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Is Guwahati ready to be a smart city?

By Dipanjon Konwar

There is no universally accepted definition of a smart city. According to the Govt of India�s Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD) Smart City Mission: �In the imagination of any city dweller in India, the picture of a smart city contains a wish list of infrastructure and services that describes his or her level of aspiration. To provide for the aspirations and needs of the citizens, urban planners ideally aim at developing the entire urban eco-system, which is represented by the four pillars of comprehensive development � institutional, physical, social and economic infrastructure. This can be a long-term goal and cities can work towards developing such comprehensive infrastructure incrementally, adding on layers of �smartness�.�

On January 28, 2016, Guwahati ranked 17 with a score of 57.66 per cent and made it to the first list of 20 cities of India selected by the Union government to be developed as �smart cities�. It is envisaged that Rs 50,820 crore will be invested in the next five years to develop these cities. Guwahati will get Rs 2,600 crore in the next five years. The cities selected will also mobilise resources by forming special purpose vehicle (SPV) with public-private partnership (PPP). The MoUD used the �challenge� or competition method to select cities for funding and using a strategy of area-based development. The idea of this competition is to capture the spirit of �competitive and cooperative federalism�. To participate in the �City Challenge�, the Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) roped in New Delhi-based public sector consultancy firm Wapcos Ltd along with Oasis Design Inc to prepare the final proposal.

The objective of Smart City Mission is to promote cities that provide core infrastructure and give a decent quality of life to its citizens, a clean and sustainable environment with application of �smart solutions�. The focus is on sustainable and inclusive development of the selected cities.

The core infrastructure elements in a smart city would include: i) adequate water supply, ii) assured electricity supply, iii) sanitation, including solid waste management, iv) efficient urban mobility and public transport, v) affordable housing, especially for the poor, vi) robust IT connectivity and digitalisation, vii) good governance, especially e-governance and citizen participation, viii) sustainable environment, ix) safety and security of citizens, particularly women, children and the elderly; and x) health and education.

The �smart solutions� that can be adopted as suggested by MoUD include: i) e-governance and citizen service, including public information, grievances redressal, video crime monitoring; ii) energy management, smart metering, renewable sources of energy, energy efficient and green buildings; iii) waste management, including waste water treatment, waste to compost, waste to energy and fuel; iv) water management, including smart meters, leakage identification and preventive maintenance, water quality monitoring, v) urban mobility which includes integrated multi-modal transport, smart parking and intelligent traffic management; and vi) other solutions including incubation/trade facilitation centres, skill development centres, tele-medicine and tele-education.

It is clear that for realisation of this Smart City Mission it will require smart citizens, smart civic officials and the Municipal Corporation working on a mission mode with planning and goal setting which is SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound). The Mission requires smart citizens who will actively participate in governance and reforms. Citizen involvement is much more than a ceremonial participation in governance and few consultative meetings held just for record�s sake to show as evidence of �citizen engagement� to the MoUD. A sincere approach by the civic authority is necessary to involve the citizens of each ward of the city in planning and ideation. It is envisaged that citizens will involve themselves in the definition of the Smart City, the planning, decisions on deploying the smart solutions, implementing reforms, surveillance during implementation and involvement in designing post-project structures in order to make the Smart City developments sustainable. Involving people in a city like Guwahati � which has a nearly fifty per cent floating population, for whom it is not their home and they stay in the city for economic reasons, who are aloof and ignorant about the history and geography of the city � in the process of �citizen engagement� will be a challenge. It will be tough to make the pan-city proposal �socially inclusive�. Also, the public of Guwahati are still not aware of the suggestions and key insights received by the GMC during the competition proposal stage. The �Vision Statement� of Guwahati highlighting its economic, social, environmental components emerging from such consultation is not available in the public domain. The civic authority will need to prioritise the solutions and initiatives with qualitative and quantitative outcomes to realise the �Vision Statement�. Already, the MoUD issued an advisory on March 9 that the project implementation of at least one module should start by June 25, 2016.

