Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation

Smart Cities: A Holistic Approach

By Aditi Jain

In India, it is estimated according to the World Bank that almost 10 million people migrate from rural to urban areas. By 2020, 70% of India’s population will live in cities. Also India’s economy is expanding at an increasing rate. By 2030 it is expected to have grown by five times. Urban population contributes around 60% currently to the GDP and will increase it to 70% in the next 15 years. Presently, 31% of India’s population lives in urban areas and the conditions of urban lifestyle is chronically low. However, with such escalating figures, the country faces a critical challenge- managing this rapid urbanization in a way that enhances the livability of India’s urban spaces. Smart Cities Mission (SCM) is the need of the hour.Smart Cities Mission (SCM), was launched by our Hon’ble Prime Minister Narendra Modi on June 25, 2015 along with two other housing projects, Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) and Housing for All. The aim was to develop a sustainable future for coming generations and provide holistic approach for urban development. In “Smart Cities India 2015- Conference and Exhibition”, Yashodhara Raje Scindia, the current Minister for Commerce, and Chairman of Industries and Employment, Madhya Pradesh said “the concept of Smart Cities can be very much accomplished if central, state and city administration work in tandem to achieve this goal. The initiative is the need of the hour to accommodate and provide quality life to our future generations.”

What are Smart Cities?

There is no specific definition given by any government in the world. It is perceived differently by different people. However, the basic premise of a smart city is making infrastructure network and delivery of services more efficient – across telecommunication, logistics, water and gas supply. The main objective is to promote cities that provide core infrastructure and give a decent quality of life to its citizens, a clean and sustainable environment and application of ‘Smart’ Solutions. The focus is on sustainable and inclusive development and the idea is to look at compact areas, create a replicable model which will act like a light house to other aspiring cities. 

Smart cities offer smart solutions to solve the problems. The purpose of the Smart Cities Mission is to drive economic growth and improve the quality of life of people by enabling local area  development and harnessing technology, especially technology that leads to Smart outcomes. (Smart cities Presentation)

What is Smart Cities Project?

The Government of India has come out with an ambitious mission of 100 smart cities by the year 2020. It will continue after that too, under Ministry of Urban Development evaluating the project and incorporating its learning in the project. In the span of 5 years, these cities will not only grow economically but culturally, structurally and sustainably too. 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. Each Smart City will also have a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) which will be headed by a full time CEO and have nominees of Central Government, State Government and ULB on its Board. The SPV will plan, appraise, approve, release funds, implement, manage, operate, monitor and evaluate the Smart City development projects.

The Smart Cities Mission will be conducted as a Centrally Sponsored Scheme (CSS) where the central government will provide the funds to the states to the extent of Rs. 48,000 crores in the span of 5 years, i.e., an average of Rs. 100 crore per city per year. Many states like Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Odisha, Maharashtra, Bihar, etc. have tapped their intermediary resources for funding, while it is expected from other states to adopt the same model too. Other than this, the states will be proposing schemes like PPP (Public – Private Partnership) to bring in some funding for the smart cities project. The distributions of the funds are as follows:

  1. 93% project funds.
  2. 5% Administrative and Office Expenses (A&OE) funds for state/ULB (towards preparation of SCPs and for PMCs, Pilot studies connected to area – based developments and deployment and generation of Smart Solutions, capacity building as approved in the Challenge and online services).
  • 2% A&OE funds for MoUD (Mission Directorate and connected activities/structures, Research, Pilot studies, Capacity Building, and concurrent evaluation).

How will the Project work?

The Smart Cities Project is divided in three models of Area based Smart Cities Development, along with Pan-city initiative in which Smart Solutions are applied covering larger parts of the city. The three models are:

  • Retrofitting: “will introduce planning in an existingbuilt-uparea to achieve Smart City objectives, along with other objectives, to make the existing area more efficient and livable.” In this model, area more than 500 acres will be identified in consultation with the citizens of the city. Depending upon the already developed infrastructure and technologies available in the identified area and the vision of the citizens, the cities will prepare the solutions to make the area ‘smart.’ This strategy may also be completed in a shorter time frame, leading to its replication in another part of the city.
  • Redevelopment:“will effect a replacement of the existing built-upenvironment and enable co- creation of a new layout with enhanced infrastructure using mixed land use and increased density.” In this kind of model, area more than 50 acres will be identified by the ULBs (Urban Local Bodies) in consultation with the citizens. For example, the East Kidwai Nagar redevelopment project in Delhi which is taken by the National Building Corporation Construction.
  • Greenfield: “development will introduce most of the Smart Solutions in a previously vacant area (more than 250 acres) using innovative planning, plan financing and plan implementation tools (e.g. land pooling/ land reconstitution) with provision for affordable housing, especially for the poor.” Greenfield solutions are required around the cities in order to address the needs of the ever expanding population. The area selected for this model can be chosen either by the ULBs or local Urban Development Authority (UDAs).
  • Pan – city development

