recognised as a model for greenfield development. It is an upcoming financial and IT services hub with state-of-the-art infrastructure encompassing all basic urban elements. Recently, on July 29, 2022, the India International Bullion Exchange, India’s maiden international finance service centre (IFSC), was inaugurated in the city to revamp the overseas investment framework. As per industry experts, this initiative will benefit both financial and non-financial services players to make overseas investments in the Indian IFSC and develop new lines of business. In August 2022, the IFSC also launched a fleet of electric buses and e-bikes by Charter Speed Limited to address the demand for public transportation in the city and support plans for the expansion of e-mobility to mass transit.
- Establishment of ICCCs for seamless service provision: As of March 2022, 80 smart cities have been operationalised with integrated command and control centres (ICCCs), which assist in monitoring and improve efficiency in areas such as traffic management, solid waste management and water distribution management. The Madhya Pradesh Urban Administration and Development Department has planned a common cloud-based data centre for smart cities and an ICCC at each of its seven smart cities.
- Tapping the potential of 5G-enabled street utilities: There is significant scope for 5G small cell deployment on smart poles, road signages, bus stops, traffic signal poles, etc. The Bhopal Smart City has emerged as a front runner in this space with a pilot project for 5G speed trials at four locations by Vodafone Idea and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India. Tests for the same have also been conducted at 11 locations in the city and similar cells have been deployed in other cities (Delhi, Bengaluru, Kandla) by other telcos such as Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio and BSNL.
- Installation of flood sensors in Kalyan-Dombivli Smart City: Flood control and storm water drainage are being implemented as a single project or as a component of a larger project in the smart cities of Maharashtra. As of June 2022, the Kalyan-Dombivli Municipal Corporation (KDMC) had addressed the issue and installed flood control sensors at 10 locations in its jurisdiction. These locations are linked to the Smart City Operation Centre of KDMC. The sensors would help in alerting the control room if the water reaches an alarming level during heavy rains.
- NUDM facilitates online public services access: In June 2022, the Lucknow state government signed an Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) to make its public services available online. The MoU was to enable access to of various facilities online such as payment of water and sewerage charges, issuance of birth and death certificates, and property tax assessment and payment under the National Urban Digital Mission. The mission is an open source digital platform, which creates a shared digital infrastructure for the cities to enable more streamlined and transparent delivery of public services.
- Smart solutions for water and waste management: In August 2021, a supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system was launched for tertiary treated water monitoring under the SCM. Chandigarh undertook this project to align with its sustainable development efforts. The project, bearing a cost of Rs 40.4 million, is still under implementation. It will monitor the quantity and quality of recycled water to save water resources that are used for irrigation purposes in the city. Nagpur, Mumbai, Pune, Dehradun, Ahmedabad, Nashik, Delhi, Bengaluru and Naya Raipur have also implemented the system. The lack of automatic monitoring results in non-equitable distribution of tertiary treated water in the city. Application of the SCADA system would be helpful in monitoring residual minerals, pH levels and residual chlorine with the help of various IoT sensors and analysis equipment. Further, to improve its waste management efficiency, the Bhopal Smart City adopted a redevelopment model. The project will cost Rs 34.4 billion and includes the construction of a biomethanation plant with a capacity to treat 5 tonnes of waste to generate gas and electricity. The 435 vehicles deployed for collection and segregation of dry and wet waste report at an automated transfer station equipped with radio frequency identification and automatic number plate recognition-based technology.
While all the smart cities are moving forward at varying speeds, a large population is still struggling to get basic urban amenities. As per the Central Pollution Control Board report in 2013, a total of 53,898 million litres per day of sewage is generated by urban centres, of which only 36.8 per cent gets treated and the untreated water is disposed of as refuse. Per capita water availability in India is expected to touch 1,341 cubic meter (cum) by 2025 and 1,140 cum by 2050, which, as per the Composite Water Management Index, 2019 developed by NITI Aayog, will be close to the threshold for water scarcity of 1,000 cum per capita.
The objective of smart cities is to create technology and infrastructure while adhering to the principles of sustainability. This would be possible when these projects are led with smart solutions responsive to the local context. There is a need for sustainable innovations such as smart meters for monitoring the quality of water and its distribution, conversion of waste to fuel and compost, treatment of wastewater from industries and households for reuse, smart mobility, smart energy and governance. Cooperation among multiple stakeholders can help bridge the gap in resource identification and usage while creating transformational strategies.
To achieve this, it is important to feed the economic growth through private sector participation and investments in innovative solutions, as stressed upon by the MoHUA. At present, the SCM has witnessed the completion of 228 public-private partnership projects worth Rs 220 billion across more than 60 cities while there is further scope for 160 such projects worth Rs 150 billion.