Emerging Themes: Sustainability- Climate Change and Air Quality


Given that cities now house majority of the world’s population and contribute significantly to the global GDP, they inherently assume responsibility for most of the world’s carbon emissions. Although cities occupy less than 2% of the Earth’s surface, they consume roughly 78% of the world’s primary energy and produce more than 60% of all carbon dioxide and significant amounts of other greenhouse gas emissions, mainly through energy generation, vehicles, industry, and biomass use. In India, cities generate two-thirds of GDP, 90% of tax revenues, and the majority of jobs, with just a third of the country’s population.  It is projected that by 2030, while the urban population of India shall grow to 40.76% of the total population, the share of GDP contributed by urban areas shall touch approximately 70%. However, while the urban sector contributions to the country’s GDP increase, at the same time, the domestic power consumption in urban areas was three times that of the domestic power consumption in rural areas. There is a strong two-way relationship between economic development and energy consumption.  Energy, regardless of the source, is a primary need for development. City-related production, mobility and transport, infrastructure and urban density, as well as private households, lead to a substantial increase in urban energy demand.  However, this in turn leads to increased economic prosperity required for fueling urbanisation.

Yet, as the global climate change concerns rise with increased frequencies of unnatural weather occurrences, cities assume a greater role in moving towards sustainable resources of energy and utilisation patterns of those resources. In the business as usual scenario, cities become increasingly vulnerable to exposure to degrading air quality and susceptibility to natural hazards. Indian cities have begun to experience these effects especially with the variations in rainfall patterns. Over the last ten years, significant occurrences of  high intensity rain and flash flooding has been seen in coastal cities of Mumbai (2005), Chennai (2015), Vishakhapatnam (2014), Srinagar (2014) and Surat (2006, 2013). While the coastal cities are most vulnerable to flooding and cyclonic winds, the hill cities experience landslides. The landlocked cities such as Delhi and Indore are now estimated to suffer from droughts and heat waves. Delhi also has the dubious distinction of the most polluted city in the world especially for air quality.

Thus, cities have to adopt multiple strategies, firstly invest in climate resilient infrastructure to mitigate the risks of human and capital loss if and when climate change events occur, secondly incentivise urban infrastructure of housing, waste management, sewage and sanitation and power supply to move to a reduce, recycle and reuse model and finally introduce behavioural change to sustainable modes especially in transportation. The National Smart Cities Mission provided a perfect vehicle for integrating these sustainability objectives of climate resilience and green growth within the national development strategy.  The core infrastructure elements of Smart Cities include assured electricity supply and efficient urban mobility and public transport. Access to affordable and reliable electricity is critical for the development of the cities. For example, e-mobility is a critical aspect of a smart city which can be implemented by providing uninterrupted power.

Sustainability Planning in SCPs

The Smart City models support compact urban growth thereby reducing the environmental impacts of sprawl and focus on the development of dense, socially mixed neighbourhoods that promote human-scale urban environments and healthy public green spaces to maintain livability. They also promote transit oriented development (TOD) and focus on smarter transport systems including Bus Raid Transits (BRTs), bicycle and car sharing, smarter traffic management systems, electric vehicles and are complemented by smarter urban utilities including efficient energy using renewable energy sources, waste and water management systems, street lighting technology, smart grids and more efficient buildings, both via retrofitting and redevelopment.

A preliminary glance at the self assessment evaluation process which the cities had to undertake to establish their existing condition reveals 11 criteria of a possible 24 having a direct positive relation with sustainability. These factors are listed as compact, mixed use, public open spaces, transport, walkable, energy source, energy efficiency, water management, air quality, solid waste and waste water management The mission also challenged the cities to look at convergence with other sustainability initiatives of Government of India such as the National Solar Mission. The acknowledgement by the cities of the importance of sustainability planning is reflected in the proposed projects by the 20 lighthouse cities selected in the first round. Some highlights from the proposals are-

•          Overall 256 projects have been identified by the 20 cities for sustainability. The targeted investments for these 256 projects amount to $1.7 Billion or about 25% of the total smart city investments of the 20 cities.

