How Long Before We Are Actually 'Smart'
Over the last few months, 'Smart' has been the buzzword. The real estate fraternity, consumers, and even critics have hailed the concept. Although it looks futuristic, it sets a ground and a direction that was long ignored. The excitement around this buzzword was so high that developers came out with new marketing strategies revolving around it. Smart projects where you could walk to work came to the force, automated homes with intelligent technologies, well-thought plans for building, plans for Metro network and better connectivity and many more suddenly became the talk of the town. But, what will it take to get really 'Smart'?
Let's talk about Chennai. The southern city has been ranked highly in many of the surveys that talk about it as one of the upcoming global realty destination. In yet another survey, Chennai was put right on top (in India) for being the best when it comes to safety. Yet, stretches along Chennai-Tiruvallur High Road, 100 Feet Road, Beach Road, New Avadi Road, Kathipara Junction etc have been projected as accident prone areas.
What is more, the floods that wreaked havoc on the city in late 2015 has also been mapped on to faulty urban planning. Building violations, illegal constructions along catchment zones, poor sewerage lines did lead to loss of many lives.
In Kolkata, too, collapse of the under-construction Vivekananda Bridge is another example of ignoring spatial balance. It was already years behind schedule despite multiple changes to the design.
In Pune, collapse of some unauthorised buildings in Narhe was a cause of anger among consumers who may have overlooked the importance of the occupancy certificate for a little benefit in terms of cash discounts.
In Delhi, unauthorised colonies offer cheap homes on sale but issues such as water lines, sewerage connections, electricity and basic amenities that the corporation provides may not benefit such areas.
Mumbai, also known as the Maximum City, has some of the costliest buildings and houses and also, the most number of billionaires in the country. Contrast this with the minor hubs of economics in the city which is the slums.
Hyderabad, too, often touted as the most affordable metro city had its own case of illegal constructions.
Therefore while many of these cities did make it to the list of Smart Cities, in the wake of the above, here's what it would take to be Smart:
Smart Cities can materialise only if the citizenry is involved and educated to handle and maintain the services. Encroachments, malpractices, use of technology and efficient utilisation of resources are some of areas that require a lot of attention.
As people migrate to big cities for work, if the agenda of 'Housing For All' still holds ground, we are half smart already. Resource crunch is massive at the moment. There are more plyers than what the Metro network or other public transport services can carry. There are few good roads that can facilitate smooth traffic. Hence, as cities turn popular with respect to growing job opportunities, the tension is felt in the realm of infrastructural resources.
Sustainable urban planning such as dedicated space for transit corridors, for the economically weaker section, for leisure and entertainment, for retail and industry will go a long way to balance these odds.
This does not in any way mean higher pricing. Construction costs have been climbing and while developers are willing to negotiate, the percentage is not too appealing. When traditional ways of construction cannot give consumers the price benefit, it wouldn't be a bad idea to resort to upcoming techniques. Prefab technology that has been making inroads into the Indian real estate industry has found few evangelists even though it promises to save time, human labour and money.
So, when the developer completes a project at a lower cost, the benefit is passed on to the home buyer as well.