The term “Smart City” in an era of rapid urbanisation has become immensely fashionable in the policy arena. However, the interpretation remains quite vague, varying from being a digital city, swanky roads and metros rails, down to developing a “Knowledge Park” within an existing city.
While the “Smart City” concept has varied dimensions and facets, it is imperative to focus on key parameters, essential to the concept of “Right to Live” which is as much a birth right, if not more, of every Indian citizen.
A “Smart City” ideally should have a well designed and inclusive infrastructure for transport, accommodation, trade and commerce, education, water, food and healthcare, knit together by a well laid state-of-the-art IT network. The amalgam should aim to act as an autobahn for integrating each and every aspect which is relevant to and touches human life. Besides adequate employment opportunities, a “Smart City” must offer a safe and secure environment to its inhabitants. Integration of all these parameters would ensure sustainability and enable every business enterprise to become self sufficient.
The current inability of all cities to attract investment in infrastructure required for building and retaining talent, is leading the creative minds to spatially cluster and converge in urban centres within the country. It also leads to irreversible brain drain which contributes to the development of the so called developed countries of this world.
The new government’s intent to build 100 new cities is a massive opportunity for it to showcase its vision, capability and commitment. It seems like the “Right to Live” that every Indian citizen has traditionally been deprived of and yearned for may finally be a reality. However, lack of planning and/or incompetent or lax implementation of a plan may lead to an indefinite delay in realizing the dream. The inclusion of each of the aspects is critical to fulfill the everevolving needs, lifestyle and aspirationsof an Indian citizen, especially the new generation which is entrusted with the task of leading India towards 2050.
It is heartening to see that the role of professionals and subject matter experts in preparing this urban blue print and road map has clearly been understood. However, these professionals must have in-depth understanding of the dynamics of local geo-political and social context, without which they may lose track and relevance. Developing redundancy of information and disaster management plans that include emergency and response measures is an indispensable aspect of creating “Smart Cities”.
Special focus has to be laid on building safe drinking water dispensing points, adopting better food storage techniques to preserve quality and nutrition, energy management, development of integrated multi-modal safe and secure transport infrastructure, structural fire and life safety and prevention and mitigation against natural and man-made disasters. Above all, adopting a customized approach to physical and electronic security after understanding the threat, vulnerability and risk associated with every district/region is most essential.
Today, every Indian believes that we finally have been able to install a smart government with the capability to deliver smart governance. The forthcoming budget will focus heavily on building a smart economy which then has to be supported by a combination of smart mobility, smart environment, smart security and smart people, thus leading to smart living.
A dream come true would be all of these factors coming together and getting integrated into a single environment thereby creating a truly “Smart City”. Hundred such Smart Cities along with smarting up of the existing urban and rural infrastructure across the country will eventually lead to a “Smart India”.
The author is currently Director,
Homeland Security at MitKat Advisory,
India’s leading premium risk