The Union urban development (UD) ministry has set the ball rolling for developing standards for smart cities, over a year after the NDA government launched the flagship program to develop 100 such cities.
So far, the ministry has selected 60 cities under the program.
The draft standards finalised by the UD ministry will measure where each of the chosen smart cities stands as against the benchmark it has set. For instance, the per capita water supply in a smart city should be 135 litres per capita per day. Similarly, the city should have 100% household level municipal waste collection, 100% coverage of toilets and 100% slum households covered through formal housing.
- Developing countries like Malaysia and Indonesia use Local Economic Governance Survey to assess the quality of governance and business development.
- In the Netherlands and Denmark, benchmarking for various utilities like water to measure their performance have been made a statutory requirement.
- Regulatory agencies in the United Kingdom and Australia use benchmarking to monitor water and wastewater services
On the governance front, a smart city should make available 100% of citizen services like payment of taxes, user charges. Besides it should have 100 % school enrolment of children in the 6-14 age group and one teacher per 30 students.
The number of in-patient hospital beds per lakh population in such cities has been set at 2.5 beds per 1,000 persons.
The draft standards are based on 45 “core indicators.” For each of the indicator, the ministry has specified the data that respective cities will have to provide and their performance will be measured on their basis.
The cities that are not up to the mark will be provided incentives to catch up with the better performers. Though a common practice globally, Indian cities do not have a uniform benchmark for measuring service standard for various urban services. “Having such guidelines will help the city quantify the services that they have to provide to qualify for smart city,” a ministry official said.
While welcoming the draft standards, urban sector experts have cautioned that poor data for both core and supporting indicators in small and medium-sized towns can derail the whole exercise. “The spatial urban data in small cities is very chaotic. Unless cities start preparing baseline data, it will be difficult to set credible service level benchmarks,” Saswat Bandyopadhyay, professor of planning at CEPT University, said.
Currently, smart cities are assessed based on their performance to provide basic civic services and efficient governance in the last three years. The UD ministry had in the past developed service level benchmarks for water and sanitation services.
“We have put the draft standard in the public domain (www.mygov.in) for getting feedback from the public,” an official said.