Smart cities, the future of living in India

There is a great buzz in India, recently, on Smart cities. The government has embarked on ‘Smart Cities Mission’, one of the Prime Minister’s pet projects and has identified, in the first phase, a list of 98 current cities to be developed into smart cities.

Purpose

Economic growth and improving the quality of life of its citizens are the prime drivers of the mission. To achieve this, government plans to enable local area development by using Digital Technology and Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). Greenfield areas are to be developed in the periphery of the cities to provide accommodation to the anticipated growth of the population as a result of these developments.

Smart cities will use technology, gather and collate information and data by using smart solutions with the aim of improving the services and infrastructure. The information gathered will be in real time thereby providing quicker solutions to problems on hand. As a result the quality of life improves creating a feel-good factor in the individual. This would also lead to higher productivity, employment opportunities and income generation and consequently, inclusive growth.

How is ‘smart city’ different from a normal city?

A normal city is a defined area with boundary limits including both urban and suburban areas. Land area, population, civic facilities, administration with structured portfolios, well defined transport systems, medical and educational facilities and a faster pace of life, all define a city. It contrasts with a town or village in that the above stated facilities are less or nonexistent in them. It is also true that many a time towns grow into cities.

There seems to be no universal definition of what is a smart city. Many parameters define a smart city and these may not be applicable universally; it would vary from country to country and city to city. The level of development planned, resources required or available, a commitment to change and introduce reforms taking the aspirations of its citizens are all necessary requirements in a smart city. So a smart city is the normal city with much more.

Smart city provides the citizens high quality, cost effective service seamlessly and with a minimum use of the resources. The latest technology is used in providing these services. Digital Technology offers most services at the click of the mouse which otherwise involved a physical presence of the resident to receive many of the services such as banking, shopping, government services (payment of taxes, bills, accessing information etc). Smart cities are high on the social indices, employment opportunities and good and transparent governance.

Let us look at one of the 98 cities that have been identified by the government of India to be set up as Smart Cities – Ahmedabad. Each smart city is to receive a government grant of Rs. 100 crores over the next five years to start with. Consistent with the Smart city plan, the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) has been involved in two projects: Sabarmati River Front and Bhadra Fort Revitalization. The first has transformed the Sabarmati river front, from a slum infested area due to decades of neglect and decay to being a place of leisure and recreation. The reclamation of a 10.5 km stretch with clean waterways has become not only a centre of tourist importance but also an avenue for commercial activities. One of the largest slum clearance projects of the city had to be carried out for this transformation.

The second is the Bhadra Fort Revitalization project which has helped clear the area of squatters from the Bhadra Fort to the Teen Darwaja area and organized the hitherto disorderly and chaotic hawker trade to a well-regulated and orderly one, preserving its architectural and cultural edifices. Much more needs to be done in other parts of the city to be in sync with the Smart Cities Mission.

How will a smart city impact the real estate?

It is common knowledge that when a geographical area gets a holistic development, trade and commerce gets favorably impacted. People naturally move in to settle down and this boosts the real estate market. All commercial activity is people driven and therefore it pushes real estate demand. Realtors in Ahmedabad are therefore happy. Civic authorities will also be happy for they can provide transparent governance which leads to less dissatisfaction among residents. Residents are happy when they are provided a better standard of living with all amenities and services being available to them. It is a win-win situation for all. Ergo smart city!