Road To Sustainable Smart Cities

Road To Sustainable Smart Cities
Mar 2021 , by , in Interviews

KPMG in India knowledge paper titled – “Road to sustainable smart cities – Challenges, opportunities and emerging trends.”  

India’s aspiration as a nation can be fulfilled by improving the quality of living for India’s urban dwellers, as well as enhancing their access to better livelihoods. This becomes all the more important, since 34.5 percent of India’s population currently resides in urban settings, and that this proportion is expected to go up to 40 percent by the year 2030. Many of our cities have grown organically without adequate prior planning and one of the challenges of the Indian urban administration is to retrofit features like transportation systems, power, and water supply & sanitation grids onto layouts and patterns that have often grown in an unplanned manner. The smart cities programme, launched by Union Government in 2015, is the key to solving the foregoing challenges.

Even though with several operational challenges – the general consensus amongst stakeholders such as the Government of India and the State Governments is that Smart Cities are here to stay, and what has been witnessed during the last five years is essentially just one iteration of how a programme of this magnitude and proportions can be implemented. 

The public at large will also eventually start partaking increasingly into the processes associated with a ‘smart city’ – as and how the governance gets increasingly demystified, as will other stakeholders such as community-based organizations, civil society groups and such other active participants. 

Lastly – one of the most expected shifts in paradigms that is expected to come up in the next generation of smart cities is the co-opting of businesses into the technology layer.

Key Highlights from the Knowledge Paper

  1.     Connectivity options for smart cities:
  • Plan for Hybrid network – Since most of the smart solutions deployed in Smart cities support wireless technology while planning the network wireless technologies which require lower power, should be considered.
  • Supporting network sharing infrastructure models that promote competition and network coverage and extension – This can be achieved by providing support to various industry initiatives which can build on TSP/ISP infrastructure sharing agreements.
  • Stimulating demand and new use case through the LPWAN, 5G etc. PoCs and Trial Programme – A series of pilot projects should be funded by the Smart cities to explore different connectivity solutions and business models.
  • Plan for connecting all the devices – Presently smart cities are only targeting data from devices, sensors owned by cities, Government departments. The reach should be extended to target integration with sensors, edge devices, cameras and IoT devices installed in Smart homes, smart campuses and smart factories.
  1.     Citizen centric design for smart cities
  • Physical Infrastructure – Real estate, Affordable and variety of housing options, Multi-modal Transportation System, Clean energy sources, Access to electricity, Reduced commute times
  • Social Infrastructure – Culture & Tourism,  Local Language, Adaptation, Religious buildings, Low Crime Rate &, High Safety, e-service delivery & e-governance, Grievance Redressal, Mechanism, Social security for unemployed, senior, citizens, Alternate/telecommuting opportunities, Income Parity
  • Essential Services – Clean drinking water, Sanitation facilities, Parks and green zones, Banking and Financial institutions, Areas of recreation, Hospitals, clinics, pharmacies and other institutions of health service delivery Waste Recycling, Waste disposal
  1.     Smart investing in our cities: In order to unlock India’s growth potential, a comprehensive and transparent strategy is required to attract investors and foster a business-friendly environment. Real partnerships and collaboration between the government and private businesses can pave the way for development. An integrated approach through economic Investment Vehicle (EIV) aims to attract more investments, intelligently matching project supply with investor demand and appetite, and thereby creating jobs, exports and value. The EIV enables a framework of certainty and confidence for investment with a focus on not just outputs but on measuring the impact of outcomes through the SDGs.
  2.    Affordable housing and land monetization in smart cities:

    1. Land monetization is a value capture exercise and it should be undertaken only if the viability and benefits are demonstrated through adequate due diligence

    2.Approval processes like land-use change, environmental approvals, statutory approvals for relaxation in development controls, etc shall be appropriately aligned for optimum utilization of the land assets

    1. Sufficient checks and balances should be incorporated in the Land Monetization exercise and all the stakeholders including the public should be sensitized
  1.     Improving coverage and retaining sustainability in water and sanitation: As urban India looks to move towards the next generation of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) interventions, it will need to address gaps and create solutions which will help in not only sustaining the outcomes but also create a virtuous cycle of positive change across the WASH value chain.
  2.     Mobility in smart cities – an evolving perspective: In the next decade, new technologies are going to bring in a fundamental change in the ways we live, work and move. The smartest approach is to create self-contained zones in the city. These zones will cater to most of the work, education, shopping and entertainment needs of the citizens by being accessible through use of non-motorised transport like a bicycle. Subsequently the need for travel through the entire length of the city would be reduced to a bare minimum, achievable through use of high speed public transit only.
  3.     Making Indian smart cities climate smart: Majority of Indian cities are currently in development phase therefore, the choices and decisions regarding their future urban forms are still open for India. This provides opportunities to select climate friendly pathways. The policies and standards should be revised based on detailed forward-looking scenario-based climate resilient approaches that will allow the decision makers understand all possible changes and impacts that are likely to affect the cities and take a holistic, well-integrated decision.
  4.     Implementing smart cities –It should be realized that Smart Cities Mission is quite different from prior urban development programmes – as it covers outcomes such as liveability more than specific forms of assets. It also leverages the synergies with other concurrent urban development programmes both from the Central as well as the State Governments. Furthermore, it has also utilized a new institutional mechanism for implementation of the projects. Most of these efforts and arrangements have been tried the first time ever in India, and have accordingly seen some teething issues. However, the learnings and experience gained through the processes, including impediments faced will go on to serve a long way in future instances of programmes intended to create newer smart cities.


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