India to build 100 'Smart Cities'

2015-06-25 18:37
Narendra Modi. (AP)

Narendra Modi. (AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Gandhinagar - India already has more than 50 chaotic cities bursting at the seams with more than a million inhabitants each, and still growing rapidly, as they seek to keep pace with the huge country's rapid population growth and urbanisation.

By UN estimates there will be 404 million more people in Indian cities by 2050 than there are today. "The greater part of our urban infrastructure has not yet been built," Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said recently.

Modi now has a plan to build 100 so-called Smart Cities in the coming years - cities designed from the ground up with functioning sanitation, streets where traffic flows freely, water and electricity supply.

Most Indian cities currently offer these services only sporadically. These new cities are to be created from scratch.

GIFT City in the western state of Gujarat, which is set in the semi-desert that lies between the economic centre of Ahmedabad and the capital Gandhinagar, will be the first Smart City.

Thus far there are just two glass towers, each 28 floors high, that protrude upwards from the desolate site of about 358ha.

Sewage will be pumped at a speed of 90km/h

But Dipesh Shah fills in the future buildings and facilities with hand gestures as he describes how Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT) will look in years to come.

"We will have a tunnel stretching over a kilometre, through which the buildings will be provided with portable water, electricity, gas and a central cooling system," the GIFT City vice president says with evident enthusiasm.

Sewage will be pumped at a speed of 90km/h - faster than the average Indian train.

GIFT City could be an anomaly in a country where 300 million people lack access to electricity and around half the population of 1.2 billion have no toilet in their homes.

The master plan ambitiously compares GIFT City with La Defence in Paris, Shinjuku in Tokyo and the London Docklands. Shah sketches the prospect of a million jobs, an artificial lake a kilometre long, hospitals, schools and hotels.

Not everyone is that optimistic. There is no need whatever for an international finance centre in India, in the view of political analyst Rajiv Shah.

The fact that GIFT City is Modi's pet project means that at best state-owned Indian banks will be pressured into relocating a couple of offices there, Shah believes.

GIFT City people openly acknowledge that thus far they have been able to interest only Indian concerns in their "international" project.

GIFT City is to be surrounded by a wall

There has also been criticism of the exclusive nature of the Smart Cities. GIFT City is to be surrounded by a wall, with those entering being compelled to prove their identity.

There will be no place for the beggars, street hawkers, rickshaw drivers, paper collectors and shoe shiners that typify established Indian cities. Small-scale car mechanics, tailors and carpenters will also be excluded.

"The artificial city will always be dependent on other genuine cities," says Chinmay Patel, an architect.

According to a document from the Development Ministry in New Delhi, the Smart Cities are to be comparable with any developed European city, although studies show that what India really needs is housing for its poorer people.

There is a housing shortage of almost 19 million homes, almost all of them for the lower income groups, according to the government's own report on the economy. And there are millions of empty homes in the upper middle class segment.

The almost a billion dollars earmarked for the Smart Cities should be used for integrated cities, not for the pampered middle class, in the view of architect and author Gautam Bhatia.

"Solutions can only be found when the rich and the poor live together, as was common in old Indian cities," he says. For example some of the floors in the high rises could be for service staff.

"Instead we put up fences to keep out the other, the impoverished India."

Read more on:    narendra modi  |  india

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
1 comment
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.