India releases list of 98 planned 'Smart Cities'

Uttar Pradesh bags highest number with 13; each state will have at least one such city

NEW DELHI • India has come out with a list of 98 towns and cities that are to be developed as "Smart Cities", which Prime Minister Narendra Modi has promised will afford a "very high quality of life comparable with any developed European city".

Out of the cities, which have a combined population of 130 million people and account for 35 per cent of India's urban population, the highest number, 13, are in the most populous state of Uttar Pradesh, while the southern state of Tamil Nadu bagged 12, reported NDTV. The economic powerhouse of Maharashtra will have 10 smart cities, central Madhya Pradesh will have seven, and Gujarat and Karnataka, six each.

Of the cities chosen, 24 are capital cities, 24 are business hubs and 18 are cultural centres. The cities with a population of over five million each include Chennai, Greater Hyderabad, Ahmedabad and Greater Mumbai.

Among the other winners are Mr Modi's constituency, Varanasi, in Uttar Pradesh, besides Lucknow in the same state, Gandhinagar and Baroda in Gujarat, and Coimbatore and Madurai in Tamil Nadu.

Each state will have at least one smart city, according to the list released by Urban Development Minister Venkaiah Naidu, with the focus on core infrastructure such as water supply, electricity, sanitation, public transport, waste management and affordable housing, besides IT connectivity.

"We are not just aiming at making our urban landscape fanciful and flashy, but the prime objective is to enhance the quality of urban life," said Mr Naidu, as reported in The Indian Express.

The cities were selected through a nationwide competition, with candidates assessed on the basis of service levels, existing infrastructure and track records. Proposals from states were also judged in terms of how realistic the execution prospects were.

During the selection process, each state was assigned a specific number of smart city slots based on the urban population, among other factors.

In the first phase of the project, the top 20 cities that made the cut will receive financing from this year for urban redevelopment to meet the project's goals, in the form of world-class infrastructure, sustainable environmental measures and smart solutions.

The remaining cities will undergo a second shortlisting process to identify the next tranche that will receive financing, based on the same bidding criteria.

Over the next five to six years, the Indian government has earmarked 3 trillion rupees (S$64 billion) for the smart cities project.

Earlier, Mr Naidu had listed Singapore among a host of countries that India is hoping to collaborate with on the project.

"Seventeen to 18 countries have shared interest in the smart cities project," he said. Singapore is already helping to shape the master plan for Amaravati, Andhra Pradesh's new capital city.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 28, 2015, with the headline 'India releases list of 98 planned 'Smart Cities''. Print Edition | Subscribe