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Indian Real Estate News : Bhubaneswar
Smart Cities: The key TO FUTURE LIVING
Source: The Times of India Aug 01, 2014
According to estimates, around 1 crore people are moving into Indian urban areas annually and it is in this context that PM Narendra Modi's 100 new smart cities makes eminent sense. SANJEEV SINHA writes

Ever since the Modi government tossed around the idea of smart cities, they seem to have become India's new buzzword.

After all, in this modern age when everything is supposed to be 'smart'-ranging from shoes to your home and from cars to your mobile phone-why should our cities be left behind, particularly at a time when they have got a solid case for themselves?

It is no more a secret that Indian cities are witnessing phenomenal urban growth.

According to estimates, around 1 crore people are moving into Indian urban areas annually . Thus, new cities need to be developed in sync with population growth to prevent the social and physical infrastructure of existing cities from collapsing altogether. However, mindless development of new urban areas without proper infrastructure in place could lead to degradation of urban life, which is not sustainable in the future. Here comes the role of developing smart cities, as proposed by Mr Narendra Modi. "There are, in fact, two components in the smart city terminology-'smart' and 'city'. Thus, the focus of the government is not only on developing new cities, or upgrading suburban areas near large cities, but also to make them efficient and sustainable," says Neeraj Bansal, partner and head of real estate and construction, KPMG India.

The concept

Smart city, in fact, is a broad, integrated approach to improving the efficiency of city operations, the quality of life for its citizens, and expanding the local economy .

A smart city judiciously uti A smart city judiciously utilizes the resources available to it, like water, land, power, roads, public transport, and funds, among others.

Anuj Puri, the chairman and country head of JLL India, says: "A smart city is one that offers a superior way or life to its residents, and one where economic development and activity are sustainable and logically incremental by virtue of being based on success-oriented market drivers like supply and demand. A smart city is also, by definition and for practical purposes, significantly driven by information technology . This is because in modern urban life, information technology is needed to provide the highest level of enablement in practically every respect."

Facilities, features, and advantages


Smart cities are supposed to have many innovative features like Wi-Fi powered living spaces, automated security and surveillance systems, superior sanitization and recycling processes, efficient and time-effective commutation facilities, 24x7 water supply and electricity , and intelligent public services, among others.

"A smart city typically deploys or is dependent on information and communication technologies (ICTs) for collecting and processing the data generated by its residents. The insights generated from data helps city-level authorities take appropriate steps to efficiently plan city resources. With high usage of ICTs, a smart city is able to plan its scarce resources like water, electricity, parking space, public transportation, etc, efficiently," Bansal of KPMG says.

Apart from better living, high-paying jobs and more demand for services are also a plus point of smart cities.

"In a country like India, information technology creates a high number of high-paying jobs, which means that IT-ITeS employees also tend to enjoy a better lifestyle. In other words, a smart city in the Indian context generates a massive number of jobs within a sector where the services provided by it are in great demand both within and outside the city," Anuj Puri of JLL says.

Another advantage of smart cities is that they can be planned in an efficient manner following the latest urban planning norms.

"Most cities, in fact, have grown in an unplanned manner. In the case of smart cities, adequate social infrastructure can be planned in these cities. This will enhance the quality of life of the residents.

Also, private or FDI funding can be utilized to build these cities, reducing the financial outflow of the government. Affordable housing to the various strata of society can also be planned more efficiently with lower cost," Shreekant Shastry, the VP (Business) and EA to CMD of Ozonegroup, says. A smart city, thus, is a highly urban region that is extremely well developed in terms of overall infrastructure, communications, sustainable real estate, and overall market viability. And these literally benefit everyone, including residents, businesses, the government, even the environment.

Investment

As far as investment is concerned, India is still in the process of developing new cities to accommodate the growth of its population.

Thus, a huge investment is required to develop new cities. However, unlike developed countries, India has the opportunity to develop smart cities from scratch rather than retrofitting or modify existing cities into smart cities.

"In the Indian context, thus, the development of new smart cities may not entail as much investment as required in developed world. For 100 cities, the government has allocated Rs 7,060 crore in the 2014-15 Budget, which is about Rs 71 crore per city. This is a good start and would provide the much-needed financial flexibility to develop smart cities," Bansal says.

