An enabled physical, social, economic and institutional infrastructure is a must for the success of the upcoming Smart Cities project in India, union Urban Development Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said in Mumbai on Saturday.
Inaugurating a two-day conference on 'Smart City: Delivery of Civic Services' organised by Vijnan Bharati, Naidu said the most pertinent question was how does a Smart City benefit a citizen by way of delivery of services.
The minister said civic services imply a gamut of daily needs of the people and for Smart Cities, they pertain to the needs of the urban areas which are intended to become 'smart' through several interventions.
"But, there was a vast difference in the life in urban and rural areas", he said.
Urban life is basically running against time, sending children to schools and college, people going to office, shopping, entertainment, recreation, healthcare, paying bills, interacting with different sevice providers etc.
Accordingly, a maximum number of these services, like payments of utilities bills, registrations, grievances redressal etc must be enable online, water and electricity supply and use must be made efficient through smart solutions, and hazards like air pollution must be tackled to make a serious difference to the quality of urban life.
"With the shift towards urban areas, the gap between demand and supply of infrastructure and related problems and challenges increase, including increased use of private transport, emergence of slums, sanitation, housing shortages, pollution, etc", Naidu explained.
"In the absence of planned urbanisation, citizens are required to unnecessarily travel long distances from home to work and other places, land and housing costs are getting beyond the reach of common man, poor are getting more and more deprived of the benefits of urbanization," Naidu said.
Referring to these challenges, the minister said Smart Cities should offer such urban eco-systems that make cities and towns more livable by improving upon virtually every facet of daily life, bridging the infrastructure deficit and enhanding the quality and delivery of all services essential for such better living.
"It is important for a Smart City to offer decent living options to every resident. Smart City should provide a very high quality of life - comparable with any developed European city, deliver all services to citizens and businesses in an integrated and resource-efficient manner while enabling innovative collaborations to improve quality of life," Naidu urged.
Dwelling on the resources to achieve this, he quoted a McKinsey Global Institute report saying the per capita annual revenue of all municipalities in the country is around Rs.1,430 against an expenditure commitment of Rs 6,030, spelling a huge urban fiscal gap.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has recently approved plans for urban development under Smart Cities Mission with an allocation of Rs.48,000 crore and Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation with an outlay of Rs 50,000 crore for 500 cities, over the next five years.
Other prominent speakers at the conference were National Council on Skill Development chairman S Rama Dorai and eminent environmentalist Madhav Chitale.