[op-ed snap] How to build the new city

Note4students

Mains Paper 1: Social issues | Urbanisation, their problems and remedies

From UPSC perspective, following things are important:

Prelims level: Structure and objectives of UN Habitat, Indian government missions for countering fast urbanisation problems
Mains level: This topic is specially mentioned in Mains Paper 1 syllabus “urbanizations, their problems and their remedies. UPSC has asked question on smart city in both 2015 and 2016.

News

Context

  1. Due to fast and unprecedented urbanisation, many challenges has originated on several fronts viz social, demographic, environmental and economic
  2. Challenges: to redesign and develop burgeoning cities into vibrant, environment-friendly urban areas that provide access to resources and basic amenities to all citizens on an equitable and sustainable basis
  3. Ineffective functioning of civic bodies and the paucity of resources for urban local bodies is also a big challenge
  4. Level of fast Urbanisation: By the middle of this century, four out of every five people will be living in cities and towns

Need of the hour

  1. The need of the hour is to implement the “New Urban Agenda”
  2. How?: by pursuing appropriate policies and addressing the challenges in terms of physical spaces and other issues for urban, peri-urban and rural areas at all levels viz. international, national and local

What is Sustainable urbanisation?

  1. It means sustainable development by putting in place the right policies, providing urban-rural linkages and inter-linking social, economic and environmental dimensions to make societies more prosperous and inclusive
  2. Urbanisation and development are inter-linked as urbanisation is the driving force for growth and development

Why is Urbanisation important?

  1. Urbanisation and development are inter-linked as urbanisation is the driving force for growth and development
  2. While cities and towns occupy only 2 per cent of the total land, they contribute 70 per cent of the GDP

Effects of unsustainable Urbanisation

  1. Cities and towns consume 60 per cent of global energy and contribute 70 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions
  2. Therefore, urbanisation cannot be allowed to continue in a business-as-usual manner and it requires a massive global effort to ensure sustainable human settlements

Why the United Nations formed the UN-Habitat

  1. To take sustainable action against the above challenges
  2. The need for the UN-Habitat was discussed in the UN General Assembly in 1978 to promote socially and environmentally sustainable towns
  3. The “New Urban Agenda” emphasises the need to focus on these challenges

Objectives of UN Habitat

  1. The UN-Habitat is a global advocacy platform and is mandated to provide policy and operational support for governments and cities in identifying reforms and adopting laws that regulate urbanisation
  2. It seeks to promote best practices and urban governance models that are equitable, gender-responsive and socially inclusive
  3. It also provides policy support relating to planning and design of basic services, slum upgradation, the rehabilitation of displaced people and capacity-building of urban bodies

Structure of Governing Council (GC) of UN-Habitat

  1. It is composed of 58 members, who are elected by the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) for a term of four years
  2. The GC is an inter-governmental decision-making body of the UN-Habitat
  3. It consists of five regional groupings — Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America and Caribbean States and Western Europe and other States

Efforts by UN Habitat

  1. The Habitat-III conference held in Quito, Ecuador, last year adopted the New Urban Agenda
  2. This year at Nairobi, Kenya, the theme of the conference was “Opportunities for effective implementation of the New Urban Agenda”

India’s Contribution

  1. India was elected as chair of the Asia-Pacific Ministerial Conference on Housing and Urban Development, which is an inter-governmental mechanism to collaborate and cooperate in the fields of housing and urban development
  2. The other members are Indonesia, Republic of Korea, Iran, Sri Lanka, Iraq, Jordan and Nauru

Basic reasons of fast Urbanisation

  1. To get education, employment, entertainment, economic opportunities and enhanced medical facilities
  2. Agriculture has become more mechanised and less remunerative
  3. Since urban areas are becoming the centres of development, and also contributing towards poverty reduction, people are choosing urban areas for better living

India’s efforts to provide better urban governance

  1. Flagship schemes like the Smart Cities, AMRUT, Housing for All, HRIDAY and Swachh Bharat
  2. The government is promoting innovative measures like waste-to-energy, waste-to-compost and the reuse of construction and demolition waste as part of sustainable urbanisation

Way Forward

  1. There is a need of proper planning relating to infrastructure, housing, slum upgradation, employment, education and health in urban areas
  2. The ministries of Urban Development and Housing and Poverty Alleviation have so far approved an investment of over Rs 4 lakh crore for improving urban infrastructure under the new urban missions, which is a very important tfor acieving above goals

 

[op-ed snap] Smarter development

Note4Students:

In the context of recent Swach Survekshan 2017 report, “ranking India’s cleanest cities”, this op-ed takes the oppty and challenges your ability to think beyond the obvious.

How? Crux of the op-ed is in challenging the perception of smart cities with this line – “Smart cities are much more than 4G networks, bicycle tracks or public toilets”.

The report ranked cities in order of the monitoring along some civic parameters. Great. Nothing wrong with that. But it should not become an exercise in  self gloating. Take examples of delhi which prides itself on metro network but is still grappling with the issues of traffic and pollution.

