Urban Transformation – Smart Cities, AMRUT, etc.

An Overview of the Smart Cities Mission | Explained


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Smart Cities Mission

Mains level: Why is the Smart Cities Mission (SCM) considered exclusionary to many?

Why in the news? 

The Smart Cities Mission (SCM), a key initiative of the previous NDA-1 government, has received less emphasis in this year’s lineup of electoral pledges and accomplishments.

How are smart cities defined by the government? 

  • Since 2009, following the significant financial crash, the term ‘Smart City’ has gained widespread usage.
  • Urban practitioners have defined smart cities as innovative urban hubs akin to new Silicon Valleys, characterized by robust integration of transportation networks, including airports, highways, and various communication infrastructures, thereby fostering intellectual environments enhanced by advanced information and communication technologies (ICT).
  • The Smart Cities Mission is a key urban renewal and retrofitting program launched by the Government of India in 2015 to develop 100 cities across the country, making them citizen-friendly and sustainable.

The Smart Cities Mission (SCM) comprises two primary components:

  1. Area-Based Development:

This aspect focuses on three components:

  • Redevelopment (city renewal): Revitalizing existing urban areas to improve infrastructure, amenities, and quality of life.
  • Retrofitting (city improvement): Upgrading infrastructure and services in already developed areas to meet contemporary urban needs and standards.
  • Greenfield projects (city extension): Developing new urban areas or expanding existing cities with sustainable and modern infrastructure.
  1. Pan-City Solutions based on ICT:

This facet involves implementing integrated solutions across various sectors using Information and Communication Technology (ICT). These solutions typically fall under six categories:

  • E-governance: Utilizing digital platforms for efficient and transparent governance processes.
  • Waste management: Implementing systems for effective waste collection, segregation, and disposal.
  • Water management: Enhancing water supply infrastructure and promoting conservation measures.
  • Energy management: Implementing energy-efficient technologies and promoting renewable energy sources.
  • Urban mobility: Improving transportation systems to enhance connectivity and reduce congestion.
  • Skill development: Promoting programs to enhance the skills and employability of the urban workforce.

Why is the Smart Cities Mission (SCM) considered exclusionary to many?

  • Limited Geographical Scope: Only a small portion of a city’s area, often not more than 1%, was selected for development under the SCM. For example, in Chandigarh, the funds were concentrated in sector 43, focusing on projects like smart water meters and Wi-Fi zones, leaving other areas untouched.
  • Mismatch with Urban Realities: The competitive selection process did not account for the diverse and dynamic nature of urbanization in India. The approach was more suitable for static urban environments found in the West, not the evolving urban landscapes of Indian cities.
  • Displacement and Disruption: Implementation of smart city projects often led to the displacement of people living in poorer localities and street vendors.
  • Inadequate Funding: The total funding allocated for the SCM was significantly less than the estimated requirement for making Indian cities livable. Reports suggested a capital expenditure need of $1.2 trillion by 2030, while the SCM’s allocation was less than $20 billion over nine years.

Did the SCM override the 74th Constitutional Amendment?

  • Reduced Role of Elected Councils: The governance structure under the SCM limited the role of elected municipal councils.This was seen as bypassing the decentralized, participatory governance model envisaged by the 74th Constitutional Amendment, which aimed to empower local urban bodies.
  • Top-Down Approach: Critics argued that the SCM’s design was too top-down, not aligning with the bottom-up approach promoted by the 74th Constitutional Amendment.

Way forward:

  • Contextual Planning: Develop flexible and adaptive plans that consider the unique and dynamic nature of Indian urbanization, rather than applying a one-size-fits-all model.
  • Community Involvement: Engage local communities in the planning process to ensure that projects reflect the needs and realities of different urban areas.

Mains PYQ:

Q What are ‘Smart Cities’? examine their relevance for urban development in India. Will it increase rural-urban differences? Give arguments for ‘Smart Villages’ in the light of PURA and RURBAN Mission. (UPSC IAS/2016)

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