Karnataka; Improving Cities, Smartly

Picture a connected, digitally integrated ‘smart home’, but on a much larger scale. This is the vision for 100 cities in India as envisioned by the Smart Cities Mission of the Government of India’s Ministry of Urban Development and launched in 2015.

"The Smart City projects in Karnataka have gained momentum." - Urban Development Minister UT Khader

Karnataka has been at the forefront of the Indian ‘Smart City’ urban renewal programme which aims at city-wide development by applying or retrofitting intelligent solutions to existing urban infrastructure. This means that technology, information and data will be leveraged to improve infrastructure and connected services. Karnataka’s Smart Cities will provide citizens with both immediate and gradual benefits, ranging from better traffic conditions to reduction in crime, more efficient emergency services, ease of access to real-time information about a variety of services and more.

Seven cities in the state have been selected under the government’s urban renewal programme to develop 100 cities across the nation between 2015 and 2020, with a view to making them citizen-friendly and sustainable. The chosen cities in Karnataka are Tumakuru, Belagavi, Hubbali-Dharwad, Mangaluru, Shivamogga, Davanagere and Bengaluru. The Smart City projects in Karnataka are under the purview of the Urban Development department of the state government, currently headed by Minister UT Khader.

“The advantages aren’t enjoyed just by those living in smart cities; through such development, the government will save costs, optimise revenue and ensure an enhanced lifestyle for all."

- Mahendra Jain, Additional Chief Secretary to the Government’s Urban Development Department

There are broadly two approaches being taken for their development, namely, Area Based Development and the Pan City initiatives. Mahendra Jain, Additional Chief Secretary to the Government’s Urban Development Department tells Sandhya Mendonca, “Area Based Development focuses primarily on the development of physical infrastructure in the cities, with varying approaches for each city. The strategic components of area-based development in the Smart Cities Mission are retrofitting, redevelopment and greenfield development. The Pan City initiatives help the entire population of the city, by simplifying processes to make life easier for citizens by streamlining their normal, day-to-day interactions with the city. These include issues such as getting utility connections, building plan approvals, payment of property taxes and the like.”

The plan is for all Smart Cities to have dedicated Command and Control Centres to leverage technology, with a view to improving the lives of citizens in these cities. Safety, smart parking, street lights, garbage disposal are some of the major activities that such Centres would monitor.

BENGALURU – MOST LIVABLE CITY?

Acknowledges Deputy Chief Minister of Karnataka Dr. G Parameshwara, who is also the Minister for Bengaluru Development and Town Planning, “The growth of Bengaluru is phenomenal and problems have also grown alongside. We have problems with water supply, waste management and traffic. We have developed a road map for the next four to five years for the city and have allocated Rs.50,000 crore in the budget. We are taking assistance from financial institutions for projects such as the peripheral ring road, elevated corridors and water management. We are working on making Bengaluru become not only the most dynamic city in the world but also the most livable city in the world.”

The capital city of Bengaluru is a late entrant to the Smart City list, getting there in June 2017 to the relief of the citizens.  The focus areas of Area Based Development are: making the city pedestrian-friendly, improving mobility, setting up efficient waste management systems, bringing all roads in the CBZ under TenderSURE, and giving a facelift to its heritage markets.

Many of the Smart City projects will be implemented with convergence of plans and resources of other civic bodies and agencies. For instance, improving mobility of citizens needs infrastructure like footpaths, bicycle lanes, skywalks and more investment in public transport. This would encourage people to opt for non-motorised transport for short distances and the use of the metro or buses for longer commutes.

Bengaluru being the tech capital of the country, it was the logical choice for the government to seek solutions from the private sector. Challenges were floated for proposals from startups and entrepreneurs, and the government looks forward to working in collaboration with tech-driven ventures to come up with effective solutions.

Mahendra Jain, Additional Chief Secretary to the Government’s Urban Development Department

Proposed ideas

The Church Street in the CBD of Bengaluru is a shining example of aesthetic and utilitarian makeover of roads under the TenderSURE project. Photo: Venkataramanan Associates.

While it’s taken time to set up special purpose vehicles and the attendant processes, the systems have been established and the pace of work is slated to improve significantly, says Jain. He estimates that Bengaluru should fully be transformed into a Smart City within the next two to three years – fast-paced development, indeed.

Smartening up Bengaluru would mean that:

  • All the roads in the CBZ will soon be part of the TenderSURE (Specifications for Urban Road Extension) process with uniform carriageways, good footpaths, and bicycle lanes where possible. Utility lines will be moved to the edges, preventing roads being dug up for repairs.
  • Improving its heritage markets to give a better experience to regular shoppers and tourists. The facelift will be matched with seamless, inter-modal commuting for enhanced access to the market areas.
  • With the setting up of closed-door transfer stations for waste segregation, the city will soon look cleaner. Composting of green waste and waste-to-energy plants are other ways by which waste management will become more efficient.

Cities have been rapidly growing the world over, with approximately two-thirds of the global population projected to live in cities, by 2050. Estimates state, 40 percent of India’s citizens will be living in cities by 2030, contributing to 75% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). To meet this challenge of accommodating such a large urban population – around 600 million, a 100 percent growth from 290 million back in 2001 – India will need to develop about 500 new cities.

Against this background, and considering how a population’s quality of life is increasingly characterised by how well-integrated its cities are, the Government of India’s Ministry of Urban Development launched its ‘Smart Cities Mission’ in 2015. Smart cities are designed, keeping in mind that costs and resource consumption need to be kept in balance and that those who live and work there should have unfettered access to resources and facilities necessary for leading fulfilling lives. Important sectors in a smart city would include safety, energy, transport, water and waste management.

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