Smart cities mission should not just focus on infrastructure enlargement. This line of thinking is a worthy line to reproduce in interviews, mains answers in opinion based questions. Take some points on the short coming of smart cities mission and what can be done to patch it up!


Swach Survekshan:

  1. The release of the Swach Survekshan 2017 report, ranking India’s cleanest cities, is perhaps the precursor to a flurry of “achievements” under the Mission
  2. If nothing else, the Smart City programme has certainly improved monitoring of certain basic civic parameters
  3. The release of clean city rankings also serves to generate some healthy competition among civic bodies to aspire to a better quality of life for the citizens they serve

Survey takeaway:

  1. Perhaps, the biggest takeaway from the Survey is that smaller cities are smarter than the large metros in the matter of cleanliness and management of urban waste
  2. Of the top ten cleanest cities, eight, including the top five, are so-called Tier-2 cities with the New Delhi Municipal Corporation area and Navi Mumbai being the only exceptions

The difference:

  1. It is easier to manage a smaller town than a major urban sprawl
  2. When one looks at the state of our metros it is clear that what they lack is a holistic approach to development and that includes cleanliness as much as urban amenities and infrastructure
  3. For many of our civic planners, the idea of urban development appears to be limited to creating showpiece infrastructure such as metros and malls, with little focus on actually improving the liveability quotient of our cities

The Programme:

  1. The Smart City Mission is a laudable programme, but it has some shortcomings
  2. Perhaps, the biggest is the narrow focus on infrastructure
  3. While civic infrastructure, even in the largest of our cities definitely requires major improvement, merely creating infrastructure is not enough to make our cities ‘smart’ or more liveable
  4. Delhi’s world-class metro system, for instance, has neither solved the city’s mobility problems nor put a dent in its traffic and pollution levels
  5. That’s because the concomitant steps which ought to have been taken to leverage its benefits fully — efficient and affordable last-mile connectivity from and to the network, adequate park-and-ride facilities and even behavioural change initiatives to alter the average Delhite’s notion that public transport is infra dig — simply did not happen

The way ahead:

  1. This might be an opportune moment for the Centre to pause and reset the focus of the Mission
  2. Improving urban waste management, or building bicycle tracks or pushing e-governance are all laudable goals
  3. But a piecemeal approach will not lead to sustainble solutions
  4. Given the forces which drive urbanisation in India — poverty and a desire for a better quality of life — no city, smart or otherwise, can thrive if the poor and the marginalised are excluded

 

[op-ed snap] Cities at crossroads: Starving the municipality

Context:

  1. The current sources of revenue of municipalities in India are grossly inadequate for discharging the constitutional mandate of delivering public services
  2. The most recent threat to municipal finances came in the just concluded municipal elections in Delhi
  3. The Delhi Chief Minister announced that if the AAP came to power in municipal corporations, the Delhi state government would waive house tax for all residential properties — big or small, rich or poor
  4. However, he can fulfill this promise only if the Government of India (GoI) approves this move

Property tax:

  1. Property tax is the single most important source of revenue for municipal corporations and municipalities
  2. It accounts for 30% of “own” municipal revenues in India
  3. While property tax is levied and collected by the urban local bodies, the state government has the power to design the property tax regime including the tax rates, exemptions and rebates, the tax base, and the basis for the valuation of properties as well as their revaluation every few years to account for rising prices
  4. This means that the political parties vying for power in the state can be tempted to promise a waiver or reduction in the property tax or grant of exemptions in order to win support during election time
  5. The largest source of revenue for the urban local bodies, therefore, tends to get caught in the wheels of the election cycle
  6. The resulting collapse of municipal services hurts voters, but they do not realise how it is directly linked to the populist decision to cut property tax or house tax as it is commonly called when levied on residential properties

In various states:

  1. Rajasthan abolished property tax in February 2007 after the BJP formed the government in the state, delivering on its poll promise of 2003
  2. However, the tax was brought back within six months in a new incarnation as “urban development tax” to recoup the loss of revenue resulting from the property tax abolition, and also to retain access to Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) funds for urban infrastructure
  3. In Punjab, house tax on self-occupied residential houses, which form the bulk of the properties covered under the tax, was abolished in the late 1990s by the Akali Dal government
  4. In 2006, attracted by the desire to access JNNURM funds to build infrastructure in Amritsar and Ludhiana, the Congress government in Punjab entered into an agreement with the GoI to put in place a reformed property tax regime in these cities but was not able to implement the agreement
  5. The Akali-BJP government was elected in Punjab in 2007 and again in 2012
  6. Property tax was finally introduced in 2013, although following the familiar pattern, property tax rates were cut by almost half and many categories were exempted during the campaign for the general elections in 2014
  7. Haryana and Himachal Pradesh have also each had a bash at blowing the budgets of their municipalities by giving major exemptions in their property tax regimes

Under-exploited tax:

