Smart cities need a smart leadership: M Venkaiah Naidu
Building smart cities needs top-quality local leadership, urban development minister M Venkaiah Naidu told the Economic Times India Infra Summit 2017, even as corporate leaders on the panel debated the key elements that defined a smart city. Following up on his poll promise of building 100 smart cities, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has rolled out a massive plan since his election to select cities and then handhold them into transforming into a better place for citizens.
“Wherever there is a good CEO of the smart city, where there is a good special purpose vehicle, or a good municipal commissioner, or a good mayor or a state chief minister who is visionary, things are moving faster. In other places, in spite of all my attempts, things are not moving. So, you need proper men, prop-er leadership,” said Naidu, who defined a smart city as a comfortable liveable city. (L-R) ATS Infra chairman Getambar Anand, ABB India MD Sanjeev Sharma, urban development minister M Venkaiah Naidu, Sembcorp India CEO Vipul Tuli, Tata Housing MD Brotin Banerjee and moderator Vinayak Chatterjee, chairman, Feedback Infra.
“Smart city is a mix of smart elements and these smart elements change over a period of time,” said Sanjeev Sharma, managing director of ABB India and one of the panelists at the summit. Others on the panel were Getambar Anand, chairman of realtor ATS Infra, Brotin Banerjee, managing director of Tata Housing, and Vipul Tuli, CEO of Sembcorp India. “Having citizen services online is a key criterion of defining a city as smart and also increases the transparency of the transactions. You have to assure that all the utilities that citizens consume are of high quality and available all the time,” Sharma said, adding that an early and faster adoption of electric vehicles technology by India can boost the quality of life in cities.Besides new technology and a responsible local leadership, a smart city needed a sustainable governance model, panelists concurred.
“With increasing demand on resources and urbanisation, sustainability of a project is important — financial sustainability as well as green sustainability,” said Banerjee of Tata Housing. For decades, scant resources and poor administration have marred cities, which fail to provide basic amenities to all its citizens, leaving a large section to fend for itself. “What we have learnt from the power distribution companies’ experience and from water treatment projects is that unviable services don’t work. When services and utilities are unviable, all the other social and common development adjectives come to a halt, said Tuli of Sembcorp. “One key attribute needed to turn a city smart is the ability of citizens to use the common facilities properly, without which the city can’t quite draw the full advantage of its investments in infrastructure,” said Anand of ATS Infra. “You have to first educate the people to use this smart infrastructure.”