Smart Cities Mission: With deadline looming, a status check

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    • As the June 2023 deadline for completing the Smart Cities Mission approaches, the government has asked 20 of the worst-performing cities to buck up.
      • These 20 cities are the ones that have completed the fewest projects under the mission.

    Smart Cities Mission (SCM)

    • About:
      • The Smart Cities Mission is an initiative of the Union Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry that was launched by the Prime Minister on June 25th 2015. 
      • Cities across the country were asked to submit proposals for projects to improve municipal services and to make their jurisdictions more liveable.
        • Between January 2016 and June 2018, the Ministry selected 100 cities for the Mission over five rounds.
    • Four pillars:
      • Social Infrastructure, 
      • Physical Infrastructure, 
      • Institutional Infrastructure, 
      • Economic Infrastructure.
    • Need:
      • India is the world’s second-most populous nation.
      • 31% of India’s present population and contribute around 63% of GDP (Census 2011).
      • Urban areas are anticipated to house 40% of India’s people and contribute around 75% of India’s GDP by the year 2030.
    • Objective & Significance:
      • To promote cities that provide core infrastructure and give a decent quality of life to their citizens, a clean and sustainable environment and application of ‘Smart’ Solutions.
        • The project proposals ranged from making certain stretches of roads more accessible and pedestrian-friendly to more capital-intensive ones like laying water pipelines and constructing sewage treatment plants.
        • Make Cities liveable, inclusive, and sustainable (Area-based development).
        • Create employment opportunities.
    • Integrated Command and Control Centres:
      • All 100 cities have also constructed Integrated Command and Control Centres to monitor all security, emergency and civic services. 
        • During the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, these centres were converted into emergency response units by many of the cities.

    Deadlines under the mission

    • The projects were supposed to be completed within five years of the selection of the city, but in 2021 the Ministry changed the deadline for all cities to June 2023.
      • As of March 2023, the 100 cities have issued work orders for 7,799 projects. Out of these, 5,399 projects have been completed, and the rest are ongoing.
      • Only around 20 cities are likely to meet the June deadline; the rest will need more time. 
      • Among the laggards are six cities from the Northeast, five Union Territories, and three state capitals.
    • The government has asked 20 of the worst-performing cities, ones that have completed the fewest projects under the mission to buck up.

    Challenges

    • Smart cities mission is a challenging project. 
      • Every city has its own set of challenges ranging from infrastructure, city dynamics, behavioral practice, etc.
    • Infrastructure development:
      • A lot of challenges come up when a large scale infrastructure development is done. 
      • The legal set-up, inconsistency in policies and regulatory norms are the major challenges in a country like India. They affect the actual execution of projects.
    • Technical Constraints & Technological Obsoleteness: 
      • The smart city mission aims to harness the smart technologies to develop the city into a smart one. 
      • However, most of the urban local bodies have a limited technical capacity to ensure the development of the smart cities
      • These technical and technological limitations hinder the cost-effective and timely implementation of the smart steps.
    • Financing For Project: 
      • Keeping the funds and finances flowing in for the smart cities mission is a challenge. Most ULBs are not even financially self-sustainable.
      • Getting the right finances flowing in for the completion of the project and later the maintenance of the technological developments in the smart cities can be a challenge.
    • Transport:
      • Urbanizing the public transport for urban mobility is a challenge for the government due to the inadequate transport system currently persisting in the cities. 
      • Various factors like lack of investment, high population density, zoning, and poor urban planning have been making the transit system in Indian cities inadequate.

    Government Initiatives to Support the SCM

    • Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT):
      • It was launched in June 2015 by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs. It Aims:
        • To ensure that every household has access to a tap with the assured supply of water and a sewerage connection.
        • To increase the amenity value of cities by developing greenery and well maintained open spaces like parks.
        • To reduce pollution by switching to public transport or constructing facilities for non-motorized transport.
    • National Urban Digital Mission (NUDM): 
      • It will create a shared digital infrastructure for urban India.
      • It shall work across the three pillars of people, process, and platform to provide complete support to cities and towns.
    • National Urban Learning Platform (NULP): 
      • It aims to propagate solutions and innovations that are underway, and act as an enabler of the rapid development of diverse new solutions developed by cities and states.
    • Ease of Living Index (EoLI): 
      • The EoLI is an assessment tool by the Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs that evaluates the quality of life and the impact of various initiatives for urban development in the city.
    • India Smart Cities Awards Contest (ISAC): 
      • It was launched to reward the cities, projects and innovative ideas promoting ‘smart; development in cities.
    • The Urban Learning Internship Programme (TULIP): 
      • TULIP is a program for providing fresh graduates with experiential learning opportunities in the urban sector.
        • It would help enhance the value-to-market of India’s graduates and help create a potential talent pool in diverse fields like urban planning, transport engineering, environment, municipal finance etc.

    Way ahead

    • As India continues its growth trajectory, the quality of its urbanisation will become paramount to ensure that this growth is sustainable and equitable.
    • It is imperative that the government finds a solution to overcome these challenges to see the dream project of turning more than 100 Indian cities into smart cities.
      • The successful implementation of this mission requires a reinforced focus on building capacities at all levels to learn new approaches and technologies, and bring sensitisation towards new roles, responsibilities and attitudes.

     

    Daily Mains Question

     

    [Q] Discuss the significance of the Smart cities mission in India. Examine the challenges faced & the possible solutions in implementing the Smart cities mission in India.