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Most smart cities not smart enough, says govt study

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Many of the top 20 cities that got selected last January under the government’s ambitious smart city project lag in basic infrastructure, governance and socio-economic indicators, a government study has found.

These cities competed with 98 other “potential” smart cities and got selected based on the score they got for carrying out urban reforms in areas including sanitation, good governance and financial sustainability of the proposals they submitted. The top 20 cities are: Vishakhapatnam, Kakinada, Guwahati, NDMC, Ahmedabad, Surat, Belgaum, Davanagere, Kochi, Bhopal, Indore, Jabalpur, Pune, Solapur, Bhubaneswar, Ludhiana, Jaipur, Udaipur, Chennai and Coimbatore. According to the analysis by the National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA) —under the Union urban development ministry — the total slum population of 18.75 % in the 20 cities is higher than that of urban India (17.4%). Slum population was high in Jabalpur, Kakinada, Indore and Chennai.

Many cities have a small percentage share of households with basic civic amenities. Guwahati had the lowest number of households (32.6%) with access to tap water from a treated source while Solapur, Bhubaneshwar, Pune, Jabalpur and Bhopal reported a low share of latrine facilities. Drainage connectivity was low in Bhubaneshwar, Guwahati, Kakinada, Kochi and Belgaum.
“The analysis shows different types of vulnerabilities even among the top 20 cities. The idea behind the study is to help the Centre and state governments to decide funding priorities by identifying cities that are lagging behind and need focused interventions,” said NIUA’s Debolina Kundu, lead author of the report.

India plans to have 100 smart cities by 2022. Sixty have been chosen so far, the remaining will be picked by 2018. Meant to change the way urban India lives, smart cities will enjoy uninterrupted power and water supplies, internet connectivity, e-governance and quality infrastructure.

The study, supported by Asian Development Bank, analysed secondary data from Census 2011, household amenities data, unit level data on employment and unemployment situation and household consumer expenditure, 2011-12. On the demographic front, however, cities have reported positive trend. “Almost all the cities have a good share of youth and working age population. This potential could be harnessed to develop smart cities,” Kundu said. Based on the analysis, the 20 cities were ranked on the levels of development and access to basic amenities. New Delhi Municipal Council was ranked first followed by Pune and Chennai. Belgaum was ranked the lowest.

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