At the recent Economic Times India Infra Summit 2017, urban development minister M Venkaiah Naidu spoke about the need for top-quality local leadership for the Smart City projects to truly succeed. Meanwhile, corporate leaders on the panel debated about the key elements that define a smart city.
“Things are moving faster in places that have a good CEO, a good special purpose vehicle, a good municipal commissioner, and a visionary mayor or a chief minister. Despite of all my attempts, things are not moving in other places,” expresses Naidu. Naidu underscored how proper leadership and right people are two important pillars supporting the Smart City initiative.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had earlier promised to build 100 smart cities. Following up on that promise, a massive plan to select and transform cities into a better place for citizens, has been rolled out since the election. One of the panelists present at the summit, Sanjeev Sharma, Managing Director, ABB India, shared, “Smart city is a mix of smart elements and these smart elements change over a period of time.” Getambar Anand, Chairman of Realtor ATS Infra, Brotin Banerjee, Managing Director of Tata Housing, and Vipul Tuli, CEO of Sembcorp India were some of the other members present during the panel discussion.
The lack of resources and proper administration has marred cities, as they fail to provide basic amenities to all its citizens. For the Smart City initiative to progress, a sustainable governance model will be required, besides introducing new technologies, or finding a responsible leadership. “With increasing demand on resources and urbanization, sustainability of a project is important, both financial sustainability as well as green sustainability,” remarks Brotin Banerjee, Managing Director, Tata Housing.
Today, a key criterion of defining a city as smart would include having the city’s citizen services online. Moreover, it helps in increasing the transparency of the transactions. It is also necessary to ensure that all the utilities used by the citizens are of high quality, and available all the time. Vipul Tuli, CEO, Sembcorp said, “The experience accumulated from the power distribution companies and that from water treatment projects has helped us understand that unviable services don’t work.” Basically, when services and utilities are unviable, all the other social and common development adjectives come to a halt.