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Smart Cities Mission

Published: 14th May, 2024

Context

The Smart Cities Mission (SCM) was launched as a flagship programme to adapt to global urban development trends. However, its progress and effectiveness have come under scrutiny.

What is the concept of Smart Cities?

  • Smart cities emerged as a concept after the 2009 financial crash, aiming for urban centers integrated with advanced communication networks and infrastructure.
  • However, there is no universal definition, with interpretations varying across regions.
  • Genesis of SCM: The Smart Cities Mission (SCM) was initiated in June 2015, aiming to develop 100 cities over five years. It encompassed area-based development and pan-city solutions, with an allocation of Rs 2 lakh crore and emphasis on public-private partnerships (PPPs).

Need of smart cities (unprecedented urban expansion):

  • Experts estimate that about two out of every three peoplein the world will live in cities by 2050
  • India is home to three of world’s 21 megacities (Mumbai, Delhi, and Kolkata), each with populations exceeding 10 million.
  • Despite this urban growth, the country faces significant challenges hindering urban development and economic growth.
  • Migration from rural to urban areas for economic opportunities is increasing, but issues like poor local governance, inadequate infrastructure and services, and outdated urban planning pose major obstacles.
  • As a result, the number of slums has reached record levels.

What is the status of SCM?

  • As of April 2024, the SCM has seen a reduction in project outlay, with completion rates lower than expected. Many ongoing projects are unlikely to meet the extended deadline of June 2024, and PPP funding remains minimal.
  • Exclusionary Approach: The selection process of cities lacked consideration for diverse urban realities, leading to exclusionary outcomes. The governance structure, centered around special purpose vehicles (SPVs), sidelined elected councils and faced objections for being top-down.
  • Implementation Hurdles: The SCM's inadequate funding, compared to the estimated capital requirement for urban development, limited its impact. The SPV model conflicted with constitutional amendments and led to displacement of vulnerable populations, exacerbating issues like urban flooding.
  • Successes:
    • Awareness: The SCM raised awareness about the concept of smart cities and the need for urban modernization in India.
    • Infrastructure Development: Some cities witnessed infrastructure development and improvement in basic services like waste management and water supply.
    • Technological Integration: The emphasis on ICT solutions promoted technological integration in urban governance and service delivery.
Way forward

There is a need for a more inclusive approach to urban development that considers the diverse needs of urban populations and engages local communities in decision-making. Future urban development initiatives should focus on holistic planning, integrating social, economic, and environmental aspects for sustainable growth.

Overall, while the SCM raised awareness about urban modernization, its implementation faced significant challenges and criticisms. Moving forward, there is a need for a more inclusive, holistic, and sustainable approach to urban development in India. 

PYQ

Q1: Economy (GS-III): What are ‘Smart Cities’? Examine their relevance for urban development in India. Will it increase rural-urban differences? Give arguments for ’Smart Villages’ in the light of PURA and RURBAN Mission. (2016)

Q2: Society (GS-I): Discussion the various social problems which originated out of the speedy process of urbanization in India. (2013)

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