Dream of smart cities
Of late the buzzword in INDIA is SMART CITIES. The word itself raises curiosity about the constituents of the city. It sounds good, but there are enormous challenges in making the city SMART. First, question is definition of SMART CITY.Second,whether smart city will be made by rejuvenating and retrofitting the existing city or it will be developed in entirely new city? Third,what will be source of funding for city development? finally,what is the governance structure of these cities?
According to 2011 census,India has 32% of urban population which nearly amounts to 400 million people and it is projected by 2050 it will reach to 70%. This shows the enormity of the challenge and shows the present style of city functioning will be untenable in future.
Even though there is no definite description of smart city as it vary from country to country, the broad contours of the city remains same everywhere. It can defined,as an urban agglomeration where all civic services(water,power,sewerage,waste management,public transportation,governance) are made hassle free with the help of information technology and where resources are used optimally and efficiently in an environmentally sustainable manner. This makes the living experience in the city enjoyable and comfortable.But to be really smart the cities should also be disaster resilient, so that it can minimize the loss of life and property in an unforeseen situation.
With huge population the demand for all resources will be high and there should be mechanisms to use all the resources optimally and efficiently like rainwater harvesting structures at all residences, exploiting solar energy at micro level and uninterrupted power supply, efficient collection,disposal and processing of waste generated,a hassle- free GPS enabled 24*7 connectivity, and participatory governance structures which facilitates e-governance and mobile governance.
Migration of people for better life and employment opportunities creates problem of housing and creating economic opportunities. Economically weaker sections and low income groups will be at the receiving end of the hardships because of their vulnerabilities.Women,children, old age and differently challenged were generally alienated from the cities developmental planning. But this can't be continued, so there should be collective economic opportunities for women and children should have schools,playgrounds for holistic development. All the services should be access barrier free for old age and physically challenged.
The traditional governance structures can't implement the development plan for cities.There should innovative strategies with citizen participation for the maintenance of community assets and the law&order machinery should be citizen friendly with strategies like community policing and visible policing.All the this requires a informed and enthusiastic citizenry, proactive bureaucracy and visionary political leadership.
Ones the city starts to implement its developmental plan there will be finances from land available along with foreign direct investments, private investments, government funding. Citizens should also realize that they also should contribute to funds through taxes and user-charges. The local authorities should also try to attract investment through government backed municipal bonds along with streamlining their maintenance of accounts and credible audit structures.
By adopting innovative strategies of developmental planning depending on the circumstances whether a new city or rejuvenation of old city can make the city's social,economic and political life vibrant and inclusive thus realizing the dream of TRULY SMART CITIES..