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While Imphal City Still Lacks Facilities of Even A Regular City, Imphal Smart City Mission Is Not Smart Enough So Far

The much-hyped “Smart City” has become a buzzword for anyone involved in governing a city with the dispensation of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government in India since 2014. Currently, the term is used as a catch-all for various different city development initiatives and concepts by even party workers besides, leaders and ministers.

However, “Smart City” remains opaque and relatively-ill-defined though ministers, mayors, department officials, even blue collar city employees have heard of the concept and are starting to realise its potential for cities large and small.

According to IoT World, a smart city is a municipality that uses information and communication technologies (ICT) to increase operational efficiency, share information with the public and improve both the quality of government services and citizen welfare.

The main goal of a smart city is to optimise city functions and promote economic growth while also improving the quality of life for citizens by using smart technologies and data analysis. The value lies in how this technology is used rather than simply how much technology is available.

A city’s smartness is determined using a set of characteristics, including: An infrastructure based around technology, Environmental initiatives, Effective and highly functional public transportation, Confident and progressive city plans, People able to live and work within the city, using its resources.

It will be knowledgeable to mentions some cities across the world which are leading the path to creating fully smart cities – Barcelona, Spain; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Hong Kong, China; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; London, England; Melbourne, Australia; New York City, New York, USA; Reykjavik, Iceland; San Diego, California, USA; Singapore; Tokyo, Japan; Toronto, Canada; Vienna, Austria

The city state of Singapore is considered to be one of the front-runners in the race to creating fully smart cities, with IoT cameras monitoring the cleanliness of public spaces, crowd density and the movement of registered vehicles. Singapore also has systems to monitor energy use, waste management and water use in real time. In addition, there is autonomous vehicle testing and a monitoring system to ensure the health and wellbeing of senior citizens.

Business Dictionary defines that a smart city is a developed urban area that creates sustainable economic development and high quality of life by excelling in multiple key areas; economy, mobility, environment, people, living, and government.

International Institute of Management Development, Switzerland popularly known as IMD defines a Smart City as an urban area that has become more efficient and/or more environmentally friendly and/or more socially inclusive through the use of digital technologies. The goal of a Smart City is to improve its attractiveness to citizens and/or businesses by enhancing and/or adding city services.

Meanwhile it won’t be wrong to say that members of the general public of Manipur don’t know what a smart city is though they might have come across it in the news.

Unfortunately, in this context, the Manipur Urban Development Agency (MAHUD) under the Smart City Mission is set to undertake a Citizen Perception Survey, 2022 since the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MAHUA), Government of India (GOI) launched the Citizen Perception Survey, 2022 of the Ease of Living Index assessment on November 9.

The MAHUA has launched the Citizen Perception Survey, 2022 with the objective of capturing the perception of citizens on the quality of life in their city. The MAHUD’s task of undetaking the survey is said to help enhance Manipur’s position in the Ease of Living Index which will record suggestions and opinions from the public related to situations around the quality of life in the state.

In 2019, Manipur was ranked 91 out of 111 cities, improving to 50 out of 111 cities of India the following year, i.e, in 2020.

MAHUD commissioner, M Joy on December 7 told the media at City Convention Centre, Palace Compound in Imphal East that the ‘Ease of Living Index’ aims to evaluate the quality of life and the impact of various initiatives for urban development. It provides a comprehensive understanding of participating cities across India based on the quality of life, economic ability of a city and its sustainability and resilience.

The feedback of citizens received through Cyber-Physical System (CPS) will help in improving urban governance through participatory planning and will further aid in formulating better policies for the citizens, Joy added.

Commissioner said a city awareness programme, as part of the multi-pronged approach, is being conducted to promote the survey among citizens at the city level. Media is also one of the seven activities the city has to undertake to create awareness of the survey.

Here, it is pertinent to raise three questions – Why the awarenes programme on smart city has not been done in the last six years since the inception of Imphal smart city mission in November 2016 at the last part of the then Chief Minister Okram Ibobi’s Congress Government? Will the Citizen Perception Survey 2022 through CPS get right feedback from citizens who don’t understand what a smart city is? How much the city awareness programme which is being conducted help the citizens understand in the short time when the survey is already underway?

