Area-Based Urban Renewal Approach for Smart Cities Development in India: Challenges of Inclusion and Sustainability

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-7635

Article | Open Access

Area-Based Urban Renewal Approach for Smart Cities Development in India: Challenges of Inclusion and Sustainability

  • Sarbeswar Praharaj Knowledge Exchange for Resilience, School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, Arizona State University, USA

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Abstract:  Cities in the Global South face rapid urbanization challenges and often suffer an acute lack of infrastructure and governance capacities. Smart Cities Mission, in India, launched in 2015, aims to offer a novel approach for urban renewal of 100 cities following an area-based development approach, where the use of ICT and digital technologies is particularly emphasized. This article presents a critical review of the design and implementation framework of this new urban renewal program across selected case-study cities. The article examines the claims of the so-called “smart cities” against actual urban transformation on-ground and evaluates how “inclusive” and “sustainable” these developments are. We quantify the scale and coverage of the smart city urban renewal projects in the cities to highlight who the program includes and excludes. The article also presents a statistical analysis of the sectoral focus and budgetary allocations of the projects under the Smart Cities Mission to find an inherent bias in these smart city initiatives in terms of which types of development they promote and the ones it ignores. The findings indicate that a predominant emphasis on digital urban renewal of selected precincts and enclaves, branded as “smart cities,” leads to deepening social polarization and gentrification. The article offers crucial urban planning lessons for designing ICT-driven urban renewal projects, while addressing critical questions around inclusion and sustainability in smart city ventures.

Keywords:  ICT; inclusion; India; smart cities; Smart Cities Mission; sustainability; urban renewal

Published:   17 November 2021


© Sarbeswar Praharaj. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.