  1. Property tax is grossly under-exploited in India, even though it remains the largest source of revenue for urban local bodies
  2. There is need to set up a property tax board in each state which could set out better and more transparent methods of assessment, valuation and collection of the tax, using GIS and other IT tools
  3. There is need to add a municipal finance list in the Constitution which should specify taxes that are exclusively in the domain of the local government
  4. Above all, there is need to heed the advice of the 14th Finance Commission: “The state government should not provide exemptions to any entity from the tax and non-tax levies that are in the jurisdiction of local bodies. In cases where the grant of such an exemption becomes necessary, the local bodies should be compensated for the loss”

From Constitution:

  1. It is 25 years since the 74th Constitutional Amendment mandated that state governments transfer to urban local bodies the responsibility for functions such as urban planning including town planning, regulation of land-use and construction of buildings, roads and bridges, provision of water, sanitation, public health, urban amenities such as public parks, gardens and playgrounds, slum improvement and upgradation, etc.
  2. A number of these functions have been devolved by the state governments over the past 25 years
  3. Once transferred, town planning can be used as a major instrument to unlock land value so that the cities can go about the business of land zoning and developing urban infrastructure with the finances raised in the process

State Finance Commissions:

  1. Devolution to urban local bodies is supposed to be based on the recommendations of state finance commissions (SFCs) set up by the state governments
  2. SFCs are supposed to spell out the principles for sharing/devolving a part of the revenue of the state governments to municipal bodies, but they have not been able to challenge the state-level political resistance to devolve funds to the urban local bodies

Note4Students:

If Indian cities are to deliver a better quality of life and improved investment climate, they need to have business models which are financially and environmentally sustainable.

‘Common duct policy’ soon

  1. The common duct policy: Centre would come out with a new policy under which a common duct will be laid across a city and service providers such as telcos and digital TV players can lease these ducts to pass their fibre through it to offer services to consumers
  2. Benefits: It could reduce operational cost of firms, remove right of way challenges, while eliminating the need for frequent digging up of roads
  3. This will also result in additional revenue for the municipalities and remove issues related to right of way
  4. A common duct will be created for about 20 years. Once the duct is made, no service provider will be allowed to dig the road
  5. The concept of common shared infrastructure has dispelled the myth that each service provider must individually own the entire backbone
  6. Because of the tower sharing policy that myth has been broken

 

[pib] Know about transformational reforms in cities

Context:        

  1. The Ministry of Urban Development will discuss a set of five major reforms with States and Union Territories at a ‘National Workshop on Urban Development’
  2. Minister of Urban Development Shri M.Venkaiah Naidu will chair the deliberations on the reforms and six other new initiatives that promote these reforms since huge private sector investment is envisaged under five of these initiatives

Major reforms recommended by the Group of Secretaries are:

  1. Moving to a Trust and Verify Approach:
  • Instead of the present practice of verifying first and approving later, it has been recommended that trust needs to be reposed in the citizens and approvals may be accorded first and to be verified later, inverting the model of verifying first and approving later which is resulting in huge delays
  • This ‘Trust and Verify’ approach has been recommended in respect of Permissions for building construction, Change of title in municipal records (mutation) and Birth and Death registration, involving the largest number of physical interactions between city governments and citizens
  1. Formulating Land Titling Laws:
  • The Group quoting a study by McKinsey noted that over 90% of the land records in the country are unclear and land market distortions and unclear land titles are costing the country 1.30% of GDP per year and accordingly recommended enactment of Land Titling Laws and their implementation in a specific time frame
  1. Credit Rating of Urban Local Bodies
  2. Value Capture Financing:
  • Noting that the total revenues of the municipal sector accounts for only 0.75% of the country’s GDP as against 6% for South Africa, 5% for Brazil and 4.50% for Poland, the Group recommended Municipal Bonds further to Credit Rating of ULBs and Value Capture Finance tools for meeting the capital expenditure needs of cities
  1. Improving Professionalism of ULBs:
  • Quoting investment bank Goldman Sachs report, the Group of Secretaries noted that a bureaucracy that is based on merit rather than seniority could add nearly a percentage point annually to the country’s per capita GDP growth
  • It also expressed concern over shortage of qualified technical staff and managerial supervisors in ULBs preventing innovation, the Group recommended induction of professionals in city governments by encouraging lateral induction and filling top positions in cities (Commissioners and Heads of Finance and Revenue) through open competition

Note4Sudents:

Possible points of a Mains answer. ULBs and governance is an important topic for mains. Mains 2016 saw at least 4 questions overall on this topic.

