The ambitious Smart City Mission is aimed at providing a better quality of life to the citizens of the 100 chosen Smart Cities. However, experts have raised concerns regarding the implementation of the Smart City plans considering that issues like finance mechanism and governance are not addressed yet.
Smart City Mission has been one of the most talked about projects in the country in recent times. Real estate experts and stakeholders have immense expectations from the Smart City project given that the industry has faced a lot of despair this year. Developers hope that the Smart City Mission will develop cities equipped with efficient core infrastructure and provide a clean and sustainable environment to its citizens by implementing smarter solutions. The smart city plan is not only expected to propagate use of advanced technology but also build efficient residences and work spaces and practice effective management of urban amenities and infrastructure.
Conceptually, the Smart City project seems to be a game changer with a special emphasis on planned urbanisation. However, there are bound to be some obstacles in the execution of this mammoth project. Based on discussions with industry experts, the following issues emerge as the biggest challenges that the Smart City project will face:
To ensure success in the execution of the ambitious project, the policymakers and concerned agencies will have to carefully develop a well-defined strategy for each of the cities. Niranjan Hiranandani, MD, Hiranandani Communities says, “Zeroing in on the perfect plan to create a smart city will be the biggest challenge for this project. Since different locations have different geographical features and problems unique to the city, a ‘one solution fits all’ across the country might not be a practical approach.”
Identifying weak spots
There needs to be a careful consideration of key influencing factors and problems for a particular location while devising the plan for any city. Rahul Gugaliya, CEO, Suyojit Group agrees that the biggest roadblock for this project will be to determine each city’s existing weak areas that need foremost attention. Sandeep Ahuja, CEO, Richa Realtors explains that an intuitive master plan which gives balanced attention to all elements such as management of traffic, sewage, water and power will go a long way in ensuring that the mission achieves its goals without any compromises.
Developers unanimously agree that the current scenario of approvals and clearances in the country is not extremely conducive to growth. In order for the Smart City project to achieve any degree of appreciable success, authorities will need to speed up land buying and zoning approval processes. The proposed single-window clearance is expected to help a lot in this regard by simplifying processes and enabling timely clearances. Industry experts also suggest creating online approval processes so that it can be tackled in a time-bound manner.
Financing the project
Industry stalwarts also consider finance to be a major issue for the Smart City project. Availability of low-cost financing and quick disbursal of funds will play a pivotal role in timely and smooth implementation of the Smart City project. Calculations predict that the project will require an annual investment of Rs 35,000 crore and about seven lakh crore over a period of 20 years, says Gugaliya. The challenge would be to adequately finance the project in 100 cities majorly through private investments and Public Private Partnership (PPP) models.
According to industry experts, smooth implementation of the Smart City Mission is also going to be a major challenge. Deep Kantawala, Group CFO & Head - Investment Advisory, ICS Group asserts that the plan to implement the project needs to be time-bound and closely monitored to course-correct if the need arises. He also suggests that sufficient safeguards need to be put in place to ensure that there is no resource wastage or corruption during the implementation phase. Successful execution of the project and all its constituent solutions would require effective coordination between various institutions on a state level as well as coordination between the Central and State governments.
The Smart City Mission has great potential to revolutionise Indian urban scenario. It is important that all stakeholders’ suggestions are given due consideration and all political factions are brought on the same page while executing the plan across the country. If the challenges can be handled with maturity, the project will place India as a frontrunner on the global scene.