Developing 100 Smart Cities in India

Author: Zita Vajda

Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India, announced the ‘100 Smart Cities Mission’ programme in June, 2015, envisioning the creation of 100 smart cities in the next five years. The government has committed to develop satellite towns of larger cities and modernize existing midsized cities.  Within the framework of the programme, the aim is to pursue such information and communications technology (ICT) that improves liveability, investment and service opportunities, and facilitates the achievement of sustainable economic growth in an environmentally conscious way.

While India’s urban population is currently around 31% of the total population, it contributes over 60% of India’s GDP (it is projected to grow up to 75% by 2030). As India’s population continues to grow, more citizens will move to cities. About 25-30 persons from rural areas will migrate every minute to major cities in hopes of a better livelihood. It is estimated that by 2050, the number of people living in Indian cities will touch 843 million. This large-scale urbanization poses several challenges, which will accelerate in the near future. Thus, developing smart cities has become essential.

What is a smart city like? According to the Smart Cities Council, a smart city is one that uses information and communications technology (ICT) to create a more liveable and sustainable urban environment.

A smart city uses three simple processes:

  1. It collects information about itself through sensors, other devices and existing systems.
  2. It communicates these data using wired or wireless networks.
  3. It analyses that data to understand what’s happening now and what’s likely to happen next.
  4. Smart cities vary from city to city and from country to country. In developed countries, a smart city is one where existing infrastructure is augmented through application of IT. Investments in ICT infrastructure encourage a sustainable economic growth.

In case of India, however, the smart city concept is different: since many cities lack basic infrastructure, institutional framework and proper governance, smart city initiatives will have to focus on providing basic needs through IT enabled solutions.


The Indian government is committed to developing 100 smart cities, which will be selected through a ‘City Challenge Competition’. A Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) will execute the implementation of the Smart City Action Plan. For smart cities, the government will appoint CEOs (therefore local governments cannot make decisions alone), who will drive the concept and execution. In the selection process, the following criteria are included:

  • Developing at least two smart cities in each of 29 states;
  • Cities with a population of over 1 million may become potential smart cities;
  • State capitals, cultural heritage cities and the agglomerates of cities are all potential smart cities;
  • There will be an opportunity to develop several smart cities in states with a larger urban population (Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, West-Bengal, Gujarat);
  • In the selection process, such parameters as existing urban reforms, sanitary conditions, efficiency of tax collection and capacity of municipal bodies are considered.

The core infrastructure elements in a smart city would include:

Adequate water supply Assured electricity supply Sanitation, including solid waste management Efficient urban mobility and public transport Affordable housing
Broadband internet, digitalization e-Governance Sustainable environment Safety and security Health and education

100 Smart Cities initiative of the Indian government

Four pillars

Physical Social Economic Institutional
·   Multimodal Public transport

·   24×7 power supply

·   Zero emission: solid and liquid waste

·   Assured and metered water supply

·   High-speed broadband connectivity

· Inclusive development: affordable housing, night shelters, etc.

· Quality education

· Tele-medicine

· Entertainment and recreational facilities

· Cultural, sports and fitness centres

· Skill development centres

· Incubation centres

· Trade facilitation and logistics centres

· SME clusters

· Institutional finance/banking

· Working women hostels

· Minimum government, maximum governance

· E-governance – 24X7 online public service delivery

· Ease of doing business

· Citizen engagement

· Safety, security, enforcement

· Transparency and accountability

· Disaster management and resilience

The success of Indian smart cities will depend on how efficiently these four pillars are introduced.


On 28 January 2016, Minister of Urban Development, M. Venkaian Naidu announced the 20 urban areas that will be developed as smart cities. Decisions were made according to the following parameters: feasibility, focus on project results, citizen participation, timeliness of proposals.  In the next five years, $7,636 million will be invested in the development of cities. Five of the selected cities are capitals of federal states, including New Delhi, Chennai (Tamil Nadu), Jaipur (Rajasthan), Ahmedabad (Gujarat) and Bhubaneshwar (Odisha). These cities will be equipped with adequate infrastructure (water and electricity supply, solid waste management), sanitation system, urban mobility and public transport, broadband internet access and e-governance mechanisms.


India’s smart city programme and economic activity are supported by building industrial corridors, being currently underway. At the moment, six industrial corridors are being developed: Delhi-Mumbai, Amritsar-Delhi-Calcutta, Bengaluru-Mumbai, Visakhapatnam-Chennai (East Coast Industrial Corridor), Chennai-Bengaluru and Bhopal-Indore economic corridor. These corridors will promote industrial development, the transformation of new industrial cities into smart cities, the establishment of industrial zones, the connections between industrial hubs, and production activity.  The second significant projects concern India’s public transport, including a $20 billion metro construction project (an investment of a value of $20 million) and the construction of the Mumbai-Ahmedabadhigh-speed railway (an investment of $10.5 billion). India-based Power Grid Corporation’s investment of $5 billion into introducing smart energy network technologies until 2020 also contributes to the development of smart cities. Within the framework of the Startup India initiative, 16 technological incubators, 7 research and 13 start-up centres will be established in future smart cities. The Digital India programme will ensure broadband internet connection for 500 million users by 2020.