•          The projects were classified into four main priority areas,

•                      Green city design and resilient infrastructure – 153 projects amounting to $968 million. Projects vary across greenway and open space design, water recycling, solid waste management systems, rainwater harvesting, dual piping systems and air-quality monitoring etc.

•                      Energy efficient public transport – 39 projects amounting to $118 million, varying across bicycle sharing systems, electric/hybrid buses, pedestrian networks and ICT applications for bus route, travel planning etc.

•                      Energy efficient and sustainable buildings – 24 projects amounting to $307 million. Projects primarily targeting rooftop solar panel systems and LED lighting for municipal and private buildings.

•                      Smart energy systems and grids for cities – 40 projects amounting to $339 million. City level projects ranging from solar power generation, wind based energy, energy efficient water pumps, smart grid implementation etc.

Thus the 20 lighthouse cities have recognised the environmental, social and economic benefits of mainstreaming projects geared towards climate adaption and air quality improvements.  The successful implementation will require knowledge diffusion within the city agencies, partnerships with communities and businesses and institutional commitments to scale up these innovations to city scales.

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Emerging Themes: Integrated Mobility


Understanding the need to manage the growth in private vehicle (two and four wheeler) ownership, Government of India in 2006 formulated the National Urban Transport Policy that prioritised greater use of public transport and non motorised modes and advocated integration of  land-use and transportation to minimise travel distance. The first emphasis on improving mobility in Indian cities was provided by the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JnNURM) which allocated approximately 11 percent (or $2 billion) of the mission budget ($20 billion) to urban transportation. This was primarily a recognition of the range of mobility problems that Indian cities faced – a lack of reliable, affordable and extensive public transportation network thereby forcing people to rely on private two wheelers and four wheelers for commuting needs and a low density of road network for this increased private mode of commuting.

Under the JnNURM, approximately 138 projects were undertaken with 33 percent of the funding being allocated to Mass Rapid Transit System (MRTS) and about 57 percent allocated to road/highway construction (EMBARQ India and Shakti Foundation,2012).  Cities such as Delhi, Pune, Bangalore, Chennai, Mumbai, Hyderabad have implemented Metro rail based (up to 30,000 pphd – passengers per hour per direction) systems based on the funding from JnNURM.


In addition, 9 cities (Ahmedabad, Rajkot, Surat, Bhopal, Indore, Pune/Pimpri Chinchwad, Vijaywada, Vishakapattanam and Jaipur) (Center of Urban Equity, 2013) have implemented or are implementing road based Bus Rapid Transit Systems, with capacities up to 15,000 pphd. Very low allocation  (about 4%) (Ibid) to other projects besides parking, road construction and MRTS has led to the unfortunate exclusion of pedestrian and bicycle users, who constitute 40 percent of total mode split in India. Non motorised modes (bicycle and pedestrian) are feasible as main commuting modes for fulfilling trips in small and medium sized cities, both of which have trip lengths less than 7 kms in average.

Thus the mobility options in Indian cities increased during the JnNURM but a lack of comprehensive approach to integrated mobility left large gaps, especially in the last mile connectivity needs of public transit users.

Smart Cities Mission on Integrated Mobility

The Smart City Mission acknowledged the role of integrated mobility, primarily through public transport for longer commuting and non motorised transport for shorter trips and last mile connectivity. Creating walking communities, reducing the need for commuting, developing compact communities, investing in transit oriented developments and preserving and developing open spaces were ascribed as prescribed features of a smart city by the mission. Similarly projects involving construction of highways, parking lots were left out of the Smart City Mission and instead retained in AMRUT (Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation).

Preliminary analysis of the 20 lighthouse city proposals has endorsed this renewed emphasis on public transport and non motorised commuting within the strategic planning process undertaken by the cities. Adoption of information and communication technology (ICT) to improve the efficiency, ease of use and reliability of public transportation operations also has emerged as a significant proposal by the cities. Some of the highlights regarding integrated mobility planning within the broader SCPs by the lighthouse cities are:

•             The total allocation towards solving mobility problems is 1.8 million USD or 25% of the total proposed smart city expenditures (7.2 Billion USD) by the cities. This is doubling and significant change from the 11% allocation towards transportation made by the previous JnNURM mission.

