Authorities Should Look At Easing Regulatory Norms, Says Smart City Expert
Smart Cities caught people’s fancy ever since the term was first introduced. In 2016, 100 to-be smart cities also surfaced. Soon, other topics of national interest such as demonetisation, Goods and Services Tax, insolvency and related amendments, took over the podium. Are you wondering what is the status of Smart Cities across the country?PropGuide reached out to infrastructure expert, Dr Harish Sharma, Chief Business Officer & Operations at Rudrabhishek Enterprise Ltd (REPL). The consultancy conceptualised Smart City planning and development in cities like Varanasi, Indore, Kanpur, Dehradun, Moradabad and Bhopal. Edited excerpts follow.
PropGuide: From its launch to now, how do you see the Smart City mission progressing?
Sharma: The smart city mission is an ambitious urban renewal and retrofitting project. The intention to develop smart cities is to revamp the current infrastructure to match the requirements of the population. Initially the progress was slow but now things are speeding up. Project development in various smart cities reflects the same. We expect that the smart cities mission will take fast strides as the Modi government comes back for the second term.
PropGuide: Tell us something about your experience with planning smart cities in India? What are the biggest challenges?
Sharma: A lot of challenges come up when a large- scale infrastructure development is planned. The legal set-up, inconsistency in policies and regulatory norms are the major challenges in a country like India. They affect the actual execution of projects. In a number of cases the policies of central and state governments do not align with each other. Apart from this, while the work is in process, policies are reworked.
Planning for a smart city varies depending on location, culture, demographics and stage of development of each city. Technological interventions along with sustainability, liveability, social inclusiveness, and efficiency are key factors for planning framework of a smart city. REPL’s expertise in GIS, architecture, infrastructure, engineering services and project management helps us in effective planning.
PropGuide: What kind of intervention do you seek from the authorities to make the mission materialize faster?
Sharma: The authorities should look towards easing the regulatory norms, setting up policies that should not be overturned or reworked in quick succession so that we can execute our plans effectively. Also, the central government and state government should frame the policies in sync with each other to develop sustainable infrastructure.
PropGuide: Will living in a smart city escalate the cost of living for an average Indian?
Sharma: Smart Cities Mission will have a positive effect on urban infrastructure. They will act as the primary growth drivers of the economy in coming years. The main motive behind developing smart cities is about streamlining the infrastructure and public facilities. With technological advancements the citizens will be able to live a hassle-free life that too without any cost escalation.
PropGuide: Are we ready for a Smart City?
Sharma: Smart Cities are the need of the hour. These will bring in positive changes in the lifestyle of the citizens. It will change the existing landscape of Indian cities, making them better and automated solutions will eventually enable ease of living. It touches almost every aspect of living, including the infrastructure, environment, social inclusion, employment and economic growth. The change in the lifestyle will not be radical rather subtle, which will be easy to adapt.
PropGuide: Any thoughts on planning and implementation in our Tier II and Tier III cities? Is it easier or much tougher when compared to big cities of India?
Sharma: Actually, this whole smart cities mission is a very challenging project. Every city has its own set of challenges ranging from infrastructure, city dynamics, behavioural practice, etc. For example, we have Varanasi Smart City, Indore Smart City, Kanpur Smart City, Dehradun Smart City and Moradabad Smart City. The demography, area, population etc. are different in each of these cities. So, each of these cities have their own challenges.
We need to customise the solutions for each cities based on their demography and geographical structure. We can’t apply the theory of ‘One size fits all’ here. We need to understand the key issues and then provide the appropriate solutions. For example, Varanasi is a city with great religious and cultural importance so we need to keep those elements intact while bringing the changes.