The results of a public opinion poll involving 51 cities reveal the factors that resident of cities in Indian regard the most important in connection with the development of smart cities. The graph below shows that for them the main priority is adequate transport, sanitation and sustainable waste management are top priorities. No wonder: baffling traffic situations are frequent scenes in the big cities of India, making transport a hopeless case and the everyday life of residents difficult. Sanitation is another important issue, since a lot of people still live lacking basic hygienic conditions, and waste presents a nation-wide problem. The third most important factor is e-governance, which is, again, no wonder, since bureaucracy is extremely slow and difficult in India.

Three models of smart city development strategies

Retrofitting development


  • Existing developed area
  • Minimum 500 acres in size


  • Zero emissions: Solid and liquid discharge
  • Quality electricity and water supply: Smart metering
  • High-speed, high-bandwidth connectivity
  • CCTV surveillance of all public areas
  • LED lighting, intelligent traffic and parking management
  • Pavements, cycle tracks and roads


  • Implementation in three years
  • SPV
  • Selection through competition – “City Challenge”



  • Existing urban sprawl
  • Minimum 50 acres in size


  • In addition to all retrofitting components
  • Higher floor area ratio (FAR) and lower ground coverage
  • Green and energy-efficient buildings
  • Wide roads, recreational facilities and open spaces


  • Mixed land use and higher FAR
  • Maximum 50% ground coverage
  • Maximum 40% commercial, minimum 10% institutional and minimum 10% for parking
  • MoU with states, ULB, developers


  • Implementation in five years
  • SPV (public or private developer)
  • Equity participation by the central and state government and ULBs
  • Selection through competition – “City Challenge”

Greenfield townships


  • Vacant land
  • Minimum 250 acres for each township


  • In addition to all redevelopment components
  • Quality infrastructure for education, health and recreation
  • Multimodal transport
  • Trade facilitation, incubation, skill development centres


  • In addition to all redevelopment conditions
  • High speed rail and road connectivity
  • MoU: States, ULBs and developers


  • Implementation in five years
  • SPV (public or private developer)
  • Equity participation by the central and state government and ULBs
  • Selection through competition – “City Challenge”

GIFT city

Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT City) is being executed as the first financial tech city of Gujarat. This project was initialised in 2011 and is expected to be concluded by 2021. The aim is to develop a global financial hub that provides state-of-the-art financial, banking, insurance and information technology services. Key components of planning include establishing high-quality physical infrastructure (water, electricity, gas, roads, telecoms, district cooling, and broadband), special economic zones (SEZ), an international education centre, techno parks, shopping malls, hotels.

Delhi Smart City

The New Delhi government has planned to develop Delhi as a smart city with the vision of integrating the geospatial data of all city departments to enable them for better coordinated analysis, planning, governance and management of resources. The new geographical information system will contribute to better information-sharing and analysis. The following key objectives are envisaged under the current transformation: cloud-based provision of services, data and application integration, introduction of 3D visualisation techniques, and development of applications in the areas of disaster management, land management system, property tax facilitation.

Naya Raipur

The state of Chhattisgarh was created in the year 2000 and Raipur was declared its capital city, with a growing importance as the major node in trade network and a host of industries. However, the city is constrained by lack of capacities, and a new city – Naya Raipur (located about 17 km from Raipur) – is being developed as a greenfield smart city. The new city is envisaged to be developed by 2031, for an estimated population of 560,000. The project is divided into the following sections: smart utilities, transport, smart governance, centralised command and control centre and computing infrastructure. Affordable and high-quality health services are top priorities in planning the city. A cardiac hospital, unique in being heart shaped, has been built. In the future, the city will be a knowledge centre as a hub for the information technology and bio-technology sectors.



Multiple foreign countries have shown interest in India’s smart city project and are looking forward to participate in the development of future smart cities. Major funding partners include Spain, the United States of America, France, japan, Germany, Singapore, Israel and Sweden. Next is a short overview on the cities in the development of which these countries take part.

Spain – New Delhi

A joint smart city project of the Delhi Development Authority and Barcelona to develop a smart sub city in east Delhi – Karkardooma. Spanish agencies will provide technical support. The key components of the project include ensuring access to vehicles of public transport (nearby Metro station), energy conservation, water harvesting, housing to 3,000-4,000 families, green cover, IT-enabled services.

