Planning for Smart Cities in the Indian Context


Smart cities are, in general, perceived to be high technology urban areas. They have been defined by many entities depending upon the business these entities are into. For example, organisations like IBM or Cisco talk about development of smart cities in terms of usage of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to enhance the quality and performance of urban services such as energy, transportation and utilities in order to optimize costs and improve living standards. Smart Cities Council constituted by many organisations from US and Europe such as Alstom, GE, Microsoft, AT&T, etc. defines smart cities based on use of ICT for the enhancement of liveability, workability and sustainability. In the process, the basic fact that smart cities are perceived based on the state of development of a country and basic planning necessities have been completely ignored. The concept of smart cities varies from country to country and depends on the level of development and aspirations of citizens One should not forget that the Urban Planning principles prevailing in a country have evolved through centuries. While applying the planning principles defined by such entities, the conventional town planning concepts may get overlooked.

While planning for smart cities in India, often culture and traditions are the controlling and guiding principles for planning. Greater importance should be given to social culture than to the technology aspect alone. However, in reality, ICT applications take on a greater role than cultural heritage and economic factors. Success of smart cities will be judged by their ability to transform the lives of citizens and reduce the growing inequality in society.

This paper highlights the need to achieve a balance between the conventional way of developing smart cities and using modern technology, thereby preserving their cultural and economic identities.

Keywords: Smart city, urban planning, census of India, ICT


1. Introduction

In prehistoric times, man was a nomad and largely depended on naturally available resources for his sustenance. After invention of fire and agriculture, he became socialised and started settling at fixed places giving rise to communities and cultures. It is common knowledge that human settlements in the past evolved along banks of rivers. Availability of natural resources had a considerable effect on settlements. Settlements continued to develop near water bodies till recent times. The industrial revolution that took th place in the 18 century A.D. changed this concept of settlements near river bodies. This period witnessed a significant amount of migration on account of employment opportunities created by the industrial revolution. With the advancements in transport and other civic services like water and sanitation, people started inhabiting in other areas, which eventually grew into cities. Transformation of these areas into cities also brought in the need for infrastructure development. Soon cities became overpopulated for various reasons, and as a result, satellite areas around the cities developed, thereby exerting further pressure on the city’s infrastructure and stress on social interactions. In some cases, this pressure reached saturation levels thereby necessitating further infrastructure development either by means of capacity expansion, capacity addition or replacement. Where none of this was possible, it was found necessary to use modern technology to raise efficiency / capacity of the infrastructure, thereby rejuvenating it. The last step may be seen as the impetus for the evolution of the concept of smart cities. This concept was evolved from the need of augmenting / managing existing infrastructure, safety and security and social interactions. To achieve modernization / infrastructure augmentation, using technology became an essential part of the planning principles of these cities.

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