•             While expressway (flyover) construction, bus rapid transit (BRT) and road improvements were the significant components in the previous mission, emerging global concepts of public bike sharing, ITS/ICT adoption, clean fuel technologies in fleet operation, non motorised transport (NMT) augmentation, urban design and open spaces and even universal access are the new paradigms proposed by the lighthouse cities.

•             Solapur (56%), Ludhiana (51%), Pune (48%) and Devanagere (41%) are unique because of their higher allocations to mobility planning than compared with other lighthouse cities.  Bhopal and Jabalpur both have the lowest allocations (< 10%).

•             Non motorised transportation (bicycle and pedestrian) accounts for the biggest allocation of about $350 million followed by bus based systems at $200 million. Kochi has uniquely proposed ferry based transportation systems leveraging the city’s water network.

•             17 cities have proposed specifically investments in bicycle networks and public bike sharing systems at a total cost of about $90 million. Majority of the bike sharing and bicycling has been proposed in area based projects suggesting the willingness of the cities to implement comprehensive bike sharing systems at neighbourhood levels and then scaling them up in future, to the city level.

•             All cities have expressed wider adoption of ITS and ICT for mobility planning, especially for the purposes traffic management, smart parking and smart bus shelters and integrated fare collection systems. The allocation for ITS and ICT based mobility projects is about $550 million.

•             11 cities have proposed some form of transit oriented mixed use compact neighbourhood planning in their area based approaches. These neighbourhoods will have high densities to support the public transit infrastructure investments while including office centres, open spaces and priority to NMT.

Thus the lighthouse cities have addressed the immediate need for integrated mobility by focusing on bus systems, ferry systems, bicycle sharing systems and augmenting of pedestrian networks. These sustainable modes of transportation are now mainstreamed within the smart city proposals and their success will provide momentum to scaling up to the city and regional levels.


Centre for Urban Equity. (2013). Low-Carbon Mobility in India and the Challenges of Social Inclusion: Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Case Studies in India.

Embark India and Shakti Foundation. (2012). National Investment in Urban Transport, Towards People’s Cities through Land Use and Transport Integration.

(n.d.). Ibid.

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Emerging Themes: Role of ICT, From Governance to Planning and Beyond


The National Smart City Mission has been unique from other global smart city movements especially in defining the role of ICT in smart cities. The mission has attempted to converge both the ICT driven governance model (mostly in North American cities) with the ICT driven city planning and city operations model (mostly in East Asian cities such as Seoul, Singapore) thereby expanding the benefits of ICT.

The ICT driven governance or e-Governance model has been entrenched within India’s public  service delivery and public administration for some time now.

The National Telecom Policy (1994), the New Telecommunication policy (1999) and the Information and Technology Act (2000) provided for the enabling policy frameworks to address the role of telecom connectivity and information technology both as export services and integral components of India’s infrastructure growth story.  The National e-Governance plan of 2006 was the first comprehensive approach for making governments services available to the people through electronic media. The plan identified 27 mission mode projects to be implemented at center and state through deployment of common backbone infrastructure and making the services public accessible through Common Service Centers (CSCs).

The Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission (JnNURM) of 2005 provided similar mandate and momentum for the urban local bodies to provide government services through use of ICT technologies. The e-Governance Reforms formed one of three main strategic reform areas that had to be undertaken at the ULB levels. The idea was to bring about changes in traditional methods of management, administration and operation of the Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) with respect to service delivery by simplifying the process of interaction between the internal and external stakeholders.  This reform area identified six areas of intervention for implementing ICT platforms for delivery of government services. These were basic services such as birth and death registration, revenue earning services such as property tax and licenses, development services such as water supply and other utilities and building plan approvals, efficiency improvement services such as procurement and monitoring of projects and finally for monitoring the citizen grievance redressal process.  Of the 65 cities that reported the status of JnNURM reforms, 32% (21 cities) achieved all and 58% (38 cities) achieved at least 75% of the stated e-Governance reforms. Cities such as Nasik performed exceedingly well by implementing about nine modules dealing with property and water tax, accounting, birth and death, online citizen grievance, solid waste tracking etc. The JnNURM mission was partly yet importantly successful in establishing and developing the administrative capacities of the ULBs to adopt ICT driven governance.

