Urbanization | VOL. 15, ISSUE 94, January-February 2016

Land Challenges in Smart Cities

The Smart Cities Mission launched in June 2015 by the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government envisages to redeem 20 cities with central assistance, to develop physical, institutional, social and economic infrastructure which is aimed at improving the quality of life as well as economic viability of these urban centres. This was long overdue as most cities are in a civic and financial mess because of unplanned and rapid urbanisation. One of the key contributing factors to this mess is poor land management, both in terms of land usage and pricing. The fact that some of India's best cities have sprawling slums in which people live in sub-human conditions—41.3 per cent in Mumbai, 29.6 per cent in Kolkata, 28.5 per cent in Chennai and 8.5 per cent in Bangalore as per 2011 Census—and that even one heavy spell of rains can paralyse them, are testimonies of such mismanagement. It reflects gross negligence on the part of urban planners, despite India's urban population contributing about 55 to 60 per cent of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP) (Planning Commission, 2011). How will the Smart Cities Mission impact management of land? Will it lead to smart management in a way that will make urban centres socially equitable, environmentally sustainable and economically viable? The brouhaha over the Mission may give an impression that indeed it could be so, but...

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