Unites States of America – Ajmer, Allahabad, Visakhapatnam

The United States Trade and Development Agency has signed memorandums with the Indian state to develop three Indian cities as smart cities. The following three cities have been selected:

  1. Allahabad – Uttar Pradesh
  2. Ajmer – Rajasthan
  3. Vishakhapatnam – Andhra Pradesh

The main guidelines of the project are clean water and solid waste management, as well as the enlargement of smart cities in an efficient manner.

Japan – Varanasi

Kyoto has signed an agreement with the Varanasi city government to develop Varanasi as a smart heritage city. Kyoto’s Uji and Otsu districts are world heritage sites, and developments will be based on the Kyoto model. An exchange programmes between Kyoto University and Banaras Hindu University will be established. The Japanese team will lend their expertise to improve five core areas to help rejuvenate the holy city. These include transport management, solid-liquid waste management, industry-university interface, developing the Buddhist tourist circuit in and around Varanasi, and setting up of a convention centre to boost cultural activities.

France – Nagpur, Puducherry és Chandigarh

France is keen to invest in creation of smart cities to enable all-round development and to preserve the cultural heritage of each city. France focusses on the energy and the transport sectors. Chandigarh was designed by French architect Le Corbusier half a century ago. The city, owing to its infrastructure and green belt, will have an important role among the planned cities in India. On 26 January 2016, a French delegation visited Chandigarh, where Francois Hollande announced the cooperation with India in the fields of recyclable energy, information technology, defence and space research. The French president plans to invest one billion euros annually to consolidate the Indo French economic partnership.

Israel – Mumbai

Tel Aviv is committed to developing smart cities in collaboration with India by using digital resources and systems. Plans include online municipal services, traffic and parking management through IT. The work of the Delivering Change Foundation, a Mumbai-based NGO, will be facilitated and supervised by Israeli representatives and Israeli experts will be sent to Pune, Nagpur and Nashik. These cities will be set up to use Tel Aviv’s DigiTel pass, through which citizens can pay water and municipal tax bills, order parking permits, and send photos of potholes or broken park benches to the municipal complaint line; in addition, a citywide WiFi coverage will be provided and GPS-based smartphone apps (digital city services) can be used.

Sweden – Karnataka, Maharashtra, Telangana and Uttar Pradesh

Sweden will bring excellent experts and high technology to India to support the building of smart cities through public private partnership (PPP). Currently, there are 150 Swedish enterprises in India, and their number is continuously growing. The majority of Swedish companies are engaged in rural development and smart city solutions.

Germany – three smart cities

In addition to the countries investing in India listed above, Germany has entered into an agreement with India to develop three smart cities, which are yet to be identified.


Wave City

Wave City was created based on the IBM smart city concept, and has become one of the most efficient and largest hi-tech cities in India. It is located in the suburbs of Ghaziabad (30 minutes from New Delhi, in Uttar Pradesh state), with an area of 4,500 acres. The city features the elements of smart cities: command and control centre, smart metering, water management (equipped with sensors measuring the pH value and the quality of water), smart traffic control system (to ensure seamless traffic flow), green parks and open spaces, automated garbage control systems.

Lavasa City

Lavasa City, planned by Lavasa Corporation Limited in collaboration with Cisco Systems and Wipro Limited, is being developed near Pune. Dasve, the first town, is nearly complete and has 476 villas and 376 apartments. Lavasa is expected to accommodate a population of approximately 240,000 with an employment base for nearly 80,000, as well as facilities to host around two million tourists every year. Core components of Lavasa city include the following: e-governance, e-learning, e-healthcare, e-commerce, e-homes, e-utilities.

Palava City

Palava city, developed by the Lodha Group, is less than an hour from South Mumbai. The goal is to develop it as Mumbai’s sister city.  Palava isn’t just a new place to live, it’s a new way to live. The city will leverage intelligent technologies in urban planning. Today, this green city is home to thousands: with over 25,000 residential units sold. By 2025, the city will house over 80,000 families. In the city of opportunities, an Olympic sports stadium, green parks, ponds, cultural centres will be built.


Narendra Modi’s smart city project will deliver several long-term benefits. Technological innovations will promote cost-savings in the fields of public transport, energy consumption, water and safety. For instance, Schneider Electric’s smart solutions will save energy usage up to 40% with the introduction of LED lighting, and 15% less water will be wasted. Developing smart cities will attract enormous volumes of FDI, and the dynamic growth of tourism and the expansion of industries will significantly contribute to the increase of GDP. The 12 smart cities in the Sagarmala project has the potential to boost India’s GDP by 2%. Smart environmental, health, transport and waste management solutions contribute t sustainable growth and create a higher quality of life. The outcome of the smart city project may generate a 10-15% rise in employment. An increasing number of IT, data analyst, advisor and system integration jobs will be created. Education will be available to a wider circle, through distance learning.

Author: Zita Vajda

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