Worsening urban environment amid a booming economy and growing population has compelled India to develop and implement a plan involving the construction of 100 smart cities that would support socioeconomic growth without compromising environmental conservation.
Massive urbanisation is currently transpiring across critical cities in India due to an ongoing economic boom. Government projections put urban population at 843 million by 2050, with 25 to 30 people migrating every minute to major cities in search of better socioeconomic opportunities.
The projected expansion of urban population will nonetheless strain natural environments and communities. Nonetheless, the government is poised to address the challenge.
Prime Minster Narendra Modi specifically announced his vision of building 100 smart cities across the country.
Smart cities according to India
There is no single definition of a smart city. Essentially, the term is a buzzword for futuristic urban communities that take full advantage of advancements in information and communication technology. From city administration including law enforcement and general ordinance, to private or individual activities including traffic navigation, communication, and reporting, the application of ICT in several facets of urban living will create a truly connected and automated community.
For India, however, apart from ICT, its smart cities will also utilise scientific and engineering breakthroughs to create sustainable communities and improve socioeconomic conditions.
An 8-point component will comprise an Indian smart city. These include Smart Governance, Smart Education, Smart Health, Smart IT and Communication, Smart Transportation, Smart Building, Smart Energy, and Smart Environment.
The government has allotted a budget of $1.2 billion to kick-start its smart city initiative this 2015. India will need an estimated $1.2 trillion worth of investment over the next 20 years to build the aspired 100 smart cities and corresponding satellite towns. Most of the funding will, however, come from private and foreign government investments.
At the heart of the 100 Smart Cities initiative is a concern for the environment. The Smart Environment point includes mandates and programs for using renewable energy, managing water and wastewater, and overseeing sanitation needs.
The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy intends to increase renewable energy capacity by 30,000 MW. On the other hand, the Ministry of Water Resources will invest $50 million in the water sector in the coming years to improve distribution service, infrastructures and other relevant facilities. India and the World Bank have signed a $500 million credit to develop sanitation infrastructures, especially in Indian states of Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, and Uttar Pradesh.
Apart from Smart Environment, other facets of the 8-point component also include mandates and programs pertaining to environmental conservation and sustainability. For instance, the Smart Transportation point will promote the use of green transport. The government has recently approved a $14.3 billion budget for stimulating electric and hybrid vehicle manufacturing with a targeted production output of 6 million units by 2020.
The Smart Buildings point, meanwhile, will include the use of engineering and architectural innovations for constructing energy- and resource-efficient buildings and structures.
High hopes for India
The Modi-led 100 Smart Cities initiative has garnered support, approval, and favourable prognosis from the international community.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon commended government leaders for including pressing environment issues in national development plans. Speaking to reporters during his visit in India on 14 January 2014, the UN chief endorsed the 100 Smart Cities initiative, calling it a moral and political responsibility.
“I hope many countries in the world will emulate such leadership. At the same time I expect, as one of the most critically important Member States of the UN and one of the fastest growing economies, India should lead this campaign to address climate change so that we will be able to have a universal and meaningful climate change agreement in Paris in December,” said Ki-moon.
Governments from around the world are enthusiastic about possible economic opportunities arising from the 100 Smart Cities initiative. To be specific, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, Singapore, and the United States believe that the initiative will open doors for huge business and investment opportunities.
The Modi government has allowed 100% foreign direct investment in the real estate sector, thereby removing a significant barrier for foreign construction firms and developers to invest and operate in India.
Apart from sparking a second construction boom, the initiative will also bring forth foreign expertise due to a probable high demand for green technologies, digital technology, automobile manufacturing, energy, healthcare, and transport systems. Photo credit: Exhibitions India Group