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Modi wants 100 smart cities for India

Last week’s inaugural Smart Cities India 2015 Expo drew elected officials, business leaders and foreign dignitaries to three days of discussion and demonstrations of urban applications for information and communications technology (ICT). Aligned with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 100 Smart Cities project, the conference and tradeshow invited attendees to share expertise on sustainable infrastructure, services and amenities.

Sessions focused on the basics of city life — water, solid waste management, transportation and energy — and the potential for ICT-enabled service provision. Urban dwellers now represent about 31 per cent of India’s population, but deliver more than 60 per cent of the country’s GDP.

Even at less than one third of the populace, there is an abundance of potential candidates for the slate of 100 smart cities — including nine cities with more than 4 million residents and 44 cities with 1 to 4 million residents. As envisioned, each of the selected cities will receive 1 billion rupees ($19.4 million CDN) annually for a five-year period to invest in smart infrastructure, research and development.

Energy efficiency is identified as one of prime characteristics of a smart city, along with demand management, adoption of clean technologies and ICT, access to information, private sector support, smart governance and citizen participation.

Conference delegates stressed that renewable energy and the smart grid will be crucial to sustainability in a country where electricity demand is projected to double, to more than 500,000 megawatts (MW), within the next 10 years. “To curb this energy crisis, smart cities will have to adopt a smart distribution network to avoid power thefts and increase efficiency for the end consumer,” advised Sujay Saha, head of the smart grid group with Tata Power Delhi Distribution Co.

European guest speakers also provided insight on their experience with public-private partnerships, which could be an effective way for chosen smart cities to leverage the seed money the Indian government provides.

“It is commendable that India is committed to develop in a smarter sustainable way. Public-private partnership is the way for this initiative,” maintained Harald Sandberg, Swedish Ambassador to India. “The ambitious smart cities project in India demands small steps be taken by every citizen to make it a sprawling success.”

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