Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Smart City Primer

The Smart Cities project of the Modi government has been in the buzz of late especially after its shortlist of 98 potential smart cities was announced. The South Sikkim town of Namchi has also made it to this list. The shortlisted cities are now tasked with preparing proposals that can get them into the final list of winners. Designed like an all India competition, the Smart Cities project has garnered considerable interest amongst the public but much of the process remains unclear. So, here is an attempt to explain exactly what the project is about.
To begin with, what is a Smart City?
According to the project, a ‘Smart City’ is a city which can provide a “decent quality of life to its residents, a clean and sustainable environment and the application of ‘Smart Solutions’”. All of this is meant to be achieved through the development of all the necessary infrastructure requirements like water and power supply, sanitation, public transport, etc.
However, it is the ‘Smart Solutions’ feature of the project that sets a ‘Smart City’ apart from others.   Electronic service delivery, video crime monitoring, smart meters and management of water and power supply, smart parking, integrated multi-modal transport, tele medicine and tele education are some of the ‘Smart Solutions’.
The Smart Cities challenge will run in three cycles: Cycle one [2015-2016], Cycle two [2016-2017] and Cycle three [2017-2018].
Step 1: States nominate cities for the challenge
Step 2: 100 cities are shortlisted
Step 3: Shortlisted cities prepare and submit Smart City Proposals
Step 4: A small number of cities are named winners. The next 20 or so best cities continue in the competition with another chance to win. Remaining cities will have a chance to compete in the next competition cycle.  
Step 5: Shortlisted cities are provided assistance in improving their proposals.
Step 6: After the short-listed cities re-submit their proposals, additional winning cities are announced. They receive funds from the Ministry of Urban Development to bring their proposals to life.
Operated as a Centrally Sponsored Scheme (CSS), the Smart Cities project will receive financial support from the Central Government to the extent of Rs. 48,000 crores over five years i.e. on an average Rs. 100 crore per city per year. An equal amount, on a matching basis, will have to be contributed by the State/ULB; therefore, nearly Rs 1 lakh crore of Government/ULB funds will be available for Smart Cities development.
The Centre has already released Rs 2 crore each to the shortlisted cities for preparing their proposals.
Additional funds are expected to be mobilized from State’s own resources, resources under accepted recommendations of 14th Finance Commission, innovative finance mechanisms, PPPs, other central schemes like AMRUT, Swachh Bharat Mission, etc.

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