Smart Cities plan, a dynamic move

A  new phase of urban governance is being launched with the selection of 20 cities from different parts of the country for implementation of the Smart Cities Mission. The need for urban renewal had received the attention of governments in the past, but the Smart Cities Mission is seen as a more comprehensive project than the earlier ones. It will cover 97 cities, with 77 cities to be included in it in the next two years. The shortlisting and selection of cities has been done with much popular participation with citizens making suggestions on how to address the specific needs and situations in their cities. The bottom-up approach makes the mission a decentralised project, and avoids the one-size-and-kind-fits-all strategy that has caused the failure of many developmental schemes in the past. It must also be ensured that local self-government bodies and not bureaucrats have the power and responsibility to implement the mission in every chosen city.

The highlight of the scheme is the extensive use of technology, especially information technology, in addressing and resolving civic issues. It aims to adopt smart solutions for efficient use of assets, resources and infrastructure. Basically, a smart city is an urban region with advanced infrastructure, sustainable housing and seamless communications. It will provide the basic infrastructure and will be a key facilitator in offering essential services to citizens. A smart city is expected to provide assured water and electricity supply, efficient sanitation and solid waste management, easy mobility and public transport, good IT connectivity, e-governance and safety and security to citizens. Public participation will be a key element of the implementation of all the plans that come under the mission. The selected areas can serve as new growth centres and can improve the quality and standards of life of the residents. There is much greater chance for realisation of the potential for the development of Tier II cities under the mission. Smaller and backward towns and cities will receive attention and investment, and this can ensure more balanced urban development across the country.

In the next two decades, India will see that half of its population live in urban centres. The urban explosion that is going to happen in such a short time is difficult to manage in terms of governance, administration and provision of facilities. The Smart Cities Mission
may be considered as a step to meet the challenge. It should lead to even and uniform urban growth across the country, and not just to creation of islands of excellence. Its importance cannot be overstated as development and urbanisation are closely interlinked.
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