In the entire process of creating Smart Cities, efficiency remains the key factor, and in order to achieve efficiency, use of modern technology is imperative, writes Dr P S N Rao, Chairman, DUAC and Professor & Head, SPA, New Delhi
The Government of India has launched the Smart Cities programme as a flagship programme under the Ministry of Urban Development, with a view to meet the challenge of urbanisation in the country. While only 31 per cent of the population of India lives in urban areas, it contributes as much as 63 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product as of the year 2011 and this is slated to rise to 75 per cent by 2030. Obviously, this requires comprehensive development of physical, social, economic and institutional infrastructure so as to prepare and manage the challenges posed by this kind of growth.
The programme of smart cities aims to help cities acquire better infrastructure including water supply, electricity, sanitation, mobility, affordable housing, digital connectivity, sustainable environment, safety and security, health, education and good governance with citizen participation.
In the entire gamut of things, finances are the key. This has been addressed by a huge budgetary allocation of `48,000 crores. This works out to nearly `100 crores for each city every year, for 5 years, for 100 cities.
In addition to this funding which is to come from the Central Government, funds can be mobilised from various other sources as well.
In the entire process, efficiency is the key and in order to achieve efficiency, use of modern technology is imperative.
Efficient water management is one of the key areas of intervention as this is an element of basic infrastructure. While efforts would be needed to identify and procure new additional sources of water for drinking, it is equally important to first manage the existing supplies properly. Firstly, leak detection is very important. For this, there are modern technologies available to check underground water leaks. Savings effected in wastage could be as high as 25 per cent. Rainwater harvesting is another area where technology would play a major role in saving this precious resource. Further, recycling and reuse of waste water is another area where modern technology could be profitably employed. Yet another area is in water audit in terms of both quantity and quality. Often, local agencies are at a loss when it comes to water accounting. Use of modern meters can help in monitoring water use and also help in charging in an appropriate manner.
Sanitation and Waste Management
Cities generate a lot of waste which can be recycled and used. In the collection, transportation, treatment, recycling, reuse, etc., there are many new technologies which can be employed by urban local bodies in order to not only keep cities clean and healthy but also make the system commercially viable for private operators to play a meaningful role. Mechanisms could be devised for making public-private partnerships happen, maybe with some subsidy from the government as well. In fact, this would help in making buildings and campuses ‘green’.
Urban areas and buildings are energy guzzlers. A lot of energy is to be used for a variety of purposes, particularly in air-conditioning and vertical transportation. Proper design of buildings, use of appropriate materials and techniques can help to a great extent in saving energy consumption. Use of solar, wind and biogas can also contribute to saving energy from the grid and thereby cut down costs. Water heating, lighting, etc. can all be taken care of by solar systems as we have a large number of days with good sunlight. By proper articulation of openings in walls and intelligent use of daylight, use of lighting during day time can be cut down substantially. Even the use of indoor color has a major role to play in the amount of artificial lighting needed inside buildings. Use of modern glazing systems to keep solar heat out and allow natural light in is possible. All these efforts combined together can go a long way in efficient energy management.
Urban mobility is essential for efficiency in the city and a good quality of life. All segments of the population, be it school going children, office going people, women, elderly or the physically challenged need to move in the city. In almost all the cities of the country, mobility is a major issue. As a result, a lot of time and energy is wasted in transportation. No single solution is available. However, a combination of various types of mass public transportation systems can help one achieve safe, speedy, comfortable and affordable public transportation systems. Once this kind of infrastructure is put in place, private modes, particularly cars, will automatically go off the roads. Further, personal modes such as cycles need to be provided for so that youngsters could be encouraged to use bicycle as a means of transport. Whether it is a high speed train system, a metro, monorail, bus rapid transit or electric cars, technology has a major role to play in easing the problems posed by transportation in urban areas. Further, by integrating mobility with landuse by way of transit oriented development (TOD), efficiencies could be achieved.
Housing and Landuse
One of the most problematic areas is affordable housing for the low income population. The huge demand – supply gap in housing is partly due to the fact that we are unable to enhance the supply in a speedy manner. For this, there are many prefabrication technologies which can speed up the process of construction of housing. Speed in construction can help in reduction of costs and prices. Further, there are many technologies available and these need to be encouraged for smart building. Further, housing has to be seen as a part of the overall landuse. High density housing can help in more compact developments and reduce the land component per apartment and thereby reduce costs of housing. Mixed use developments also help in cross subsidy which can also contribute in reduction of costs. By integrating housing into a transit oriented development (TOD), even far off residential hubs would get occupied quickly and the gestation period of housing projects could be reduced.
Urban local governance is essential for the success of a smart city programme. Further, it also essential for long term sustenance of cities. Public information portals, grievance redressal mechanisms using web portals, electronic service delivery, property tax management, citizen engagement, participation, safety management and urban policing, etc., are all possible by using modern technologies. In fact, the key to the success of the smart city programme is the way we start adapting ourselves to more efficient systems of technology and management.