Population rise all over the world had led to a remarkable shift from the rural to the urban areas. The existing urban population is growing at an alarming rate which calls for urgent action.
One of the major moves made by the governments and institutions the world over is the creation of smart cities. Smart cities would evolve as self-sustaining units that are ecologically friendly.
With the advancement in technology we are better equipped and making smart cities can therefore become a reality.
India has a vision of creating 100 smart cities. These cities would attract investments. So how can existing cities be made smart?
Proper planning and services being the crux of the issue, the government has plans to invest huge sums of money over the next five years. The state government would also provide assistance and thereby contribute in the physical infrastructure (energy, buildings, water, waste, mobility and ICT) and the social infrastructure (education, health and recreation facilities)
But the government alone cannot make smart cities. There are numerous challenges that need to be overcome and hence it is only by engaging citizens can we overcome these problems.
Citizens make the city. Sensitizing citizens towards the global/ country/state/ immediate geographical environmental problems would go a long way into developing of these smart cities.
Citizens should be engaged in identifying the challenges surrounding their vicinity and be encouraged to develop and plan solutions, smart solutions.
What has the government planned?
Smart city mission
Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT)
Housing for all in urban areas
These missions are focussed on the need to improve the quality of life for citizens today and to enable a brighter, cleaner, healthier future for generations to come.
The ratio of land and the number of people residing on it known as density of population is a crucial factor to be looked into. Land is a precious resource and we have to use it to its optimum.
We have to make do with the amount of land we have. This is where we bring in the vital issue of making smart villages.
Lack of opportunities in terms of education, finance, medical assistance and jobs have led to a continuous stream of people migrating from the rural areas to the urban areas. This in turn has an impact on the already existing urban challenges.
If we could focus, plan and implement missions for the villages, we could, to a large extent be able to control the influx of immigration.
Preventing the immigration does not mean eliminating the rural population from the schema of smart cities. This is where we could actually use technology and bridge the gap. Technology today is making it possible to link up to the remotest corners of the world.
Some of suggestive measures that would go into making of smart cities are as follows:
City administration needs to be revamped. The municipal commissioner deputed by the state government is the executive head of the city and is accountable to the state.
An executive mayor elected by the city could bring in transparency and accountability to the city level administration.
The executive arm of the municipal corporation of which the municipal commissioner is the head needs to develop technical and management capacity to execute urban rejuvenation programmes. For this preparedness the municipal commissioner should involve the participation of local vendors, NGOs, private companies, small and medium scale entrepreneurs dwelling within the city.
It is said a smart city can be called smart only if its citizens are smart.
Instead of focussing only on the global technological giants and their technological prowess it would be better to search for home grown talent within the city. For who would know better about the city than the people living within.
Small and medium enterprises could contribute to the existing economy of the state if given a chance to showcase their capabilities. They have the technical knowhow but due to lack of infrastructure in terms of manpower and finance they get left behind.
Its time now to welcome such entrepreneurs to share their knowledge and expertise and contribute in the making of smart cities.
All projects that cities plan to undertake must be provided through transparent avenues. These avenues being reachable to the people.
The early involvement of citizens and entrepreneurs alike will reduce the risk of the project going defunct. If the citizens and other stakeholders are not involved then it would lead to a vacuum and the project would come to a sorry end.
Providing feedback on projects will ensure that these projects are not stalled. This would be the key to culmination of the project from its planning to its execution and lead to its success.
The government of India has launched its urbanization programmes in the form of Swachh Bharat, Digital India, Make in India and the Smart cities project. The smart cities project can become a reality if approached in a balanced manner by appropriate use of strategy, planning, execution and most importantly monitoring the activities using time tested and flawless governance.