PIB

[op-ed snap] The city’s bleak future

Migrant flow into cities has exceeded all expectations:

  1. Over the past decade, despite flow of funds for infrastructure, most Indian cities have been unable to expand road networks and metro lines in keeping with the growing demand
  2. Uncontrolled populations have made plans for public facilities ineffective
  3. In the case of Delhi Metro, for instance, since it opened in 2002, it has had to increase the number of coaches, the frequency of trains, the size of stations and the length of platforms
  4. Yet, it struggles to accommodate the mounting numbers
  5. In big towns, 3,000-4,000 cars are registered each week, so more roads are constructed, lengthening already clogged networks
  6. Yet, distances between home and work are rising, commutes increasing 3-7 km on an average
  7. In housing, while builders have promoted high-end luxury homes, public projects in most cities remain woefully inadequate

Issues that arise:

  1. When over 60% of the city is unrecognised in the planning process, it has already gone beyond bureaucratic control and design
  2. When the capital’s Chief Minister gives direct amnesty and legitimacy to unlawful occupants of urban land, the game is lost

Conventional approaches fail in Indian conditions:

  1. Indian cities are vastly varied
  2. They range in three types: metropolitan accretions such as Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru,
  3. Tier-2 cities such as Pune, Jaipur, Bhopal and Lucknow, merely smaller replicas of the metros, but similarly unable to control the suburban sprawl and increasing numbers
  4. Finally, there are small towns such as Meerut and Hubli — part rural, part cantonment — mandi townships, essential to maintaining commercial links to surrounding villages

Development strategy:

  1. Unless the government becomes serious in intent and chooses a rigorous twofold path, the demise of the Indian city will be rapid
  2. It must take into account new forms of public housing, regulate bye-laws that restrict commuting and delineate public space over private commerce
  3. The government’s unrealistic plans need to reverse the processes of long-range connectivity, in favour of local outlooks that include pedestrianisation, conversion to mixed-use streets, reduction of commercial activity and an eradication of gated neighbourhoods
  4. In the new city the traditional structures of justice and legislature will be forgotten, replaced quickly by people with private needs

Attitudes need to be changed:

  1. The Indian city’s undisguised fawning and mimicry of Western models bodes ill for an urban culture steeped in an altogether different life and pattern
  2. Stockholm and Berlin may present a cohesive picture for initiating a computerised smartness into Indian urbanism, but they can hardly be imitated wholesale

The struggle between India as competitive economy and India as equitable society is most visibly felt in the development of its towns. The reduction of economic ideals to stock market highs and the city to commercial symbols is a convenient method to bypass the more pressing demands of real economics and humane expectations of the city.

Note4Students:

This is an important piece of analysis on urban governance for mains. In mains-2016, there were at least 4 questions on urban governance on similar lines.

[op-ed snap] Acknowledging the new face of urban India

A new study on select Indian census towns:

  1. Case studies of census towns in Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha and West Bengal
  2. Carried out by scholars from the Centre for Policy Research (CPR) in association with the World Bank

Findings:

  1. Bring out that many of these new census towns are essentially “small market towns” that have emerged as a result of better connectivity and rising rural incomes
  2. Some of these were, expectedly, on the periphery of large metropolises
  3. However it was found that more than four-fifths of these census towns are situated away from the big cities and not even close to class I towns
  4. This leads to a “dispersed pattern of in-situ urbanization”
  5. That is, rural-to-urban migration and the natural growth of urban hubs are not the only factors driving urbanization in India
  6. The new study investigates these other factors and finds that economic activities in these settlements that exhibit urban characteristics but remain under rural governance are rather “ordinary”, consisting mainly of “non-tradable services and commerce”
  7. All the towns have the local bazaar, which makes for the “everyday economy”
  8. Most have old manufacturing units which may or may not be agro-based

New Economic activities:

  1. These census towns have certain new economic activities:
  2. Para-transit and building construction are most important
  3. Notably, they are not entirely driven by large government schemes, such as Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana or Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, which generate activity in these sectors, but also pushed by private demand for better-quality housing and the like
  4. They have private education, private healthcare, and mobile phones (retail, repair, recharge)

Important policy implications:

  1. First, the urban-rural binary is now obsolete
  2. Second, while metropolises like Delhi and Mumbai deserve every bit of the attention they get, policymakers cannot ignore the small towns
  3. Moreover, the small towns themselves are not a homogenous lot
  4. Census towns closer to metropolitan cities have different characteristics than those away from urban hubs

Note4Students:

CPR’s new study finds that in most emerging towns some citizens, usually the business class and the local elite, want urban status while others prefer rural governance. If India’s urbanization is to be managed effectively and the economic potential exploited, policymakers must find effective ways to address the various aspects of this rural-urban binary.

This could add up to your essays or answers on urban governance.

Back2Basics:

  1. For a settlement to be declared a census town, it has to satisfy three criteria:
  2. Its population has to be 5,000 or more;
  3. Its population density has to be of 400 persons per sq. km or more;
  4. At least 75% of its male workforce has to be employed in the non-farm sector
  5. India is the only country in the world that has such a three-tiered framework of prerequisites, each of which sets a fairly high benchmark for urban qualification
  6. Consequently, many scholars have argued that India is actually a lot more urban than official data suggests

[op-ed snap] Unclogging the cities

Context:

  1. The move to make New Delhi’s iconic Connaught Place a pedestrian zone from February
  2. And keep out cars and other vehicles from its middle and inner circle roads, for a three-month trial programme
  3. An inspiring attempt to reconquer public space

Reason:

