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India Builds its First 'Smart' City

GANDHINAGAR/INDIA, May 15, 2015 - In order to accommodate its ever increasing urban population, the Indian Government builds the first smart city of the country at Gandhinagar in the state of Gujarat.  But what exactly makes a city “smart”?

India's growing urban population needs
solutions to tackle the problems of
overcrowded megacities. Already,
Delhi's air quality is the worst
in the world. | photo: bi-ConstructionNews

Challenging Urbanisation

With a huge urban population, which is set to rise by more than 400 million people to 814 million by 2050, India faces the kind of mass urbanisation only seen before in China, and many of its biggest cities are already bursting at the seams.
The country’s government and agencies are pushing to accommodate the ever increasing booming urban population and attract investment. In large parts, the plans rest on dozens of "smart" cities like the one being built on the dusty banks of the Sabarmati River in western India.
The city, which is under construction, will house a meticulously planned metropolis. It is fitted with gleaming towers, drinking water on tap, automated waste collection and a dedicated power supply.

A new financial centre?

Coming at a cost of about US $1 trillion, according to estimates from consultants KPMG, the plan is also crucial to Indian Prime Minister Narender Modi's ambition of attracting investment, while providing jobs for the one million or more Indians who join the workforce every month.
Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT), as the smart city is called, will double up as a financial hub, with tax breaks and other incentives to lure banks, brokerages and other businesses. Developed in partnership with IL&FS Engineering and Construction, it aims to compete with India's own financial capital of Mumbai as well as overseas rivals like Dubai and Singapore.
"Most (Indian) cities have not been planned in an integrated way," Jagan Shah, director of the National Institute of Urban Affairs reportedly told news agency Reuters. His institute is helping the government to set guidelines for the new developments.
To build smart cities, India allocated 60 billion rupees (US $962 million) in its annual federal budget for the financial year 2015-16 (April 2015- March 2016).

Missing Guidelines

The Indian government and agencies are yet to decide what exactly will make a city "smart", but the programme is expected to include building new centers as well as adapting existing ones. A detailed definition with guidelines is due soon, according to the National Institute of Urban Affairs.
Existing cities like Dholera and Surat in Gujarat, and Visakhapatnam in the east, have already begun work to transform into smart cities with help from companies such as Microsoft Corp, IBM Corp and Cisco Systems.