May 02, 2015

AMRUT And The Smart Cities Initiative

The Union Cabinet of India recently approved central government spending worth Rs. 98,000 crore under two urban missions over five years. One of the missions is the 100 Smart Cities initiative, which will be administered through a competition, and the other is AMRUT, the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation, which will be targetted in 500 cities.

IDFC Institute's Komal Hiranandani writes in Swarajya about the new initiatives, comparing them with the previous government's urban scheme, JNNURM:

"The two schemes lend themselves to fundamentally different ways of presenting and defining success. Under JNNURM, for instance, if selected BRTS corridors were built, the government could check the box, even if the buses lay in disrepair. But there is hope that the branding and packaging of “100 Smart Cities” will present a different set of incentives. If a city chosen by this government under a flagship scheme has free public wifi but soaring pollution levels and debilitating traffic, it will be easy for citizens to deride it as being far from 'smart.'...

The schemes also help shift focus on urban areas, which are being run far too inefficiently in India, and in many cases, are being governed by rural panchayats. This can have real dangers, because panchayats, unlike municipalities, do not have to regulate the construction of buildings or provide fire services, according to the 73rd and 74th constitutional amendments...

Lokniti survey found that 60% of farmers want their children to settle in cities, and only 19% think that village life is better than city life. So there is a tremendous need to improve the functioning of cities not only to drive economic growth, but also to meet the aspirations of Indians...

The Smart City framework has been published as a working document by the government online, and in the few months of its operation, has already shown evolution of ideas to incorporate important aspects such as transit-oriented-development, increased FSI to make housing more affordable, and mixed-use development to ensure residences, offices, retail stores and recreation activities are within walking distance. If these additions to the government’s ideals and goals for Smart Cities are indicative of its willingness to adapt to advice on urban best practices, it bodes well for the growth of our cities."

In : OP-EDS
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