  1. Urban design in India is the preserve of State governments and local bodies, which have failed spectacularly to provide a safe, comfortable and accessible experience for walkers
  2. The pilot project in the national capital represents a refreshing change
  3. Global cities that have pedestrianised their landmarks, often in the face of conservative opposition
  4. Prominent examples are Times Square in New York and the route along the Seine in Paris, and the curbs on cars in central avenue in Madrid

Effects in various countries:

  1. Contrary to apprehensions that restrictions affect commercial activity, the experience around the world has been quite the opposite:
  2. It provides better walking and public transport infrastructure
  3. Availability of food plazas attract more people, improving the local economy
  4. In America, pedestrian injuries decreased after vehicles were removed from Times Square
  5. Globally this has been the trend too when cities curb car use and clean up the air

What needs to be done:

  1. Keep powered vehicles out of core areas,
  2. Expand pavements for pedestrians
  3. Facilitating the use of bicycles is a high-priority goal for mayors and urban governments the world over

Methods of implementation:

  1. In this phase, many cities find it rewarding to levy a stiff congestion charge on personal vehicles entering designated areas
  2. It should be mandated by law that all proceeds would go towards funding walking, bicycling and emissions-free public transport infrastructure

Note4Students:

This is a mature idea and needs to be trialed in Indian cities. Measures to unclog cities are often posed, wrongly, as detrimental to the economy and efficiency. While cars will continue to remain relevant for longer-distance travel, dense urban areas need relief from excessive motorisation. This could be one of the innovative solution for problems in urban transport and environmental issues in Mains.

[op-ed snap] Challenges of a rapidly urbanising world

  1. Context: Recently concluded UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, Habitat III, in Quito, Ecuador
  2. A once-in-a-generation event, the Habitat conference sets a guiding compass for member-countries for the next 20 years
  3. Central theme of 2016: Challenges of a rapidly urbanising world and of providing people with equal opportunities in cities
  4. Previous years themes: Reducing urban inequality, improving access to housing and sanitation, mobility, and securing the rights of women, children, older adults
  5. Importance for India? India’s ambition to harness science and data for orderly urbanisation is articulated in a set of policy initiatives, chiefly the Smart Cities Mission and the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation
  6. UN Habitat plans to review country-level progress on its New Urban Agenda in Kuala Lumpur in 2018. India’s performance on improving the quality of life in its cities will be watched
  7. India’s ‘Housing for All’ policy: Low-cost, disaster-resistant, prefabricated constructions are the key

What is a smart city?

  1. Smart city: An urban region that is highly advanced in terms of overall infrastructure, sustainable real estate, communications and market viability
  2. It is a city where information technology is the principal infrastructure and the basis for providing essential services to residents
  3. There are many technological platforms involved, including but not limited to automated sensor networks and data centres

Highlights of the smart cities project

  1. Aim: To transform 100 cities by 2019-20
  2. Features: Adequate water, assured electricity, sanitation, solid waste management, efficient urban mobility and public transport, affordable housing, especially for the poor
  3. Also robust IT connectivity and digitalisation, good governance, especially e-
  4. Governance and citizen participation, sustainable environment, safety and security of citizens, particularly women, children and the elderly, health and education

Govt announces 27 new Smart Cities

  1. Maharashtra tops the list with five cities- Aurangabad, Kalyan-Dombivli, Nagpur, Nashik and Thane
  2. Tamil Nadu and Karnatak come second with four cities each

More Smart Cities to be developed

  1. News: The Ministry of Urban Development has now allowed 9 more capitals to participate in the next round of the Smart Cities competition
  2. The total list of Smart Cities to be developed has increased from 100 to 109 after the addition
  3. 9 more capitals are proposed, including Patna, Thiruvananthapuram, Bengaluru, Amaravati, Itanagar and Gangtok
  4. Context: As per the Urban Development Policy, only 100 cities are listed to be developed as Smart Cities in the next 5 years

What is an international arbitration centre?

  1. IAC is a centre where disputes arising out of commercial agreements from sectors like insurance, shipping, construction, private equity and other trades are handled
  2. Arbitration is different from court litigation and is typically less time-consuming
  3. Why? Because it is done in private between the lawyers representing the aggrieved parties

Singapore Arbitration Centre to open India office

  1. The Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) will establish a representative office at the Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT City)
  2. Aim: To resolve international commercial disputes
  3. As per the the agreement, GIFTCL, GIFT SEZ and SIAC will collaborate to promote the use of arbitration, mediation and other dispute resolution mechanisms
  4. It also includes the innovative ‘Arb-Med-Arb’ service offered by the SIAC and the Singapore International Mediation Centre (SIMC)
  5. Further, SIAC will establish a representative office at GIFT City to promote its international arbitration services to Indian users
  6. Indian parties are among the top five foreign users of SIAC in the last five years & India was the top foreign user of SIAC in 2013 and 2015

What is 100 RC programme?

