Can Pune Become the Model Smart City?


Author – Sanket Jain

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Congested cities with creaking infrastructure leading to a chaotic daily life have been the hallmark of the Indian metro city landscape. People’s complaints fall into deaf ears of municipal administrators who have too many things to handle at a time. One government department doesn’t discuss issues with the other and each one implemented projects with no consideration to other urban aspects.

All this chaos is going to be a thing of the past with launch of the most ambitious urban development project ever undertaken in India. The execution of the Smart City Project will kick start from 25 June 2016 with the launching of 15 projects in Pune by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The smart city project entails a smart approach for an urban development model that is sustainable, inclusive and replicable.

The Government of India’s Smart Cities Mission is a Public Private Partnership that aims to utilize information & communication (ICT) technology to meet the basic demands the city’s citizens and create a positively impact on the local community. So basic infrastructure needs such as water and power supply, sanitation, waste management, public transport, affordable housing, IT connectivity have to be catered through the implementation of e-governance.

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Supply and availability of the most basic needs of water and power in a city are the best parameters to measure whether a city has become smart or not. As per the guidelines of the National Smart Cities Mission, a smart city must have:

  • Round the clock electricity supply with no delays
  • At least 10% of power generated from renewable energy
  • Reliable, 24/7 supply of water and monitoring of quality to meet health standards
  • Advanced water management systems, wastewater recycling, smart meters, rainwater harvesting
  • Treatment of its sewage to prevent pollution of water bodies
  • Controlled vehicle and industry air pollution to improve air quality
  • Proper practices of energy efficiency in buildings
  • Underground electric wiring system to reduce blackouts due to storms
  • Well planned waste management system that recycles solid waste and composts wet garbage
  • Installation of smart meters for better energy management
  • Easy availability of public transport through GPS

The project has been very much in the news due to the nationwide competition for selecting the top 20 cities to be chosen for the first phase implementation. Bhubaneshwar grabbed the top spot, while Pune came close second in the list of top winners. Being the tech and automotive hub of India, Pune commands much attention on how will it implement this ambitious project without getting entangled in government bureaucracy.

The strengths and weaknesses of the city of Pune are as follows:

Strongest human capital with 811 collegesLack of proper public transportation options lead to massive congestions
Top manufacturing base for automotive engineering and leading IT-BPO hubPublic transportation share very low at 18%
High levels of citizen participation through Pune City ConnectPolluted rivers show mismanaged sewage treatment facilities
Highest rate of solid waste segregation 57% MSW in IndiaLack of affordable housing has led to very high rate of 28% slum households
Proper water supply of 220 liters per day per personLack of open spaces at just 7%
AA credit rating for properly managing its municipal finances
Dense forest cover in central areas

Capitalize on its human capital and economic prowess to become a leading investment destination in AsiaUrbanization will intensify significantly, putting severe pressure on infrastructure
Utilize its rich natural and cultural heritage to build a vibrant cityPopulation likely to rise from 3.5mn in 2016 to 5mn by 2030
Potential to develop riverside tourism and cultural entertainmentCompetition with state capital Mumbai for development funds

A new consortium ‘Pune Smart City Development Corporation Limited’ has been created to approve and manage 15 different projects across the city and some projects specific ones in the Aundh-Baner-Balewadi region. Kunal Kumar, Pune Municipal Corporation’s dynamic commissioner has been recognized for taking ownership on various urban development initiatives and leading the team that won the national competition for smart cities.

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Now the team led by Kunal Kumar has to move from the easy task of having great ideas on papers to the tough task of bringing them into reality. However, ahead of the launch by PM Modi, a tussle has begun between the Pune city mayor and the municipal commissioner over the credit for smart city projects in Pune. Further, the decade-long implementation of the Bus Rapid Transit system is a classic example of a good idea badly implemented by the government.

However, energy experts like Sunil Sood from IAEMP are quite skeptical of a proper implementation of these ideal solutions that make city smart due to the lack of smart planning. Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has rightly pointed out “Smart cities cannot be a reality unless it is adequately backed by smart planning.” So we have to see if the citizens and authorities of Pune rise above these obstacles and make Pune the model smart city!

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Sanket is a Journalism student at Symbiosis International University. You can find him reading books on economics, politics and physics. When free, you will find him sipping ice tea and discussing ideas related to Physics and travelling.