Globally during the same period (mid 2000s onwards), cities such as Barcelona, Rio De Janeiro, Singapore, Amsterdam, Seoul, Tokyo started experimenting with wider adoption of ICT technologies to manage city operations such as traffic management, water and energy metering, public transport integration  and solid waste management. There was a definite and conscious acceleration towards being counted amongst various typologies of the connected cities – knowledge cities, broadband cities, digital cities, eco cities, ubiquitous cities etc. Whatever the final notional ambition, the ponderance of ICT technology in every day urban planning and urban operations demand management was evident. Entire new cities such as Masdar and Songdo were developed on this paradigm of ICT to plan urban infrastructure and manage the demand for these urban resources.

ICT in Smart Cities Mission
The National Smart City Mission too aimed to combine ULBs’ already existing capacities to leverage ICT technologies, till now limited to e-Governance and expand them to the planning and managing of Indian cities.  Transportation management, metering of water, energy and air quality and disaster management allowed for quick learning from global examples and adoption to Indian cities. Moreover, the cities were challenged to learn the ‘beyond’ implications of ICT penetration within the city infrastructure, ranging from innovation hubs and disaster response to knowledge based entrepreneurship to social media outreach.  The benefits accrued by integrating ICT within city development planning now expanded beyond transparency and accountability, ICTs were now being deployed for resource and resource utilization mapping (water and energy), for mitigating climate change risk (early warning systems), for altering citizen’s role in urban problem solving (through open data and mapping systems)  and facilitating shared economies (AirBnB, car and ride sharing such as Uber, public wifi sharing).

The 20 lighthouse cities have recognised the important components required for successful integration of ICT within the urban fabric; the need for ubiquitous broadband networks (11 cities), the deployment of sensor based systems to reside on existing and new infrastructure (20 apps), the development of city apps, city dashboards and open data to facilitate the understanding of everyday city operations (20 cities), the provision of spaces (innovation hubs, public spaces, command and control centers) for stakeholder collaboration and collective problem solving (15 cities) and finally the need for local government policy to leverage the use of ICT through capacity building and public outreach (6 cities).  As expected, government policy to leverage ICT has the smallest number of takers currently and a wider formulation of government policy will occur only on a living and breathing ecosystem of ICT in everyday city operations.

Mobility and climate change mitigation has emerged as the primary beneficiary program areas of ICT interventions in the first round of the Indian Smart City Mission. The 20 lighthouse cities have proposed to invest $900 million and $550 million in ICT based technologies for climate change and mobility respectively over the next 5 years.  The cities are more inclined to invest in smaller areas for ICT interventions for climate change adaption; 60% of the investments are identified for area based developments. On the contrary, mobility projects dictate city wide adoptions to achieve efficiencies of scale. Pan city proposals therefore have 72% of the investments targeted for ICT based solutions for mobility. The climate change adaption projects use ICT technologies predominantly for street lighting, extreme weather response and disaster management, solid waste management and renewable energy production using rooftop solar panels. As seen in the previous section, traffic management through intelligent signaling, common ticketing systems, smart bus shelters, web based apps are some of the wider applications proposed by the cities for ICT based mobility solutions.


In summary, the national smart cities mission has been able to help cities in visualising the usefulness of ICT adoption in areas beyond governance. As cities begin to integrate ICT within their urban infrastructure and urban planning systems, they will have to adopt a flexible (scalable in components) yet an integrated (resources needed for ICT deployment) approach to address emerging issues of digital inclusion, data privacy and collective decision making.

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