  1. This multimillion dollar programme was launched in 2013
  2. Agency: New York-based Rockefeller Foundation
  3. Objective: To bolster the living standards of all members of an urban community while incorporating resilience planning and principles
  4. This is to make the cities shock-proof to the growing social, economic and physical challenges of the 21st century
  5. Other selected Indian cities include Surat, which was selected in the first round (2013), while Bengaluru and Chennai were added in the second (2014)

Pune makes it to Rockefeller 100 Resilient Cities programme

  1. New York-based Rockefeller Foundation has included Pune it in its 100 Resilient Cities (100RC) programme
  2. Earlier: Pune was included in the first roster of the ‘Smart Cities’ project
  3. Pune’s inclusion will help enhance its ‘Smart City’ bid & will provide an international platform to exchange ideas and help to implement modern urban planning practices
  4. Pune, along with Jaipur, was included in the final tranche of 37 cities that were unravelled in Nairobi and includes rapidly growing megacities like Jakarta and Seoul

Central assistance in smart cities project

  1. Central assistance: The Union government will provide financial support of Rs. 48,000 crore over five years
  2. Each city: Will receive Central assistance of Rs. 200 crore in the first year and Rs. 100. crore over the three subsequent financial years
  3. State governments and respective urban local bodies will also match the Centre’s contribution
  4. Progress: While 20 cities were selected in 2015-16 as per the Mission’s guidelines, another 40 (including the 13) will be selected this year & the remaining will be chosen in the next financial year

Lucknow, Warangal among 13 smart cities announced by govt

  1. Context: Centre announced the names of 13 more cities that will be developed under the Smart City Mission
  2. Cities: Lucknow in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh tops the list, followed by Warangal in Telangana and Dharamshala in Himachal Pradesh
  3. Chandigarh, Raipur (Chhattisgarh), New Town Kolkata, Bhagalpur (Bihar), Panaji (Goa), Port Blair (Andaman and Nicobar Islands), Imphal (Manipur), Ranchi (Jharkhand), Agartala (Tripura) and Faridabad (Haryana)
  4. Selection process: These cities were chosen from the 23 that failed to get representation in the first round of a competition held in January, and participated in the fast-track competition

ADB offers loans for Smart City projects

  1. Context: The Asian Development Bank has agreed to extend a loan of $1 billion for the Smart City Projects
  2. The World Bank is also willing to give a loan of $0.5 billion
  3. Ratings: The cities should work toward achieving decent enough credit ratings from agencies approved by the SEBI
  4. Why? This is important for resource mobilisation and the creation of municipal- level bonds
  5. The process for the credit rating of 85 cities had already been initiated under AMRUT

Ensure project launch by June 25: Govt to first 20 smart cities

  1. News: Centre has asked the concerned states under the ‘Smart City Mission’ to ensure launch of their respective projects by June 25
  2. Govt. also urged the smart cities to ensure appointment of full-time CEOs for the SPVs
  3. Financing: The first batch of 20 selected smart cities have proposed a total investment of over Rs 48,000 crore over the next 4 years
  4. The central govt will provide an assistance of Rs 500 crore for each city and the respective states and urban local bodies will provide an equal amount
PIB

NITI Aayog to develop smart mobility planning kits

  1. Context: NITI Aayog has decided to come out with mobility planning tool kits to facilitate smart and sustainable urban transport solutions
  2. Need: Indian urban population expected to reach 600 million by 2030
  3. Kits will be developed with the help of experts, state governments and local urban body authorities
  4. Focus: Small (1 to 10 lakh) and medium (10 to 50 lakh) sized cities
  5. Benefits: Promote developing public transportation like city bus services and bus road transit (BRT)
  6. Also help make streets with provisions for people can walk, cycle and park

Germany focusses on 3 cities for Smart City project

  1. Context: India’s ambitious Smart Cities programme is receiving support from various countries
  2. News: Kochi, Bhubaneswar and Coimbatore would be the first three cities to receive Germany’s support under the Smart City project
  3. Reason: German companies have developed smart solutions to make smart cities
  4. Benefits: Germany has been involved in various fields related to Smart Cities such as sustainable urban mobility, water and waste-water management, renewable energies and energy efficiency

Cuts for flagship urban schemes

  • News: The annual allocation for Smart city mission is reduced to Rs.3,205 crore as against previous year’s Rs.7,060 crore
  • AMRUT has also faced a massive budget cut, which will impact the govt.’s flagship urban policies
  • Reason: The Union Budget’s primary focus was on addressing rural distress
  • Challenge: Officials pointed out that successful implementation of the I and the II phases of the Smart City Mission would need Rs. 10,000 crore
  • AMRUT: A policy that aims to transfer powers of designing and building cities to municipalities

North East’s 1st Smart Village

  1. Context: Barsimaluguri, about 11 km from the Indo-Bhutan border, in Baksa district has been turned into a model smart village
  2. Geography: a remote nondescript, insurgency-ravaged village in Assam along Indo- Bhutan border
  3. Developments? 100% toilets, solar power and pure drinking water
  4. Initiative: by a few individuals under the aegis of Nanda Talukdar Foundation (NTF)
  5. 4 Main Verticals: alternative energy, drinking water, sanitation and skill development

