Among PM Modi’s pet plans, few would be more significant to India than building 100 smart cities, as the country is in the middle of a massive wave of urbanisation. Modi was smitten with the idea of a smart city long ago, and he had set the ball rolling in Gujarat with the Greenfield Gujarat International Finance Tec-city (GIFT). This venture is now proceeding rapidly, as it has been allotted 11 million sq ft for construction. As he moved to the Centre, Modi started work on implementing the idea all across India. It is among his few plans that are moving smoothly ahead.
The smart city is not a new idea in the country. Among the 100 smart cities that are to be built, there are several where work had begun some time ago.
These include the GIFT itself, cities in the Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC), and some independent private developments like the Pallava near Mumbai, not to speak of Lavasa near Pune. It is not clear how many of these will eventually merge with the 100 cities plan, but Modi’s ideas have energised the smart city concept in the country and fuelled several independent developments
The concept of a smart city was driven around the world initially by IBM and Cisco, but now has caught the imagination of many other IT companies, developers and mayors. Lavasa, near Pune, was an early example. A 4,500-acre township called Wave City near Delhi was another. These were followed by seven cities along the DMIC, which are now under development. Of these, the most advanced is Dholera, whose construction has been put on fast track. An international airport has been approved for Dholera, and the government is expected to soon invite bids for investment there.
Detailed engineering has been completed for other cities along the corridor.
There are at least three more industrial corridors along which new cities are being built: Amritsar-Kolkata, Bangalore-Chennai, and Chennai-Vizag. States have been asked to identify cities along the Amritsar-Kolkata corridor. A master plan is ready for three cities — Punderi, Krishnapattanam and Tumkur — along the Bangalore-Chennai corridor
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) finished a feasibility study for cities along Chennai-Vizag corridor.
While these projects are moving quickly, a few smaller townships are also coming up. For example, Pallava, a partnership between IBM and the Lodha Group, is planned as a smart city over 4000 acres.
Cisco is transforming Bangalore’s Electronic City into a small smart city. Private developers are planning smaller smart residential-commercial townships. Over the last 100 years, large projects have fired people’s imagination and energised entire countries.
The best example is the Apollo missions of the US, which brought an entire generation into science and engineering and raised the technology capabilities of the US. Smart cities, with multiple technology components, can produce the same results for India although through different methods.