Stakeholders

Although actual creation for 100 new cities will require large financial outlays, the current budgetary allocation is believed to be a step in the right direction.

"This announcement will definitely excite the stakeholders, including urban planners, city administrators and industry to come together and create sustainable models for new cities. It is essential to focus on the right governance and regulatory frameworks to ensure speedy execution and benefits realization. Since the smart city concept, on the whole, is in the early stages of development, it will be prudent for the stakeholders to take insights from the planners of some of the smart city initiatives like GIFT, DMIC, and Naya Raipur. Conceptualizing and developing new cities is a time-consuming process.

Therefore, this announcement will give the required thrust to fast track the planning of new cities," a recent study by PwC India said.

Disadvantages and roadblocks

Although smart cities are a futuristic concept and have numerous plus points to their favour, still they may have some limitations. Excessive dependency on information technology is a case in point.

In case of failure of the system, for instance, the whole city can come to a standstill. Further, there are high chances of vulnerability of city data.

Some observers are also of the view that building new high-tech cities could be a case of misplaced priori ties, especially in a country like India where many people still live without basic infrastructure. Besides, turning the dream of smart cities into reality will also pose some problems. “The government has shown its intent to build these cities, but the main problem will arise in the implementation.

For that the basic requirement is the easy availability of land. The government will need to free up the land for such planned urban development and keep a check on the land rates to encourage industries, developers, and people to invest in these cities," says Abhay Kumar, the CMD of Griha Pravesh Buildteck Pvt Ltd. Another impediment for smart cities today is funding. For this, "the government will have to ease liquidity and pave way for easy capital to developers to encourage them to take up these projects," Kumar says.

Also, there is an urgent need for a careful study of implementing the smart city technology . That is because "a technology which has proven successful in one city may not be suitable at other places.

It is especially true for a country like India, where population is very high. A system successful in Europe or the United States may not be successful here for the sheer reason of difference in the population size of cities, urbanization rates, literacy of residents, employment rate, etc," Bansal cautions.

Current status and future prospects

All said and done, however, developing new cities-particularly smart cities-is a way to deal with the country's rapidly urbanizing population while also competing with countries like China, which have made smart cities a centrepiece of their own policies.

Experts also say that with urban migration turning into a deluge, the only way out for us to sustain as a society is to invest in new cities. These new cities, however, need to focus on leveraging technology to improve service delivery , quality of life and at the same time optimize the usage of resources. The good news is that while the concept of smart cities seems to be quite new, a number of such cities are already in the works, especially in the DelhiMumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC), and three such cities-Dholera, Shendra-Bidkin and Global City-are to be completed by 2019.

Besides, Gujarat International Financial Tech or GIFT city , a dream project of Narendra Modi, which is one of the most ambitious projects ever undertaken in the Indian infrastructure space and is being designed as a hub for the global finance services industry , is set to become India's first smart city.

It is estimated that GIFT would provide 5,00,000 direct and an equal number of indirect jobs, which would require 5.76 million square metres of real estate office and residential space.

Mumbai-based realty major Lodha Group has also recently announced the launch of 'Palava'-Mumbai's sister citywhich is designed to be amongst the world's top 50 most liveable cities, with every aspect of it being benchmarked against global criteria.

Delhi NCR-based Wave Group is an other developer which, along with IBM, claims to be setting up one of India's first and largest smart cities, Wave City , on NH-24, over 4,500 acres.

Talking about the growth potential and future prospects of smart cities, R K Panpalia, the MD of Wave Infratech, says: "Smart cities will certainly strengthen the infrastructure of India, including mobility and housing. These satellite towns will create a massive mag net of employment opportunities in big, medium, and small-scale industries. Besides, a smart city is expected to improve economic efficiency, provide better quality of life, and promote sustainable urban development."

More important, as the massive rise in urban population is bound to entail environmental and infrastructural changes, and our government and local bodies have to simultaneously rise to the occasion to manage the show, our cities also need to get smarter.

Smart cities are surely a way out!

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