Apparently, there is a gulf of difference between the global understanding of “smart city” and what we are experiencing in Imphal Smart City Mission.

As part of the Manipur Government’s Imphal Smart City Mission, the MAHUD also announced plans for underground parking at Nupi Keithel Number 2 at Paona Bazar side for about 350 two-wheelers parking allocation besides intelligent traffic light system, emergency call system at 10 places of the city, cycle riding, and streets for people.

Under the Street for People, two pilot projects have been taken up for two street developments. The two pilot projects will take up commercial space and periphery of the city – one between BT Park and Johnstone High School (commercial area) and another at Nongpokthong connecting till Ananda Higher Secondary School at Old Checkon in Imphal East. The Street for People pilot project budget estimate is Rs. 18 crore and it is planned to be completed by June 2023.

It is also said that Nongpokthong Torban will be extended till Minuthong and also Nupi Keithel-Mall Road, which will be condemned by people through social media for naming the Thangal Road in Khwairamband Keithel as Mall Road, will extend to Khuyathong road.

To address the parking problem in Imphal city, it is said that MAHUD is initiating two solutions for the parking system in large scale and mini scale. In the pilot project, four areas have been identified on a rotary basis at Ima Keithel (near the temporary market side), Nagamapal (near Kasturi), Nongpokthong (near Sanjenthong) and near Secure Building complex which can accommodate 42 cars and 70 two-wheelers parking. In large scale, MAHUD has identified two places in multi-level car parking basis at Gandhi Avenue (near quarter) and at Old Power House (Keishampat).

Moreover, according to the completed projects for Imphal Smart City Mission as on December 9, 2022 are Kangla Rejuvenation Program KREP; West Riverfront landscape green Phase I; Development Mall Road Phase I; and West Riverfront landscape green phase 1 (Part) (Resectioning work along western bank of river between Sanjenthog bridge to Minuthog , 1600 m from Sanjenthog.

The Imphal Smart City Mission Projects under Work Order Stage are Nongpok Thong (Bridge) of Kangla; 24×7 Water Supply Power- Smart Grids and Water Supply lines; Nongpok Thong (Bridge) of Kangla (the same project name mentioned twice with different impacts); Tombishina Market; Integrated Command and Control Centre (Urban Transport); and Development of Integrated Control & Command Centre building project (IT Connectivity and Digitalization).

Meanwhile the Imphal Smart City Mission Projects at Tender Stage are App-based systems for cycle pick and go; Emergency Incident Alert and Response Management System (EIARS); Mobile Based KNFB Reader App for Visually Challenged; Area Based Emergency Incident Alert and Response System – ICEIARS; Area Based Smart Security Management System – ABSSMS; Automatic Number Plate Recognition using Cameras (ANPR); E-Challan Application for traffic rules violations, parking violation etc; Imphal City Digital Road Guidance System (ICDRGS); Imphal City Unified Communication, Collaboration and Information Sharing Cloud Platform – ICUCCISP; Safe Imphal- A mobile app for 24×7 safety of citizen and tourists; Smart Traffic Light Management (STLM); and Implementation of GIS Based Property Tax Module.

However, according to Government of India, the purpose of the Smart Cities Mission is to drive economic growth and improve the quality of life of people by enabling local area development and harnessing technology, especially technology that leads to Smart.

In simpleset way, a smart city is a city that uses technology to provide services and solve city problems. A smart city does things like improve transportation and accessibility, improve social services, promote sustainability, and give its citizens a voice. The main goals of a smart city are to improve policy efficiency, effective and smart management of wastes and reduce inconvenience, improve social and economic quality, and maximize social inclusion.

While Imphal City still lacks the structures, facilities and services of even a regular city, most of the projects at all stages of the Imphal Smart City Mission appear to be isolatory, which is not a character of a smart city. It is a common sense that all the structures, facilities and services in a smart city have to be interconnected, coordinated and holistic in nature as well as sustainable using the most modern information and communication technologies. The structures, facilities and services also have to drive economic growth and improve the quality life of people. More importantly, indications of full functionality of public transportation and economic growth are not evident as yet. Now the pertinent question persists – How smart is Imphal Smart City Mission? In Short, Imphal Smart City Mission is not smart enough so far.

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