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Smart Cities- The Rising Trend

June 25, 2016

Find out how urban city development initiatives are fulfiling India’s need to comply with the smart city trend.

Ever since the Narendra Modi-led NDA government assumed office in Delhi, the public discourse on urban development in India has been dominated by “smart cities”. However, debates on this topic have often been misinformed since there is a lack of clarity on what exactly a smart city is. Interestingly, the guidelines of the government’s Smart City Mission itself state that “there is no universally accepted definition of a Smart City” since “it means different things to different people”.

While globally the term has become synonymous with the use of technology and data for improving various aspects of a city, in India the usage has been less precise. Much of the initial discussion implied that smart cities would be entirely new cities. In fact, the 2014 election manifesto of the Bharatiya Janata Party promised to build “100 new cities; enabled with the latest in technology and infrastructure”.

Hence, when the Modi government announced its plan to create “100 smart cities”, the presumption was that India would get 100 new cities. It was only in June 2015 when it officially launched the Smart City Mission that the contours of India’s smart city policy got some clarity.

One year after its launch, it’s now clear that the Smart City Mission is not about building 100 new cities– it instead aims to make existing cities, in fact only certain designated areas within them, smart. While the Mission also requires each city to have a pan-city initiative, the thrust is to develop a compact area within a city through retrofitting or redevelopment of an existing built-up area or greenfield development of a vacant area.

While smart cities in India are now closely identified with the Smart City Mission, the vacuousness of the term has led to it being invoked for various forms of urban development. If we examine just Mumbai and its surrounding areas, we can get a sense of how different kinds of smart cities are sought to be created in different locations.

The many smart cities of Mumbai

Under the Smart City Mission, there are four different smart cities in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region- Greater Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Thane and Kalyan-Dombivili.

The smart city proposals of these cities focus on developing certain pockets of the city– Lower Parel in the case of Mumbai and Koperkhairane in the case of Navi Mumbai– and also promote the deployment of smart technologies. Interestingly, the municipal corporations of some of these cities had expressed reservations about the governance structure of the proposed smart cities and eventually, none of the cities in the region were selected in the first round of funding under the Mission.

Independent of the Smart City Mission, the City and Industrial Development Corporation, a state government agency, is developing the seven southern nodes– Kharghar, Kamothe, Kalamboli, Pushpak, Panvel, Ulwe and Dronagiri– in its Navi Mumbai (South) Smart City project. The Corporation also has a greenfield urban development project near the new Navi Mumbai airport called the Pushpak Nagar Smart City, spread across 230 hectares. Much of the developments in the Navi Mumbai Airport Influence Notified Area, which covers 561 are also marketed as a “smart city”.

The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority is the other state agency which has caught the smart city bug. It is developing Mumbai’s Bandra Kurla Complex as a smart city by providing Wi-Fi connectivity, surveillance systems and smart parking facility. It is also developing 5 hubs along the proposed 126-km Virar-Alibaug Multi-Modal Corridor– Vasai-Virar, Bhiwandi, Greater Kalyan, Greater Panvel and Pen-Alibaug– as smart cities.

Along with state agencies, there are also private players which are creating their own versions of smart cities in the Mumbai region. Palava built by the Lodha Group is the most prominent example of a private smart city. It has partnered with IBM to introduce smart governance through measures like intelligent security systems. Another interesting initiative near Mumbai is the Khalapur Smart City where a set of farmers in 11 villages have pooled 3,550 hectares of land to create an integrated township in partnership with the City and Industrial Development Corporation.

Smart Cities as a marketing trope

As the case of Mumbai illustrates, multiple avatars of smart cities are being built in various locations. The narrative on smart cities in India is hence not restricted to cities under the government’s Smart City Mission. Rather, the term is being invoked for a variety of modernist urban projects whether it’s building new cities, applying technological fixes to existing cities, development of hubs along industrial corridors, retrofitting certain areas within a city or building private townships. By invoking the term “smart city”, these varied urban developments are able to legitimise and market themselves better.

Indian cities are dominated by unplanned developments, an informal economy and messy local politics. This urban realty is increasingly coming under challenge in the post-liberalised era with private capital seeking to reshape the nature of the city. In this context, smart cities are being promoted by the state and the market to create more ordered forms of urban development. The term “smart city” has thus become a trope for promoting a variety of capital-driven planned urban initiatives that is at odds with the predominant forms of urban realty in India.

This article first appeared on Scroll.

Read more of this interesting article on Palava’s website! 

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Silly Home Security Mistakes!

May 14, 2016
safety measures at Palava

It is time to leave on a holiday and ensure the house is secure before you leave. You are in a hurry or worried about the last minute checks before leaving the house. You are running late or juggling luggage with house keys. You are simply too excited about your holiday or preoccupied with unfinished work. The reasons may be plenty but they all result in silly mistakes that may turn grave for home safety if you get unlucky. Let’s make a note of a few essentials you need to fix right before you leave on a holiday!

Leaving house keys under the doormat.

This may be an old habit as you always made sure it was easy for the maid to access them while you were away at work. Break this habit when on holiday as the doormat or pot is the easiest place to be traced by a burglar.

Safety tip – Instead, hand them over to a trusted neighbour. Leaving the damaged door lock unattended. The lock has been failing to clasp a few times, it needs to be repeatedly shut tight or it’s unlocking by itself. Yet you have continued to prolong repair and now have run short of time so you just postpone it for a later date. This provides any burglar an effortless entry into your house. Safety tip – Ensure the locks for the safety door and main door are always in optimum conditions, and replaced, if necessary.

Safety measures at Palava


Using fake security equipment.

Security cameras are expensive and the apartment has a plenty of alert security guards, therefore, you choose to save money and install a fake camera. Remember, burglars do their homework well and are the first to spot the difference.

Safety tip – Invest in a good quality security camera which can be regularly monitored on your smartphone.

safety measures at Palava


Updating travel plans on social media.

‘Vietnam calling’ or ‘In the mountains in 15 days’ is your new status update for the week as the holiday is about to begin. Remember, social media is accessed by plenty from your social circuit and beyond. Your status message may encourage someone’s ulterior motives.

Safety tip – Do not post travel itineraries on Facebook and other social and public forums.

security measures at Palava


Keeping all lights switched off.

When you are travelling, as a practice, all lights are switched off, though, remember, for a burglar it is indicative of a chance to strike. Darkness means lack of any activity at home.

Safety tip – Invest in digitally timed lights that can be programmed to switch on and off at particular intervals.

security measures at Palava


Forgetting to stop your mail or newspapers.

While you are on a holiday, your doorstep is gathering piles of news. One look at your doorstep and a burglar can identify that the house has no occupants. This can encourage him to strike.

Safety tip – Stop your mail or newspapers before you leave on holiday.

security measures at Palava