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1004 Vibrant Urban Spaces Created Under Smart Cities Mission: Dr M Ramachandran, Former Secretary, Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs

May 30, 2023

FICCI announces major initiative to improve business quotient of Top-7 Cities of India  

4th Edition of Smart Urban Innovation Awards felicitates organisations across ten categories for transformative solutions geared towards smart cities. 

New Delhi, 30 May 2023 - Dr M Ramachandran, former Secretary, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, Government of India, highlighted the progress made under the Smart Cities Mission, specifically the creation of 1004 vibrant urban spaces, in his keynote address at the 6th Edition of Smart Cities Summit and 4th Edition of Smart Urban Innovation Awards.    

"This mission prompted cities to look at this aspect also", Dr Ramachandran said, implying the role of the mission in nudging cities towards such advancements.    

Drawing from his experiences in steering the flagship Jawahar Lal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission, he pointed out that "cities were not empowered to get project prepared in a minimum amount of time". Further, he noted that the JNNURM had 23 reforms, which was "a huge agenda for cities to take up", emphasising the necessity to empower cities to operate more efficiently.     

Dr Ramachandran appealed to the industry to seize the momentum initiated by the Smart City program and augment these efforts by leveraging investments made in cities. He argued for a collaborative approach, urging local administrations to partner with industries and structure projects in the broader interest of their citizens.    

On occasion, Mr Shailesh Pathak, Secretary General of FICCI, announced that FICCI would collaborate with stakeholders in the Government of India, state and city governments and FICCI's local business members to help "cities become better and take a proactive business approach". This collaboration will organise special consultations to make these cities more conducive towards doing business and improve the overall quality of life. The talks, set to take place in Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bangalore, and Ahmedabad, represent a diverse cross-section of India, each with its unique language and culture.    

Mr Gunjan Vakharia, Co-Chairman, FICCI Urban Transformation Committee and Head of Mobility Business, Siemens, alluded to the government's commitment to becoming net-zero by 2030 and its focus on modernising railway infrastructure, offering immense opportunities for growth to the private sector. He emphasised the government's eagerness to modernise infrastructure, resulting in tenders worth around 10 billion euros in the last few months. 90% of India's broad-gauge network is now electrified, a considerable achievement on the global stage and a key contributor to becoming carbon neutral.  

Dr Sanjeev Ranjan, Chairman, National Shipping Board, referenced the Cochin Water Metro project, an initiative that has enabled a seamless, integrated transport solution for Cochin. He also pointed out the disjointed operations of different transport verticals, and how an integrated solution could make commutes easier, prompting a shift from private vehicles to public transport.   

Dr OP Agarwal, Advisor, FICCI Urban Transformation Committee and Former CEO, World Resources Institute (WRI), highlighted the changing policy landscape in India, noting the shift from a rural-focused approach to recognising the inevitability of urbanisation. With India's urban population set to double in the next 25-30 years, Agarwal stressed the need for cities to accommodate this growth and facilitate it. Moreover, he underscored that India's ambition of becoming a $10 trillion or even $30 trillion economy also relies on the capability of cities to enable such growth.    

In his address, Mr Jagan Shah, Resident Senior Fellow, Artha Global and Director, Artha Centre for Emerging Cities; Former Director, NIUA, advocated for innovative thinking and entrepreneurship, encouraging cities to invest in public transport companies or start new enterprises. He underlined that as the Smart Cities mission approaches its ten-year milestone, the challenge remains to upscale the best practices and successful examples to a national scale.     

In addition, the 4th Edition of Smart Urban Innovation Awards, held in conjunction with the 6th Edition of Smart Cities Summit, recognised organisations that have demonstrated exceptional ingenuity in developing innovative and scalable urban projects. The award sets a high benchmark in urban innovation, encouraging companies to aspire towards creating transformative solutions geared towards smart cities.     

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