Some targets and programmes to achieve the Smart City vision will include: 24X7 electricity supply (with minimum 10 per cent solar energy requirement); smart metering and demand management; energy efficient street lighting; 24X7 water supply, waste water recycling, rainwater harvesting; solid waste management; robust IT connectivity and digitalisation; visible area-based development like overhead wires, hoardings, railings, paving, river and lake sides, drain edges; encroachment-free public areas; intelligent traffic management; smart parking; non-vehicle streets/zones; encouragement to non-motorised transport (walking and cycling); pedestrian-friendly pathways; ensuring safety with CCTV monitoring etc.

Considering the baseline data and reality check of Guwahati city�s infrastructure and organisational structure of the two urban local bodies, the achievement of the Smart City Vision looks to be an uphill task. Consider the operational efficiency of the GMDA and the GMC, while on paper everything is fine. According to the Guwahati Building Construction (Regulation) Act, 2010 published on February 20, 2014 the application for planning permit will be disposed of within a period of 30 days by the GMDA and the building permit will be disposed of by the GMC within 45 days of receipt of the application. In reality, to get a building permission it may take more than a year. With such a complicated and lengthy process in place, we cannot imagine how soon the vision of affordable housing and inclusiveness will work out with housing opportunities for all. Another essential for increasing a city�s livability is adequate supply of water. How can the citizens be optimistic when the GMC failed to supply drinking water for several days in many wards during the recent Rongali Bihu holiday? People had to buy water from private operators. Is the civic authority �test marketing� its PPP mode water supply scheme?

Regarding the smart solution of using IT for e-governance and citizen service, the GMC portal has been readied for collection of property tax and assessment. However, the online tracking of building permission is not available. The toolbar to receive �suggestion� has also been not activated. Further, there is no online facility to submit grievances. So, it may take some time for change to arrive and make governance citizen-friendly

The purpose of the Smart Cities Mission is to drive economic growth and improve the quality of life of people by enabling local area development and harnessing technology that leads to smart outcomes that are sustainable, which creates employment and enhances incomes for all, especially the poor and the disadvantaged, leading to inclusive cities. It is hoped that the smart cities do not become too smart that the poor and the middle-class are driven out with the housing and the basic amenities becoming unaffordable. It is hoped that in the future an �Elysium� like city is not created where only the rich and powerful can reside.

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Is Guwahati ready to be a smart city?

There is no universally accepted definition of a smart city. According to the Govt of India�s Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD) Smart City Mission: �In the imagination of any city dweller in India, the picture of a smart city contains a wish list of infrastructure and services that describes his or her level of aspiration. To provide for the aspirations and needs of the citizens, urban planners ideally aim at developing the entire urban eco-system, which is represented by the four pillars of comprehensive development � institutional, physical, social and economic infrastructure. This can be a long-term goal and cities can work towards developing such comprehensive infrastructure incrementally, adding on layers of �smartness�.�

On January 28, 2016, Guwahati ranked 17 with a score of 57.66 per cent and made it to the first list of 20 cities of India selected by the Union government to be developed as �smart cities�. It is envisaged that Rs 50,820 crore will be invested in the next five years to develop these cities. Guwahati will get Rs 2,600 crore in the next five years. The cities selected will also mobilise resources by forming special purpose vehicle (SPV) with public-private partnership (PPP). The MoUD used the �challenge� or competition method to select cities for funding and using a strategy of area-based development. The idea of this competition is to capture the spirit of �competitive and cooperative federalism�. To participate in the �City Challenge�, the Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) roped in New Delhi-based public sector consultancy firm Wapcos Ltd along with Oasis Design Inc to prepare the final proposal.

The objective of Smart City Mission is to promote cities that provide core infrastructure and give a decent quality of life to its citizens, a clean and sustainable environment with application of �smart solutions�. The focus is on sustainable and inclusive development of the selected cities.

The core infrastructure elements in a smart city would include: i) adequate water supply, ii) assured electricity supply, iii) sanitation, including solid waste management, iv) efficient urban mobility and public transport, v) affordable housing, especially for the poor, vi) robust IT connectivity and digitalisation, vii) good governance, especially e-governance and citizen participation, viii) sustainable environment, ix) safety and security of citizens, particularly women, children and the elderly; and x) health and education.

