Building Over 100 Smart Cities in India

Smart City 1

India’s new BJP leading government has extensively and correctly shown its ambition to create over 100 new smart cities in India as satellite townships around the big cities – many of which are along the Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) – though not restricted to the area. Developing over 1,000 km, the corridor between Delhi and Mumbai is expected to accumulate over $90 billion of foreign investment to develop manufacturing zones, business parks and new smart cities along a committed rail freight corridor.

The Challenge of Urbanization in India and China:

India is expected to see enormous urbanization along the same lines of what we have seen in China, where urbanization crossed 50 percent last year and is projected to cross 75 percent in the next 5 years. Statistically more people live in cities all over than in rural areas.  Accordingly, there is a bigger need to develop agricultural productivity by lessening manpower on farms and transferring them to areas of higher productivity in industry, resulting in an overall growth in productivity in the economy. After all, assembling Apple  iPhones creates higher added value than growing rice!

This enormous migration to urban areas will be the characterizing feature of the Indian economy in the coming decade – very much in line with the urbanization happening all over the globe. Smart cities need multi-dimensional, unifying thinking, and will not happen naturally. They can only result from a central planning authority. Without any state level interference, current cities will become unlivable and disorganised, given the scale of the migration expected. Therefore, new cities have to be set up – many around current urban areas as satellite towns. This has additional benefits of clustering and benefits of scale in creation of all kinds of urban infrastructure needed for a smart city.

Creation of such new smart cities needs to be closely tied to the concepts of sustainability. This desires these new cities to be “smart,” i.e. creating new types of transport systems to avoid overpopulation that is currently so rampant in many Asian towns, construction using low energy housing materials, newer water harvesting techniques and comprehensive use of IT systems on cloud in running various urban functions and the provision of e-government services to its citizens. Furthermore, such cities should be self-sufficient in being able to create gainful employment for residents so that cross city travel is diminished.

Singapore advantage:

Many countries in the world are moving towards creating such smart cities. Singapore has broadly experimented with and successfully created various smart green corridors/urban townships within its restricted land area of around 700 sq km. Its transport systems, water management, thorough use of IT and land use planning is world class and have won many distinctions over the years and placed it in the top leagues of well-planned smart and habitable cities. Even though it is one of the densest cities in the world, it has created an eco-friendly living environment with parks and gardens around concentrated mini townships all connected with an excellent metro system, which has decreased road congestion.

The Chinese government has made use of utilized Singapore’s skills in such urban planning. In the mid-nineties, it created a model business park-cum-city in a joint venture with Singapore at Suzhou, which became the model for brand new business parks around China. After that, JVs were created via Singbridge for an Eco-city in Tianjin and Knowledge City in Guangzhou. All of these are models of smart cities created as smart towns in massively urbanized environments with sustainability being the principle driver and capability to create employment at the same time. In India, a Singapore government company, Ascendas, has been at the forefront of creating state of the art IT and business parks which have been role models for such facilities in India since the mid-nineties. This experience should be advantaged further in India.


Smart City 2

One way to fast track planning and construction of such smart cities is to contain the private sector in India within a given framework for such new townships by the government. This would need to be particular to the creation of such smart cities in designated areas, so that existing and out-of-days laws do not become an obstruction. These activities would need to be attempted by approved consortia, which would assist in conceptualizing, designing world class smart city arrays. Such corporation with well-known Singaporean partners with proven competence in smart city planning and development, would bring the current techniques and would additionally project manage the construction of such smart cities via well-known developers. Creating such corporation is a mandatory to planning and project managing the creation of such world class continual townships. Using Singapore based urban planning groups is recommended given their experience in Asia and its intimacy to India.

India is going down the path to manage its urbanization more excellent via the creation of 100 smart cities. Singapore with its intimacy to India and with admissible skills and experience in creation of smart and habitable cities in Asia is ideally positioned. What it needs to do is to brazenly seize the moment.

Lets Hope 2020 that some work on Smart Cities would be near completion by 2020

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PS:This is an Experiment we are working on and waiting to see the results :-)



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