Pact to develop Vizag as smart city

  1. Context: Pact between US Trade & Development Agency (USTDA) & Andhra Pradesh Government
  2. Aim: To develop infrastructure, communications and data systems
  3. Smart city: Development is in line with its goal to become a Smart City
  4. Award: this cooperation is particularly timely as Vizag recently won 1st phase of Smart Cities Challenge by GoI
  5. Impact: Development and modernization efforts will be partially supported by the central government

U.K. firms keen to build hospitals in Smart Cities

Urban Development Minister Venkaiah Naidu met a business delegation from the U.K. that advocated setting up hospitals in Indian smart cities

  1. Mr. Modi and Mr. Cameroon had agreed to support opening of 11 Indo-UK Institutes of Health in India with an investment of £1 billion
  2. Mr. Naidu also met delegation of U.S. businessmen and assured them that Special Purpose Vehicles (SPV), one of the key administrative bodies for Smart Cities
  3. This would give ample powers to ensure timely execution of smart development projects
  4. The Smart Cities Trade Mission is keen to learn more about the market and new business opportunities
  5. By creating a forum to explore avenues for collaboration, the mission fosters commercial engagement between the 2 countries

Giving cities the smart edge

Make intelligent use of information technology to deliver better civic services.

  1. Rapid and poorly regulated urbanisation has overwhelmed urban governments, rendering them incapable of providing even basic services.
  2. Smart city is one that “enables a decent life to the citizens, and green and sustainable environment, besides enabling adoption of smart solutions”.
  3. Smart cities would create virtually new business districts in several cities, marking a departure from the disaggregated urban development witnessed in the past.
  4. This area-based development approach makes it imperative that the resulting demand for mobility to and from the ‘smart’ area be made an integral part of the plan.
  5. Emphasis should be on walkability, use of non-motorised transport and access to public transport.
  6. Care also needs to be taken that the effect is not to create gated communities of best practices.
  7. But ensuring that these urban enclaves cater to the housing, health, education and recreation needs of a wide cross section of society.

Centre hand-picks 20 smart cities for first phase of plan

Ministry to soon introduce credit rating to attract investors.

  1. The list of 20 cities that have qualified to build smart infrastructure with Rs. 200 crore each from the Central government’s first phase of funding.
  2. The Ministry has given top rating to Bhubaneswar for its robust Smart City plan.
  3. Mission promotes integrated city planning, where Swachh Bharat Mission and Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation complement each other.
  4. The Central government has created an outside agency named Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV).
  5. This will be headed by a CEO, and will be given powers to “execute” the proposed developments and projects.

Biodiversity database for smart city initiative to be launched soon

A biodiversity database for urban India will be prepared for better species diversity management, dovetailed to the smart city initiative.

  1. The National Botanical Research Institute (NBRI), Lucknow, has made a proposal to its parent organisation, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), which has given its consent.
  2. The core infrastructure of a smart city demands sustainable environment and health, and the portal will be helpful in this regard.
  3. The portal will help identify as to which species would be suitable for growing in a particular environment.
  4. To start with, the NBRI will upload the published database pertaining to the local biodiversity of each city, including the varieties of plants and trees that are endemic to it.

Unregulated urbanisation to blame: CSE experts

Chennai could have fared better, had it protected and preserved its natural water bodies and drainage channels.

  1. It is a reminder of increasing frequency of such freak weather events across the Indian sub-continent.
  2. The lakes of Chennai have a natural flood discharge channel which drains the spillover.
  3. But. the construction over many of these water bodies, have blocked the smooth flow of water.
  4. CSE’s research shows that Chennai had more than 600 waterbodies in the 1980s, but reduced to mere few recently.

Smart cities asked to provide for Piped Natural Gas supply and CNG stations

Govt. has asked the States and Urban Local Bodies(ULBs) to provide for PNG supply and CNG stations in the cities selected for development as Smart Cities.

  1. They were asked to ensure convergence of various schemes of the Central Govt aimed at enhancing energy supply.
  2. It urged the ULBs to ensure speedy approvals for laying City Gas Distribution(CGD) Pipelines in smart cities.
  3. It also asked them to ensure Roof Top based solar power generation as a part of measures to ensure that 10% of energy demand is met from solar power.
  4. They should make use of infrastructure being provided for enabling smart solutions for video-monitoring of crimes, effective management of water, power, traffic, solid waste etc.
PIB

What’s the purpose of AMRUT ?

  1. It launched with focus of Urban renewal projects, aimed at transforming 500 cities and towns into efficient urban living spaces.
  2. To establish infrastructure that ensures adequate robust sewerage networks and water supply for urban transformation.
  3. To ensure every household has access to a tap with assured supply of water and a sewerage connection.
  4. Rajasthan was the first state to submit State Annual Action Plan (SAAP) under AMRUT.