The �smart solutions� that can be adopted as suggested by MoUD include: i) e-governance and citizen service, including public information, grievances redressal, video crime monitoring; ii) energy management, smart metering, renewable sources of energy, energy efficient and green buildings; iii) waste management, including waste water treatment, waste to compost, waste to energy and fuel; iv) water management, including smart meters, leakage identification and preventive maintenance, water quality monitoring, v) urban mobility which includes integrated multi-modal transport, smart parking and intelligent traffic management; and vi) other solutions including incubation/trade facilitation centres, skill development centres, tele-medicine and tele-education.

It is clear that for realisation of this Smart City Mission it will require smart citizens, smart civic officials and the Municipal Corporation working on a mission mode with planning and goal setting which is SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound). The Mission requires smart citizens who will actively participate in governance and reforms. Citizen involvement is much more than a ceremonial participation in governance and few consultative meetings held just for record�s sake to show as evidence of �citizen engagement� to the MoUD. A sincere approach by the civic authority is necessary to involve the citizens of each ward of the city in planning and ideation. It is envisaged that citizens will involve themselves in the definition of the Smart City, the planning, decisions on deploying the smart solutions, implementing reforms, surveillance during implementation and involvement in designing post-project structures in order to make the Smart City developments sustainable. Involving people in a city like Guwahati � which has a nearly fifty per cent floating population, for whom it is not their home and they stay in the city for economic reasons, who are aloof and ignorant about the history and geography of the city � in the process of �citizen engagement� will be a challenge. It will be tough to make the pan-city proposal �socially inclusive�. Also, the public of Guwahati are still not aware of the suggestions and key insights received by the GMC during the competition proposal stage. The �Vision Statement� of Guwahati highlighting its economic, social, environmental components emerging from such consultation is not available in the public domain. The civic authority will need to prioritise the solutions and initiatives with qualitative and quantitative outcomes to realise the �Vision Statement�. Already, the MoUD issued an advisory on March 9 that the project implementation of at least one module should start by June 25, 2016.

Some targets and programmes to achieve the Smart City vision will include: 24X7 electricity supply (with minimum 10 per cent solar energy requirement); smart metering and demand management; energy efficient street lighting; 24X7 water supply, waste water recycling, rainwater harvesting; solid waste management; robust IT connectivity and digitalisation; visible area-based development like overhead wires, hoardings, railings, paving, river and lake sides, drain edges; encroachment-free public areas; intelligent traffic management; smart parking; non-vehicle streets/zones; encouragement to non-motorised transport (walking and cycling); pedestrian-friendly pathways; ensuring safety with CCTV monitoring etc.

Considering the baseline data and reality check of Guwahati city�s infrastructure and organisational structure of the two urban local bodies, the achievement of the Smart City Vision looks to be an uphill task. Consider the operational efficiency of the GMDA and the GMC, while on paper everything is fine. According to the Guwahati Building Construction (Regulation) Act, 2010 published on February 20, 2014 the application for planning permit will be disposed of within a period of 30 days by the GMDA and the building permit will be disposed of by the GMC within 45 days of receipt of the application. In reality, to get a building permission it may take more than a year. With such a complicated and lengthy process in place, we cannot imagine how soon the vision of affordable housing and inclusiveness will work out with housing opportunities for all. Another essential for increasing a city�s livability is adequate supply of water. How can the citizens be optimistic when the GMC failed to supply drinking water for several days in many wards during the recent Rongali Bihu holiday? People had to buy water from private operators. Is the civic authority �test marketing� its PPP mode water supply scheme?

Regarding the smart solution of using IT for e-governance and citizen service, the GMC portal has been readied for collection of property tax and assessment. However, the online tracking of building permission is not available. The toolbar to receive �suggestion� has also been not activated. Further, there is no online facility to submit grievances. So, it may take some time for change to arrive and make governance citizen-friendly

The purpose of the Smart Cities Mission is to drive economic growth and improve the quality of life of people by enabling local area development and harnessing technology that leads to smart outcomes that are sustainable, which creates employment and enhances incomes for all, especially the poor and the disadvantaged, leading to inclusive cities. It is hoped that the smart cities do not become too smart that the poor and the middle-class are driven out with the housing and the basic amenities becoming unaffordable. It is hoped that in the future an �Elysium� like city is not created where only the rich and powerful can reside.