smart cities
Last year, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced his plans to revitalize Indian cities through the creation of 100 “Smart Cities” in India. More recently, Mr. Modi has announced that he will be giving annual federal grants of 15 million for the next five years to a list of 98 cities to help them become ‘smart.’

Modi, who has faced critique over the vague nature of his ‘smart city’ concept, has himself argued that “there is no universally accepted definition of a smart city.” Nevertheless, experts argue that the idea of a smart city generally refers to a city with criteria such as good roads, power, access to water, and livable homes–which many Indian cities currently fail to meet.

Mr. Modi’s Smart City project has also more specifically toyed with the idea of promoting mixed land use in area-based developments, creating walkable areas in cities, and creating a variety of clean and safe transport options.

According to Mr. Modi, the Indian Smart City initiative is only one among many urban development projects aimed at keeping up with the pace of economic and population growth within India. Indeed, India, which has a burgeoning population boom that will overtake China’s by 2028, also has the world’s third-largest growing economy, according to the World Bank.

India has also experienced an enormous influx in rural to urban migration in recent years, with more than 30% of India’s once mostly urban population now living in cities. This figure is also expected to rise, as many Indians move to urban areas in search of better job opportunities and diminished caste-based persecution.

In light of the demographic changes occurring in India, many experts have argued that Mr. Modi’s ‘Smart City’ initiative is an enlightened plan that will serve to bring relief to millions of Indians migrating to larger cities.

By focusing on issues in Indian cities–such as poor sanitation and access to water–the ‘Smart City’ initiative is thus not only a retroactive plan that serves to correct the poor state of many cities, but also a proactive plan, that takes into account the strain that a burgeoning urban population will pose to Indian cities in the future.

As Mr. Modi’s plan regarding his list of 98 Indian cities begins to be finalized, the Prime Minister also hopes that the somewhat paltry funds currently allocated to the project will be able to be bolstered by private donations.

Other government officials, such as Home Minister Rajnath Singh, have also proposed ways in which the ‘Smart City’ concept could be further improved. Mr. Singh, for instance, just recently proposed the idea that ‘Smart Cities’ could also be built as ‘Safe Cities’, which would require the installment of security equipment such as CCTV, aerial surveillance, and an increase in female cops.

Other officials have also begun to float ideas for how Indian cities can be better improved–making them overall smarter, safer, and more livable for the millions of Indians who currently live in sub-par urban conditions.

Ana Powell

Sources: BBC, Forbes, India Times, NY Times, Smart Cities Challenge
Photo: KadvaCorp