Everyone has heard of Smart Cities. This term is penetrating the Indian population at a much faster rate recently. We all know by now that an Indian Smart City is the modernization of the existing cities to make them smart.
But what is the actual definition of a smart city? And why do we need our cities to be smart?
There is no standard definition of a smart city. Each nation has its own definition based on its objectives and requirements, with, of course, the common objective of every smart city being driving economic growth and improving the quality of life. For India, a smart city is defined as:
Urban areas that feature all core infrastructure required like assured water and electricity supplies, sustainable environment, efficient sanitation, solid waste management, and public transport, adequate healthcare and education facilities and affordable housing, especially for economically-weak sections of society.
Smart cities target to put people first in their approach. They implement changes by tapping urban planning best practices, digital and information technologies, public-private partnerships, and policy change.
The definition of the smart city itself answers the next question of why do we need smart cities. India has a history of a planned and systematic way of city development which can be dated back to the Indus Valley Civilization but the explosion of population rendered the system dysfunctional.
Hence, Smart Cities Mission is a pan-city initiative to develop the Indian cities with the aim to implement at least one smart solution citywide. The Indian government launched a mission in 2015 called Smart Cities Mission to meet the objectives defined above. 100 cities were selected to be funded for implementing their smart city plans (SCPs). The execution of the mission is broadly divided into 4 categories:
Physical Infrastructure involves building and developing physical infrastructures like residential and commercial buildings, transportation systems, energy systems, water supply and sewage systems, sanitation facilities, solid waste management systems, etc. These facilities are integrated using technology and covers:
- Power Supply
- Water Supply
- Solid Waste Management
- Sewage Management
- Multimodal Transport Facility
- Citywide Cyber Connection
- Connectivity (Roads, Airports, Railways)
- Disaster Management
Social Infrastructure involves working for the redevelopment of the human and social capital, such as the educational, healthcare, and entertainment sectors, etc. The social infrastructure will work for:
- Entertainment infra like parks, music centers, sports centres, etc.
- Inclusive Planning (SC/ST, Backward Incentives)
- Building Homes
Economic Infrastructure Smart cities need to identify their core competence, advantages, and potential to generate economic activities to create employment opportunities and economic infrastructure. This will include:
- Developing incubation centers, skill development centers, industrial parks and export processing zones, trade centers, service centers, etc.
- GDP Contribution
- Job Creation
- Livelihood Activities
- Market Growth
Institutional Infrastructure refers to the governance of the city. Today cities need high-quality governance, especially e-governance and citizen participation. It will gear up the activities related to planning and management systems. The principle to be followed should be “Governance by Incentives rather than Governance by Enforcement”.
- Speedy Service Delivery
- Institutional Finance/Banking
- Transparency and Accountability
- Skill Development
- Environmental Sustainability
- People’s participation in decision
- ICT based Service delivery
- Citizen Advisory Committee
Smart cities are essentially green cities. Their aim should be to develop smart and green solutions, to incorporate sustainable economic growth with minimum impact on the environment. The city should promote renewable energy, efficient use of resources, waste reduction, and contributing steps to lessen climate change.
What makes a city environmentally smart?
Simply put, the smart cities need a more eco-friendly environment which involves using smart solutions and technologies to assist in providing a healthier place for the citizens. Let’s look at some steps to make an environment-friendly smart city:
One of the main missions of providing a sustainable environment for smart cities is monitoring and controlling the city pollution. This means reducing the current levels of pollution and implementing measures to control future pollution generation. The former target is achieved by deploying a network of efficient pollution monitoring devices across the city which can analyze all the critical ambient air pollutants. This can be accomplished by continuously monitoring these cities using the Internet of Things (IoT) technology to minimize the environmental impact and maximize efficiency. Currently, out of 5000 cities in India, only 24 are performing real-time ambient air quality monitoring.
Smart ways like encouraging public commutes, manufacturing fuel-efficient vehicles, energy-saving appliances, environment-friendly products, and more stringent industrial and transportation regulations for pollution controls are being deployed to prevent pollution generation and reduce carbon footprint.
Making a city smart means implementing smart solutions and technologies. Smart cities aim to operate as one big data-driven ecosystem to bring down pollution, accidents, congestion, and inconvenience rates. Technologies used for smart cities should be able to share data in an efficient, secure and open manner.
Successful smart-city projects collect, manage and use data to improve living and workplace standards. Application-driven data is used by both humans and artificial intelligence (AI) to deliver back innovation and efficiencies to the cities. Continuous city monitoring employs a combination of low-power environmental sensors, wireless networks, and web and mobile-based applications, and analytical usage of data for better decisions.
One of the objectives of smart cities is environmental sustainability. Smart cities help create an urban environment for adapting to the needs of the population in the most environment-friendly, economically-viable and socially-conscious way. Steps to conserve and reduce conventional energy sources and encouraging more sustainable energy sources is a way to achieve this. Solar panels are integrated into building design, replacing traditional materials. Solar and wind energy are the live examples which are harnessed and utilized by integrating the sources into roads, buildings and residential areas.
Smart grids are used for energy consumption monitoring and management. These grids conserve energy in places that might not need power and then send it to areas that may need even more power. In fact, a building can become entirely self-sufficient in its energy requirements by using technology like solar windows. The unused energy generated can be offered to vehicles in the local area.
Waste Reduction and Management
Smart cities wish to provide cleaner urban living spaces to the citizens. The waste reduction hierarchy follows a 5-step process
- minimization and tracking odours from waste generation
- Resource reuse wherever possible
- Recycling of generated waste
- Recovering energy from waste in WtE plants
- Proper disposal of waste in landfills and dumpyards
The strategy involves and encourages community participation. The municipal corporation ensures that the waste disposal does not create a nuisance to the local people. This is achieved by deploying electric noses or odour monitoring solutions around the dumpyards and landfills.
No eco-friendly city is complete without proper green-scape. Parks and other green spaces are fundamental to every city’s environmental health. The importance of trees in mitigating pollution levels does not need explanations at all. Green spaces are required around cities in order to address the needs of the expanding population. It also compensates the Urban Heat Effect which is pertinent in urban spaces due to large concrete constructions and structures.
In addition, various studies have demonstrated the impact of green spaces in reducing stress, anxiety, and depression. Greener lands also lead to better drainage management as the grass absorb rainwater.
Smart cities need to efficiently combine a smart physical layer with a smart digital layer to turn the data collected into actionable decisions on the field in a cost-efficient way. A maturing smart city will consistently plan and deliver services to solve the current issues facing the cities. Innovative solutions like smart parking, smart environmental monitoring, smart traffic management, waste management, smart technologies will help smart cities combat the challenges posed by rapid urbanization.
Smart cities need to look at the overall development – from providing basic amenities like sufficient freshwater to integrating advanced technologies for smarter solutions. It is meant to be one common socio-economic-environmental sustainability plan for the city. Through their attempts, they need to establish sustainability for future generations while minimizing the adverse effects in the current population.