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    Smart Grid to smart city outlook from the new Indian Regime


    Smart Grid to smart city outlook from the new Indian Regime headed by Narendra Modi, leader of the reformist Bharatiya Janata Party, seeks to develop new smart cities. In addition the pro-development campaigner has proposed a national gas grid, bring bullet trains and kick-start second-generation infrastructure investment in the country. The Gujarat chief minister also talked about developing 100 new smart cities in India. “Why shouldn’t there be a walk to work concept? Specialised cities like sports cities. There should be concept of twin cities, a net of cities in our country,” he said.


    Only one-third of India’s population lives in cities but a flood of migrants from impoverished villages is expected to swell the urban population to 40% over the next decade. Newly elected prime minister has set a goal of building 100 new “smart cities” by 2020 to accommodate the influx. A technophile who tweets daily, Narendra advocates the use of technology to enable the smarter management of cities. The previous government had touted the concept, as have regional governments ruled by different political parties. But Modi has shifted the emphasis from rural development to urban and has bundled the smart cities idea with traditional infrastructure development such as rail and highways as well as a smart electrical grid. Regional governments are lobbying on behalf of their candidates for smart-city investment. India has formed a Smart Cities Council. IBM, Cisco, Microsoft other major players in the smart city space have pitched camp there.


    At present the “smart city” concept is not fully fleshed out. Politicians and pundits seem infatuated with the idea that information technology and communications can help solve chronic shortfalls in municipal services and administration but the discourse hasn’t gotten much past the level of generalities. Elements that have surfaced in the Indian press include using Geographic Information Systems to facilitate planning, strengthening the electric grid, improving waste management, and connecting citizens to city services. Much of the commentary scarcely differentiates “smart cities” from overall modernization. In wondering whether Bangalore can become India’s first truly smart city, N V Krishnakumar lists applications for air traffic control, traffic management, monorails, fighting pollution and disease, turning schools into e-learning centers, free Wi-Fi, providing affordable housing for the poor, improving decision making through e-governance, interacting with citizens over mobile phones, straightening out city finances and installing Rio de Janeiro-like city operations centers.


    Meanwhile, Surat is gunning for the title of India’s first smart city. Working with Microsoft, city officials hold out the promise of helping the city administration work more efficiently. “With a new app that is being developed, an architect could submit the plan online and track the progress. This will save a lot of time, money and energy on both sides and reduce delays,” says director of planning Jivan Patel. It is yet to be seen if the smart cities concept takes-off as planned because the Dholera city project in Narendra Modi’s home state of Gujarat is not running smooth. Local farmers were protesting the steamrolling of their land-holding rights, the proposed city was located in an area at high risk of flooding, and private investors had bailed on plans to build an 1,800-acre waterfront development.

    Posted on Tuesday, June 3, 2014

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