According to Census 2011, Cities accommodate nearly 31% of India's current population and contribute 63% of GDP. Urban areas are expected to house 40% of India's population and contribute 75% of India's GDP by 2030. This requires comprehensive development of physical, institutional, social and economic infrastructure. All are important in improving the quality of life and attracting people and investment.

Cities are truly the engines of growth today that needs a holistic approach. To meet the overarching aspirations of growing urban population and sustain a virtuous cycle of growth and development, development of Smart Cities has become crucial. However, the Smart Cities Mission calls for appropriate local spatial development plans.

About Smart City Mission

The Smart Cities Mission is an innovative and new flagship initiative by the Government of India to drive economic growth and improve the quality of life of people by enabling local development and harnessing technology as a means to create smart outcomes for citizens.

The Mission will cover 100 cities and its duration will be five years from 2015 to 2020. The Mission is implemented by the Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD). SCM will be operated as a Centrally Sponsored Scheme (CSS) where in the central Government proposes to provide financial support up to Rs. 100 crore per city per year. An equal amount, on a matching basis, will have to be contributed by the State/ULB.


The idea is to look at compact areas, create a replicable model which will act like a light house to other aspiring cities. The Smart Cities Mission is meant to set examples that can be replicated both within and outside the Smart City, catalyzing the creation of similar Smart Cities in various regions and parts of the country.

The strategic components of area-based development in the Smart Cities Mission are city improvement (retrofitting), city renewal (redevelopment) and city extension (greenfield development) plus a Pan-city initiative in which Smart Solutions are applied covering larger parts of the city

Area-based development will transform existing areas (retrofit and redevelop), including slums, into better planned ones, thereby improving livability of the whole City. New areas (Greenfield) will be developed around cities in order to accommodate the expanding population in urban areas.

Application of Smart Solutions will enable cities to use technology, information and data to improve infrastructure and services. Comprehensive development in this way will improve quality of life, create employment and enhance incomes for all, especially the poor and the disadvantaged, leading to inclusive Cities. 

The smart city aspirants have been selected through a process of competition called ‘City Challenge Competition’ in an objective manner as hailed by NITI Aayog. It entails effective citizen participation ending the ‘top down’ approach and leading to ‘people centric’ urban development.

Smart Cities holds strong complementarity with the AMRUT scheme in achieving urban transformation. While AMRUT follows a project-based approach, the Smart Cities Mission follows an area-based strategy. Recent reports suggest that out of the 97 smart cities declared, 89 have initiated this process of which 70 have completed it and 26 of them have already been given credit rating.

Eight cities such as Ahmedabad, Bhopal, Indore, Jaipur, Kakinada, Pune, Rajkot and Visakhapatnam have already appointed Transactional Advisors for issuing municipal bonds. Total of 44 cities including 25 AMRUT cities have so far got credit ratings.

The flipside

Cities in India are governed by multiple organizations and authorities which have their own jurisdictions; thus Indian cities are characterized by multiple boundaries. The governing authorities in a city include urban local bodies (ULB) with the primary functions of service delivery, planning for socio-economic development and regulation of development. This results in their subdivision into different wards. Large cities also have development authorities, urban development authorities or improvement trusts responsible for planning and development that divide cities into various planning zones. Line departments, that are sector-specific organisations, deal with the provision of services in their respective sectors — the water supply agency has its own supply zones. Sewage disposal is also done based on various zones. The organizations responsible for safety and security delineate another set of zones. Therefore, the different spatial entities of the city formed by non-coterminous boundaries deter effective planning and good governance.

This calls for local spatial planning. Spatial planning includes regional planning, transportation and environment as well as promoting economic growth of a region via models and techniques. This term is mostly used in context of Regional Planning.

For example: Conventional city planning talks about where a metro rail project should come up, a spatial plan “will also say what growth impetus the metro project will provide for the city and how the metro plan will be linked to land use and boost the economic activity of the city”.

It will be a blueprint for the city in terms of social infrastructure too. Planning for healthcare and schools, among other things, will be a part of it and once a project is sanctioned, it will become embedded in it. It will be easy to bring about any development project.

Case study of Singapore

Singapore, with its planning boundaries and smart urban development, is a good example. The urban planning boundaries of Singapore were first delineated by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) in the 1991 Concept Plan. It comprised 55 planning areas organized into five planning regions, namely, the central, west, north, north-east and east regions.

The 2014 master plan retains the five planning regions and 55 areas which are further divided into smaller subzones. The fact to be noted is that since the implementation of these boundaries, other departments have also adopted them for their administrative purposes.

The Statistics Department of Singapore published the 2000 census based on these planning area boundaries — earlier, electoral boundaries were used.

Subsequently, further studies were based on these boundaries as seen in the 2010 census and 2015 household survey.

Similarly, the Singapore Police Force constituted the jurisdiction of its neighborhood police centres based on these planning regions, which replaced the then existing seven land divisions.

As for the administrative and electoral divisions, in 2001, the earlier nine districts were replaced with five districts corresponding to the urban planning regions of the URA.

Each district was then further divided into town councils and electoral constituencies, which continues as of now, evident from the divisions of the 2015 election.

The unified boundaries of the various forces in planning and coordinated efforts have contributed to the planned and smart urban development of Singapore.

The above example clearly states the importance of coordination among different urban departments for better implementation of funds, functions and functionaries.

Way forward

An important first step would be to build safeguards to protect the democratic nature of governance structures. A robust governance structure, which allows for sharing of power and financial resources between urban local bodies and the private sector stakeholders, would go a long way towards reducing fears.

The VCF policy framework (a principle that states that people benefiting from public investments in infrastructure should pay for it like land value tax, fee for changing land use, betterment levy, development charges, transfer of development rights, and land pooling systems) was introduced by the Ministry of Urban Development recently. Besides this, tapping of municipal bonds can meet the financial shortages.

Cues can be taken from successful models like Pune Municipal Body (Municipal bonds), Karnataka (for its methods to fund its mass transit projects) and the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (betterment levy) to finance infrastructure projects.

Best international practices and principles of the recently concluded UN URBAN AGENDA of the Habitat conference can be incorporated to meet SDG goals.

Similarly, at the planning stage itself, cities must seek convergence in the SCM with AMRUT, Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM), National Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana (HRIDAY), Digital India, Skill development, Housing for All, PMAY-Urban for better integration, coordination and inclusiveness.

Institutional and legal mechanisms for any repercussions with regard to social justice, equity and cyber safety also must be stitched on to the mission strategy for it to be truly smart. 

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