Transcript of the Keynote address delivered by Dr M Ramachandran, former Secretary of the Ministry of Urban Development, Government of India, at the “Smart Cities Workshop: Sustainable Urban Development” held in Kochi on September 20, 2019.The workshop was organised by South Asia Institute of Heidelberg University (Branch Office New Delhi), ORF, SPA and IMPRI in collaboration with Centre for Public Policy Research (CPPR). The event was supported by Friedrich Naumann Stiftung für die Freiheit.

It may be recalled that the development of smart cities was considered a key player in the direction of comprehensively developing physical, institutional, social and economic infrastructure of cities, all being important factors in improving the quality of life and attracting people and investments to the city, thereby setting in motion a virtuous cycle of growth and development.

Initially there was a lot of confusion as to what is meant by a smart city, as the canvas left wide open stating that there is no universally accepted definition of a smart city. The conceptualisation of the smart city varied from city to city depending on the level of development, willingness to change and reform, resources and aspirations of the city residents. So in the process of identifying the 100 cities to be in the list, a bottom-up approach to urban planning was adopted. It is worth noting that a total of 15.2 million citizens participated in the preparation of plans at various stages accounting for about 12 per cent of the total population of the proposed participating cities.

Based on the learning from the implementation of the first major urban mission namely the JNNURM, the preparation of smart city proposals has been on a participatory basis. The government did not prescribe any particular model to be adopted by the smart cities. One of the criticisms about the earlier mission was adequately addressed by making it clear that the approach is not one of one-size fits all. Each city had to formulate its own concept, vision, mission and plan appropriate to its local context, resources and levels of ambition. Thus, Bhubaneswar prepared a smart city proposal projecting an investment or expenditure of Rs 4537 cr, with Rs 2563 cr expected to come through PPP. Indore prepared a somewhat ambitious proposal of Rs 9920 cr of which Rs 2004 cr was debt component. Kochi’s proposal provided for a total of Rs 2075 cr of which Rs 243 cr was to be in the form of PPP. Pune’s total proposal of Rs 3110 cr included 1000 cr to come from Development Rights and Rs 200 cr from the head of user fees.

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Dr M Ramachandran, former Secretary of the Ministry of Urban Development, Government of India.

Views expressed are personal and need not reflect or represent the views of Centre for Public Policy Research

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