“envisages application of selected Smart Solutions to the existing city- wide infrastructure. Application of Smart Solutions will involve the use of technology, information and data to make infrastructure and services better.” For example, applying smart solutions in Waste Management like waste water treatment, waste disposal, and reduction of Carbon dioxide.

The Smart Cities will either have one of the models which will help them develop strategies for smart solutions or a combination of these models. It is mentioned that Pan- city model is an additional feature that will be provided.

Each city will have to formulate its own concept, vision, mission and plan (proposal) for a Smart City that is appropriate to its local context, resources and levels of ambition. Accordingly, they have to choose their model of Smart City and answer the question: What kind of Smart City do they want? For this, cities will prepare their Smart City Proposal (SCP) . During the preparation of the Smart Cities Mission, a number of foreign Governments have offered to provide Technical Assistance (TA) support. These include World Bank, ADB, JICA, USTDA, AFD, KFW, DFID, UN Habitat, UNIDO, etc. Such organizations, which have experience in the field of Smart City development, can also extend support to the States/UTs as hand- holding agencies in preparing the SCPs.

Aims of the Smart Cities


Some definite features of Area Based Development in Smart Cities are as follows:-

  • Promoting mix land use in area based development. States will enable some flexibility in land use and will build some by laws to adapt to change;
  • Expand housing for all;
  • Creating walkable localities to reduce congestion, air pollution and resource depletion, boost local economy, promote interactions and ensure security. The roads will be developed not only for vehicles but also for the pedestrians and cyclists, thus ensuring sustainable development;
  • Preserving and developing open spaces like parks, playgrounds to enhance the quality of life of citizens, reduce pollution and promote eco-balance;
  • Promoting a variety of transport options like public transport to reduce pollution and enhance better transportation;
  • E – governance – making governance citizen friendly and cost effective, form e- groups to listen to people and taking feedback and online monitoring of programs for better communication;
  • Unique Identity to the city- based on its main economic activity, such as local cuisine, health, education, arts and craft, culture, sports goods, furniture, hosiery, textile, dairy, etc;
  • Apply smart solutions whenever necessary to make area based development better and more effective. For example, better technology for disaster management, using sustainable sources of energy, etc.

Benefits of Smart Cities:

There are many possible benefits that the cities will have for their ‘smartness’. Some of them are as follows:

  • Smart water meters and billing systems,
  • Remotely controlled automatic distribution valves,
  • Real time, online systems of monitoring water quality,
  • City-wide intelligent video surveillance network,
  • Using mobile phones for cyber tour of worksites,
  • Citizen engagement and grievance redressal,
  • Waste water treatment and waste compost,
  • Tele – medicine and Tele – education,
  • Efficient use of energy resources and management,
  • Use of public vehicles.

While the above are only few of the possible benefits that a city can employ to make the area based development cost effective and more sustainable, many more can be added by the cities in their Smart Cities Plan.


The Government of India is taking various initiatives to convert 100

Cities into Smart Cities. The real challenge before the Government is to build inclusive smart cities for all its residents, irrespective of whether they are rich or poor. In India, what we need to build a smart city is Public-private policy and strong will. The process has to be people centric. The idea should be to make such cities that they should cater to each and every need of the citizens of that city.


  • http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/smart-cities-mission-gets-a-french-boost/article7743882.ece
  • http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/keyword/smart-city
  • http://www2.deloitte.com/in/en/pages / public – sector / articles / smart – cities.html
  • SMART CITIES MISSION – A Presentation by MoUD (PDF)
  • Holistic approach for Smart Cities mission: Need for a reference framework- Business Standard (PDF)

(The author is a Young India Fellow (YIF) (2015-16) at Ashoka University & doing her (Experiential Learning Module) ELM at SPMRF – Think@SPMRF. She has keen interest in contemporary issues and writes on them as well)