India builds first 'smart' city as urban population swells

Tue Apr 14, 2015 6:14pm EDT
 
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By Aditi Shah

GANDHINAGAR, India (Reuters) - India's push to accommodate a booming urban population and attract investment rests in large part with dozens of "smart" cities like the one being built on the dusty banks of the Sabarmati river in western India.

So far, it boasts modern underground infrastructure, two office blocks and not much else.

The plan, however, is for a meticulously planned metropolis complete with gleaming towers, drinking water on tap, automated waste collection and a dedicated power supply - luxuries to many Indians.

With an urban population set to rise by more than 400 million people to 814 million by 2050, India faces the kind of mass urbanization only seen before in China, and many of its biggest cities are already bursting at the seams.

Ahead of his election last May, Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised 100 so-called smart cities by 2022 to help meet the rush.

At a cost of about $1 trillion, according to estimates from consultants KPMG, the plan is also crucial to Modi's ambition of attracting investment while providing jobs for the million or more Indians who join the workforce every month.

His grand scheme, still a nebulous concept involving quality communications and infrastructure, is beginning to take shape outside Gandhinagar, capital of the state of Gujarat, with the first "smart" city the government hopes will provide a model for India's urban future.

"Most (Indian) cities have not been planned in an integrated way," said Jagan Shah, director of the National Institute of Urban Affairs which is helping the government set guidelines for the new developments.   Continued...

 
Engineers walk past a cooling system plant under construction inside Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT) at Gandhinagar, in the western Indian state of Gujarat, April 10, 2015. REUTERS/Amit Dave