Are We Ready to be a Smart City?
Pune, one of the cities selected under Smart Cities Mission, is still very much a work in progress. The citizens, authorities and the infrastructure & real estate sector of Pune will have to work in tandem to rise above the obstacles.
Already a manufacturing powerhouse, a higher education center, and IT hub, Pune is on the fast track to growth. The economy of the erstwhile city of the powerful Peshwas is growing rapidly. The IT revolution is changing the city’s topography and geography horizontally and vertically. Undoubtedly a big software hub, the industrial and manufacturing sector is also showing an upward graph. Moving forward to ‘Mission 2022,’ which is all about urban renewal and retrofitting program by the Government of India, the idea is to create satellite townships around large cities and modernising medium and smaller cities.
Suresh Castellino, Executive National Director, Colliers International, throwing light on the present scenario stated that 31% of the population living in the urban cities contributes more than 60% of India’s GDP. “With more people making urban cities their home, the prediction is that by 2025 the expected population would be 543 million living in the urban cities. So, there is a dire need for creating well-planned and functional cities, which will not only accommodate the ever growing population, but also can meet the citizen’s needs.”
How Is Pune Progressing?
The state of infrastructure leaves a lot to be desired especially the transport system in economic zones of Hinjewadi, Talawade and Kharadi. The city planning could not catch up with the rapid economic growth and expansion as can be seen in the creaking infrastructure and rise in congested residential areas that are leading to a chaotic landscape. The Smart cities program implementation would help in tackling the escalating problems of the city. However, the challenges of remodelling the city are considerable as many of them have reached their saturation point. SuhasLunkad, Chairman & Managing Director, Rohan Group agreed, “In Pune, hardly 5% of the projects slated to be developed under Pune Smart City Mission have been completed. Only 30% have been tendered. The developers too have to struggle to acquire land for development Implementation is the biggest key and we should take smaller decisions before making massive changes at one go.”
Manish Maheshwari, Managing Director, Majestique Landmarks Pvt. Ltd called for PMC’s attention to the sufficient amount of cash flow in infrastructure projects to avoid delays and cost escalations. Being one of the fastest growing cities of India, the expectations from Pune are really high, he said. BhushanPalresha, Managing Director, VTP Group pointed out the responsibility of the citizens towards engaging with the government to come up with holistic solutions. “For instance, today, water consumed in Pune per person is the maximum compared to other Indian cities. If the citizens take a step forward by being responsible, Pune can witness large-scale social and physical infrastructure improvements.”
To address proactive citizen’s involvement, Jaiprakash P. Shroff, Chairman & Managing Director, Shroff Group suggested strategic initiatives to include people in decision making and robust political will to implement projects as per timelines. “Proper infrastructure is the top priority and an attitude to do it together is the only way we can proceed forward.”
Development in a smarter way
Across the world, cities are using technologies to become smarter, in the sense, they are using it to manage key functions horizontally—city services, transport, communications, water, smart grids, public safety, education and health—all through a digitally-managed central command room. VikramKotnis, Founder & Managing Director, Sell.Do. “We should look into prioritisation. Installation of smart meters for better energy management and easy availability of public transport through GPS could be fast tracked. In fact, there are several foreign investments that are ready to invest in technology up-gradation in Pune.” However, contending that the entire focus on digitisation has lowered the significance of hard infrastructure, UdayDharmadhikari, Managing Partner, Rebuild LLP, and Chairman – Advisory Committee, Infra & Real estate, Indus Strategy Financial Advisors said, “Physical infrastructure is of sheer importance for a smart city, which we are neglecting in the name of technology advancement.”
The discussion pointed out the major fact that we must first redefine modernisation. It should encapsulate good quality basic amenities adequately backed by tech driven smart planning and people engagement. Pune’s high level of citizen participation through Pune City Connect is a start and by capitalizing on its economic prowess, the city can surely emerge as a Smart City.