India’s Smart Cities Mission gains momentum and provides a holistic approach to urbanisation

Hardeep Singh Puri , Minister of State (Independent Charge) Housing and Urban Affairs, gave a glowing review of the smart cities movement  launched by India in 2016 while speaking at the opening of the First Apex Conference for CEOs of Smart Cities on 8 May 2018.

Established by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Smart City Mission is India’s program for comprehensive and systematic transformation through planned urbanisation has been lauded as one of the flagship missions of the Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry under the current regime. Minister Puri assured that all current redevelopment projects are on the way to achieve completion before the stipulated dates and are setting new benchmarks in India for project implementation.

With the inauguration of its Integrated Control and Command Center on 8 May 2018, Bhopal Smart City in Govindpura became the 9th Smart City Center in India. Following quickly behind, Minister Puri said that all the 7 smart cities in Madhya Pradesh will be established in the next two months, and pointed out that the Smart Cities mission was gaining momentum in other states too. In addition to the 9 operational cities, work is already in progress to create Smart City Centers in 14 cities while tenders have already been issued for development in 32 more cities.

The size and scope of these projects have also been steadily increasing. The value of projects under implementation in August 2017 was about Rs. 8,000 crore, within eight months this increased to more than Rs. 30,000 crore involving 936 projects. Around 400 projects costing Rs. 20,000 crore are in the tender stage and are expected to be confirmed over the next 3 months. He added that 98 projects costing Rs. 6000 crore are under implementation with Public Private Partnerships and are getting good responses both in big cities and smaller towns. In the last eight months 26 more Special Purpose Vehicles (SPV) were established, taking the total SPVs to 91 and total number of Project Management Consultants to 67.

Minister Puri also advised that Indian smart cities should take the lead from the experience and best practices of other cities around the world to accelerate the progress locally. He suggested that smart city developments need to take a holistic approach to urbanisation and bring on board expertise from various domains. In achieving that, he announced that 9 advisory committees have been set up for — smart education and skill development, urban mobility and climate change, smart security, entrepreneurship and start-ups, septage and sewage management, promotion of public art, arts and culture, women’s empowerment, safety, and security, and Divyang friendly measures and policy recommendations.

To bring these themes to the fore and promote discussion, the Apex Conference served as a forum for Smart City CEOs to share their experiences in creating these synergies in their respective developments. The conference  featured panels on modelling digitally integrated Smart City Centers, bonds and private-public partnerships for financing urban infrastructure, the development of walkable streets, creation of universally accessible public spaces, creating vibrant urban spaces under area-based development, and establishing inclusivity in the new cities.

The conference was organised to inspire greater momentum in the Smart City Mission by promoting cross-learning and sharing between various city development teams from all over India. Attended by representatives from 77 smart city projects, the conference also featured Principal Secretaries (Uttar Pradesh), State Mission Directors, Municipal Commissioners, overseas Ambassadors, UN representatives, heads of multilateral/bilateral agencies, CEOs of major Master System Indicator vendors, civil societies, and capacity building institutes.

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