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What is a smart city? How many such cities have been built in India so far?

By Shishir Agrawal
New Update
smart city pictures

Even the government does not have the answer to the question of: what is a smart city. In June 2015, a ‘Mission Statement and Guidelines’ were issued for this mission. In this document, it is said that there is no universal definition of 'smart city'. According to the document,

“The definition of a smart city is different for every person. So its meaning changes from city to city.”

However, the very next paragraph talks about building ‘developmental’ infrastructure for cities and providing excellent services. According to the document, the entire urban eco-system should be developed in such a way that it is in line with parameters of institutional, physical, social and economic infrastructure. In a sense, push for holistic development.

How many smart cities are ready?

The Smart City Mission was launched by the Prime Minister on 25 June 2015. The objective of this mission was to make 100 cities of the country 'Smart Cities' by the year 2020. Later its deadline was extended to June 2023. But, now they are likely to be completed by June 2024. Recently, the Standing Committee of the Parliament, while presenting its report in the Lok Sabha, has said that out of the total 7,970 projects, 400 projects will not be completed even by the end of this year. 

In the total expenditure of Rs 98,000, estimated for the Smart City Mission, out of this the Central Government is going to invest Rs 48,000.

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Smart traffic system is one of the main objectives of smart city. Traffic congestion is a major problem in many cities of India.

How was the smart city to be developed?

Under the Smart City Project, area-based development is adopted, i.e. a selected part of a city was to be developed in a 'smart' manner. This would later be ‘replicated’ in the rest of the city. Mainly 4 types of projects are to be implemented under this mission.

  • Retrofitting – Under such projects, an area of 500 acres of the city where construction has already been done was selected. In this, additional ‘smart’ construction and facilities were to be provided without much impact on the already existing structure.
  • Redevelopment – Under these projects, an area of 50 acres of the city was to be rebuilt and made smart.
  • Greenfield development – Under this, development work was to be done in an already vacant area (more than 250 acres).
  • Pan City Development – Under this, such projects were included which were to be implemented in the entire city. For example, Public Sharing Bicycle (PSB).
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Muzaffarpur, Bihar is also being developed as a smart city, but til now the work of sewer line is incomplete here

There is another scheme to make cities across the country water-smart: AMRUT mission. The government launched a separate AMRUT mission in June 2015. That is, during the launch of the Smart City Mission. Its second phase (AMRUT 2.0) was launched on 1 October 2021. In this, a total of Rs 2 lakh 99 thousand crore was allocated, spending three times more money than in the first phase.

The government wants to develop smart cities where citizens could get 'core infrastructure' and 'decent life'. However, there is no clear answer to the definition of these two terms in these documents, as well. According to some documents, these cities will be smarter than the existing cities of the country in terms of waste management, energy saving, transport systems, water and basic facilities. The citizens here will have all the facilities and a clean environment too.

Gaurav Dwivedi, associate director of the Center for Financial Accountability, writes in the review document of the Smart City Mission that the concept of a smart city implies an experiment where 'development capital' can be brought from non-traditional sources. Furthermore, promotes private investment, with the intention of profit-making in urban development. In such a situation, this ambiguity of definitions can be used to protect oneself if anything goes wrong or fails in the mission.

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