Cities seek to address water logging problem under Atal Mission

Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram, Gujarat and Odisha take lead in constructing storm water drains

  1. 5 States to invest Rs.242 cr under Atal Mission action plans for 2015-16.
  2. With water logging in cities following rains being a recurrent problem, to address issue under Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT).
  3. Construction of storm water drains prioritized after provision of basic infrastructure relating to water supply and sewerage connections.
  4. Central assistance to the extent of 50% of project costs, with a population of below 10 lakhs each and one-third of project cost if population is above 10 lakhs.
PIB

British financial aid to propel Pune’s ‘smart city’ dream

  1. David Cameron has announced British technical and financial aid to develop Pune, Amravati and Indore.
  2. U.K. would enter into a 5-year partnership to develop these cities.
  3. British companies with their world-class consulting, project management and engineering skills, will help plan, design and build these new cities.

Centre clears first batch of flagship urban projects

This is for the first time that the ministry approved State level plans, unlike the past practice of appraising and approving individual projects.

  1. The the Urban Development Ministry has cleared the first batch of projects under the AMRUT mission for 89 cities worth Rs.2,786 crore.
  2. The focus of the urban renewal projects would be on establishing infrastructure that could ensure adequate water supply and robust sewerage networks.
  3. The ministry has asked the States to install water meters at the homes of consumers.

Smart City: States keen on foreign expertise

  1. The officials of most of the 88 upcoming smart cities have expressed their wish to work with international consulting firms.
  2. The cities want to prepare robust development plan to win govt. funding.
  3. The plans shall contain area development action plans and financing plan for the complete life cycle of the proposal.
  4. These cities will compete with each other to secure a slot in top 20 positions that the govt. will finance for the coming financial year.

Smart City has to be compact: experts

  1. For the first time, Urban Development Ministry has organized the workshop on the Smart City Mission for mayors and commissioners.
  2. The govt. emphasized that urban renewal policies were designed to accommodate the urban poor.
  3. This is in contradiction to the model which largely relies on high property taxes and expensive public services.
  4. The cities have to be compact, spread on minimum of 500 acres with adequate water supply, assured electricity, sanitation and efficient urban mobility.
  5. To fill the financial gaps the government would have to increase taxes on property, entertainment, advertisements and parking lots.

Needed, smart solutions

  1. The corporate in the field of smart energy, surveillance, etc. have welcomed the clarity for industry players to engage with the cities administration.
  2. All the companies are looking to sell their high-tech products to the cities.
  3. But, govt. is yet to reveal what kind of technology it intends to procure and deploy.
  4. There is not much clarity on smart cities which seeks to integrate public transport, drinking water, solid waste mgmt., sanitation and sewerage which are similar in AMRUT.
  5. The smart cities in Europe and US are driven by IT, such as one massive control room would deliver public services.

Centre unveils list of 98 smart cities

  1. The largest share of developing 13 smart cities is with UP, followed by Tamil Nadu, which qualified to develop 12.
  2. The Smart City Mission promotes integrated city planning with an aim to achieve inclusive growth.
  3. The Ministry will impose fines on States that violate the timeline of 60 days of finalising the projects.
  4. The smart city mission will attract both national and international investors who are looking for opportunities.
  5. The mission will see govt. schemes re-enforcing each other, such as Swachh Bharat Mission and Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation.

Rs. 120 Crore for urban renewal plan

All city-level plans will be aggregated into State Annual Action Plans and sent to the Ministry for approval.

  1. As a part of AMRUT, the money, for the first time, will be directly transferred to Municipal Councils nationwide.
  2. The present funds will cover 482 cities with Rs. 25 lakh for each.
  3. Unlike JNNURM where state was the deciding authority, AMRUT empowers city councils.

Foreign investors express interest in Smart Cities project

  1. The Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD) is anticipating private foreign investments worth at least Rs 4 lakh crore till 2020 in the 100 Smart Cities.
  2. This accounts for 80% of the estimated spending on the mission, with only the remaining 20% coming from the center and the states.
  3. Smart Cities initiative involves efficient provision of infrastructure and services, urban mobility and governance, mainly through use of digital technology.

[op-ed snap] Challenges of rapid and unplanned urbanisation

Cities are struggling with huge infrastructure deficits: congestion, lack of affordable housing, poor sewage facilities, inadequate water supply.

  1. Delhi is choking on toxic air. Bangalore is submerged in garbage. Chennai is parched & Mumbai is running out of space.
  2. Things are worse in Tier II, III and IV cities, where adherence to norms and standards is poor and monitoring and punishment for violations, non-existent.
  3. Essentially, JNNURM has been rebranded as the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transportation.
  4. JNNURM was stymied by issues like land acquisition and the incapacity of city officials to handle large projects.
  5. India is the only G-20 country that does not have empowered or elected mayors, despite the 74th Amendment.
  6. More local autonomy is a must if cities are to fix themselves and invest wisely in creating the infrastructure they need.

Pact on smart cities likely during Modi’s visit to France

  1. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will get a first look at the future of his plan for “100 smart cities” during his visit to France.
  2. Puducherry and Chandigarh are top contenders.
  3. Main emphasis is on preserving traditional architecture in India while modernising connectivity, sewerage and other amenities.


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