India doesn’t need more smart cities; we can replicate learnings from 100 Smart Cities Mission to improve citizens’ lives in other cities: Housing & Urban Affairs Secretary

New Delhi: Work soon to be over in 33 of 49 Integrated Command and Control Centres that turned into Covid-19 war rooms

New Delhi, 28th September 2020: Even as work is underway on building 100 smart cities across the country, there is no need for more smart cities in India as learnings from the ongoing mission can be replicated to shore up other cities and towns countrywide, said a top official of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MOHUA) at an ASSOCHAM webinar today.

“Learnings from 100 Smart Cities Mission are very important, people often ask me about next round of smart cities and I tell them that it is not required because we can utilise the learnings from our ongoing mission, replicate the same and move ahead,” said Mr D.S. Mishra, secretary, MOHUA at an ASSOCHAM webinar on ‘Digital Transformation of Smart Cities in India and path ahead.’

Quoting examples of various smart cities – Indore, Bhopal, Chennai, Coimbatore, Hyderabad and others, Mr Mishra said, “We have learnt a lot of things that can be replicated in shoring up infrastructure in other cities to achieve our goal of improving our citizens’ lives and promote ease of living be in terms of health, education, public transport, safety and surveillance and other such aspects.”

Highlighting the three main goals of Smart Cities Mission, he said, “It is about improving liveability, economic ability and sustainability, for this we are conducting all sorts of new experiments in our smart cities – building basic infrastructure using technology to provide better facilities and sustainable solutions to people.”

The MOHUA secretary further said, “We are focusing on capturing the data and using it as an open source to further improve the living standard of people and how we can make our cities climate resilient.”

Mr Mishra also informed that work is likely to be soon completed on 33 of the 49 Integrated Command and Control Centers (ICCC) that turned into Covid-19 war rooms.

“In cities where the infection was rapidly spreading, the ICCCs helped track movement of each and every patient, tracing their contacts, supplying things to their homes, ensuring cleanliness and overall logistics together with predicting requirement of number of beds, masks, sanitisers and others,” he said.

He added, “All this information was smoothly compiled with the help of our integrated command and control centres and has been documented, we have also uploaded it on our ministry’s website.”

The MOHUA secretary also said that be it internet of things, machine learning, artificial intelligence and other technological advancements, taking the smart cities as part of an organic lot, the MOHUA is using all of the sensors to analyse through command and control centres thereby giving it a direction on how to go about it.

He also gave examples of proper management using technology in case of recent floods in Vadodra, cyclone in Vizag and Kumbh Mela with the help of ICCC.

Talking about how in last in six years digital transformation has taken place countrywide he said, “There is a new thinking which has introduced the concept of smart cities in India which is all about further improving the lives of our citizens, leading to quality of life and promoting ease of living through optimal use of all resources available at our disposal.”

Mr Mishra further said that in terms of digital transformation, the Prime Minister while giving a clarion call for Aatmanirbhar Bharat talked about three things – healthy individual, healthy society and healthy economy, to accomplish all these three we need to optimally utilise all the resources available with us be it in terms of economy or society. “For this we need to use technology in a big way and so smart cities concept can help us learn a lot in this behalf.”

He also informed that Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs is documenting most information – be it related to smart road construction, water supply, sanitation, mobility etc.

Terming digital transformation as a positive aspect of Covid-19, the secretary said, “It is during the lockdown that we realised that life has to go on and for that it was only due to digital medium that we contacted people be it for sanitation, logistics, tracking patients and other such exercises were possible only via digital medium.”

He also said that the pandemic has also brought lot of challenges, one such big challenge is about how to make public transport in such a way that people can stay away from infectious diseases like Covid-19.

In his address, Mr Pradeep Aggarwal, chairman, ASSOCHAM National Council on Real Estate, Housing and Urban Development said, “The epidemic of Covid-19 has given us an opportunity to think once again on the Smart City Mission and build sustainable cities which can fight such epidemic like situations. It has made us realize that we will need to strengthen the health and education facilities of such cities.”