How Kolkata Can Become ‘Smart’ by Improving Its Infrastructure

By 2050, about 70% of the global population will be living in cities, and India is not any exception. McKinsey Global Institute report states that 590 million people by the end of 2030 will be living in Indian cities, which is almost double the population of the US today.

According to the report, an estimated investment of $1.2 trillion will be needed to facilitate the infrastructural developments on a land space of approximately 700900 million sq. metre to cater the pro-urbanization population surge in these Indian cities.

Keeping this in mind the union government of India is aggressively pushing its flagship initiative — called the “Smart City Mission” — which recently got its first international endorsement by the London School of Economics. A study conducted by the public research university has hailed the central government’s effort, stating that Indian smart cities could become a model for other cities around the world.

Kolkata, among other Indian cities, is also on a ‘smart overdrive’, being led by smart, innovative urban services reforms. For instance, Kolkata has for the first time officially shifted to an online unit-area based property tax system called the Unit Area Assessment (UAA) method. The introduction of this state-of-the-art taxation system — initiated by the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) with effect from 1 April 2017 — is a milestone that has been achieved after decades of active association with the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

The newly launched interactive web-based taxation system will serve as a base platform for better tax collections, as well as urban reforms. This online platform, designed for both citizens and civic body members, will drastically advance e-governance and delivery of public services through Geographic Information System (GIS) that will digitally map properties and utilities.

Kolkata residents, with the help of this new service, can now self-assess their property taxes and pay it online or at collection counters spread across the city. All property owners will be allocated digital IDs, which in future will enable the citizens to access and pay for various other public services directly from the web interface.

More Progress Soon on Smart Water, Flood Management

KMC’s drive for smart water and improved flood management will soon see a noteworthy progress as far as managing water supply and urban disasters are concerned. KMC is collaborating with the private sector to develop and implement an early alarm system so that citizens can receive instant warnings by SMS or other means in the case of a disaster. Smart meters are being installed to precisely calculate the water wastage per user. This initiative will be a significant game-changer in reducing water loss.

KMC, in addition, is modernising the city’s customer service centres by connecting them to a centralised computer system that will collect data and analyse it in real-time. The relevant data will be linked to the GIS system so that KMC can promptly address customer complaints and act on them immediately.

Wi-Fi Hotspots to Be Developed under the Smart City Plan in Kolkata

The New Town Kolkata Development Authority (NKDA) is working out strategies to create Wi-Fi hotspots in Kolkata’s New Town. NKDA is currently preparing bid documents to invite private partnerships for the project. The New Town Kolkata Development Authority has engaged KPMG, a professional advisory service company, as consultants to counsel them in implementing the Wi-Fi hotspots in accordance with Kolkata’s Smart City Plan.

Kolkata has an estimated population of 4.6 million and the total urban area population — including the suburban population — of nearly 14.3 million. Transforming a city of this proportion is not only exceedingly challenging, but it’s also a herculean task that needs long-term planning and engagement across multiple projects.

Thanks to Kolkata Municipal Corporation, the city in recent times is undergoing a paradigm shift through rapid adoption of smart city initiatives like waste minimization, solid waste management, source segregation, and proper waste disposal. Taking into account the ongoing efforts, it truly seems that Kolkata will turn into a smart, resilient, and green city sooner than expected.

Kolkata, in near future, will be a smart urban venue and a model for other Indian cities. The city will enjoy world-class amenities like online access to public services, smart meter technologies, impeccable solid waste management facilities, and improved resource recovery. Kolkata will also be a climate-resilient city, equipped and capable of taking care of its residents when a climate-related disaster strikes. With all the actions taken by various authorities, Kolkata can become ‘smart’.

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