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Indian Industry Think Tank Proposes Improved Government Guidelines on Smart Cities Resilience Model

Smart Cities Maturity Model (SCMM) report coverAn Indian business think tank has developed a Smart Cities Maturity Model (SCMM) to establish the metrics to be applied to a Future City for gauging resilience. It argues that current investment in India for its 100 Smart Cities programme must apply these to be successful, and is dangerously narrow-focussed at present.

Indian cities are struggling to accommodate the accelerated pace of urbanization – resulting in crumbling urban infrastructure and unaffordable options for urban accommodation. Yet the level of urbanization in India will rise from 31% in 2011 to 50% by 2031. That means more than 600 million Indians will be living in cities.

A new report claims that the metrics being used for designing the urban areas where these people live are not fit for purpose and proposes new ones. The Indian government set these metrics in 2012 when it estimated that it would cost US $638 billion over 20 years from 2013 to pay for both existing urban infrastructure shortages and future development.

The critique of these metrics comes from India's Sustainable Business Leadership Forum, which describes itself as a self-selecting "market development platform", put together by Sustainability Outlook an information marketplace on sustainability action in India.

The report discusses firstly the funding for the proposed initiatives, and then the metrics.

Funding and the scale of the challenge

Earlier this year the Indian Finance Minister announced a funding target of Rs.70,600 million to help create 100 smart cities (US$113 billion). It is expected that most of the infrastructure will be taken up either as complete private investment or through PPPs.

Additional incentives may come in the form of a CAPEX subsidy for projects via a 'Viability Gap Funding' (VGF) mechanism, which involves an up to 90% reduction in project cost for cities in hilly areas and 40% reduction in project cost for cities on the plains. This is a mechanism that has also been used in recent phases of the National Solar Mission.

There have been many announcements of inward investment into India in recent months:

  • USA: $41 Billion Private investment pathways into India; partnership on clean water & solid waste management for 500 cities
  • Japan: $35 Billion – mix of Private & Public investment
  • China: $20 Billion – mix of Private & Public investment
  • Germany (KfW): EU 1 Billion on solar capacity for next ten years
  • ADB: $2.5 Billion to establish 5 Industrial Zones for Andhra Pradesh; $63.3 m for North Karnataka Urban Sector Investment Program

But this is not sufficient, the report says. It details the key investment areas under the 100 Smart Cities programme and the sources of external funding expected to support them. Examples of initiatives include:

  • GIFT city: a global smart city and commercial her up for financial and IT services
  • Jabalpur: State-of-the-art waste to energy plant for municipal solid waste
  • Surat: safe City program using intelligent surveillance systems with 650 surveillance cameras installed along with 100 monitoring junctions
  • New Delhi: Privatizing the management of basic utilities such as power, water and sewage treatment. IBM, Cisco, Microsoft and various other infrastructure companies are interested.
  • Smart Villages: Every Indian parliamentarian is to select one village to develop it as a Model Village by 2016, followed by two more by 2019
  • Bangalore: an Internet of Things innovation hub.
  • Neermana: Pilot city for 100% renewable energy generation and 100% efficiency in water and waste management.

Metrics - how will success be measured?

It is clear just from this summary that a huge amount depends upon spending this money wisely: not only the amount and type of energy that will be required, and the pollution may be caused, but the human well-being may be created or lost, and the biodiversity that may be lost or gained.

But the SHTC's analysis finds that the metrics currently being used by the Indian government for 'successful cities' focuses mostly on access to services and infrastructure and neglects many other vital factors. These official guidelines are found in the government's Draft Concept Note on Smart City Scheme (page 24) and listed below:

The Indian Government's pillars of smart cities

The SHTC analysis is that these official guidelines provide "a very limited focus and [limited] scope to drive resource optimization over the 'whole system' of a city, particularly through the integrated use of physical infrastructure and ICT". For example, in:

  • Changing behavior of citizens when interacting with the physical environment;
  • Closing the loop on resource & energy flows within different parts of a city, and its exchanges with other cities, peri-urban areas & rural supply bases;
  • Creating negligible response times to threatening events (biohazards, climate change, security, disasters, crime);
  • Measuring, tracking and embedding efficiencies in resource and energy consumption.

The SHTC has a better idea, which is to apply the ISO 37120 (Sustainable development of communities – indicators for city services and quality of life), which was launched earlier this year as part of an integrated suite of standards currently being formulated for sustainable community development. This is the first ISO standard for smart city indicators and you can buy it here.

The SHTC has mapped the relevant indicators from ISO 37120 onto the Key Parameters & Benchmarks proposed by Indian Government Smart City Framework, to see how they square up. The table below attempts to summarize the ISO requirements for the categories of transport, spatial planning, water supply, sewerage & sanitation, solid waste management, storm water drainage, electricity, telephone connection, Wi-FI connectivity. Excluded are: healthcare facilities, education, firefighting and so on.

The Smart Cities Maturity Model

The Smart Cities Maturity Model


Applying the SCMM to the new ISO Sustainable Cities Standard and the Union Government's Smart City Concept to see whether the planned smart cities will be resilient reveals the following; a tick shows an item has been included and a red dot that it is missing:

The Smart Cities Maturity Model


It seems that the Indian government's metrics and the ISO Standard:

  • agree on baseline performance expected for urban services in Smart Cities and the need to build and embed a focus on resource efficiency, but
  • the former lack key performance indicators to promote resource sustainability and urban resilience by creating a change in resource flows within the city or through the way citizens interact with the physical environments.
  • Furthermore, the metrics on efficiency are limited to energy and water.

"There is a huge missed opportunity to recover materials & energy from sewerage, solid waste, and wastewater from urban ecosystems," the report's authors conclude.

Additionally, there is a problem with both: there is no holistic 'systems' approach within either the National or the ISO standard that would help to foster urban resilience.

The business leaders are urging the Indian government to urgently reconsider.