The NDA government has laid the roadmap for the growth of real estate in the country through allocation of funds in the Budget and for the creation of 100 new smart cities. While smart cities across India will boost the economy and create jobs, the concept and idea of developing these cities will offer more than this.
WHAT LIES AHEAD
Last year, I was at the RICS Cobra Conference, one of the world's leading annual construction, building and real estate research conference. The conference provided the definition of a smart city. As per the definition, a smart city is defined as a city which uses information and communications technology to ensure that both its critical infrastructure and public services and components it offers are more interactive and efficient and that citizens can become more aware of them.
On a practical basis, a smart city would be one built with a robust and interactive information and communication technology infrastructure (ICT). Such a city will have an ICT infrastructure spread across the city with a command centre managing everyday services such as power distribution, water and solid waste management. The command centre will also be capable of controlling the traffic movement within city limits.
The government's announcement will lead to the identification and development of such cities across India. The success of smart cities would then be replicated to other backward regions and states too that need development.
The definition also gives us a snapshot of the research and innovation that must be undertaken, in addition to the challenges we face on this front.
The biggest challenge is the acquisition of land for creating smart cities. The land acquisition law might prove to be a deterrent and make the acquisition costlier, thereby making the residential and commercial units costlier. While the government is considering amendments in the Land Acquisition Bill, these changes may take time.
Moreover, the process of project approvals needs to be simplified. History suggests that most project delays are on account of delay in project approvals. There is need for a single window approval process system.
In this regard, the government needs to implement the recommendations of the Committee on Streamlining Approval Procedures for Real Estate Projects (SAPREP). The committee worked extensively between April 2012 and January 2013 to recommend corrective actions.
The other area of concern is the kind of employment these smart cities will generate. While the smart city will act as a centre of economic growth, it should also provide the right mix of livelihood to those migrating to it. Else, the migration of people will continue to pose a threat to the overall socio-economic scenario of the city.
The economic growth of the city depends on the mix of industries and sectors it will cater to. Thus, there is a need to conduct such feasibility studies to understand the likely developmental and economic strength of the new city. The dream of 100 new smart cities is achievable but it is imperative that we start looking at shaping our existing cities too.(The author, KT Ravindran, is dean Emeritus, RICS School of Built Environment, Amity University)