What does Rs 1,700 crore ‘Smart City’ plan for Bengaluru involve?

Bengaluru is finally becoming a "Smart City" - but what does it mean? Which areas will get covered, which projects will get implemented?

Even as the leaden, monsoon skies are darkening over an overgrown metro, many might be surprised to learn that Bengaluru was added to the ‘Smart City’ list on June, 2017.

It has become the seventh city from Karnataka to get into the Smart City list. It bemuses many, because the ‘honour’ and implication is still not very well-known to everyone. A year after the city has become part of the list, there is still delay in implementation. Why?

It is a big project, after all, says AR Ravi, Joint Director (Planning), Urban Development Department (UDD). Just the planning and the setting up of the machinery has been taking time. It requires the establishment of a corporate-like Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) which is headed by a full-time CEO to implement the Smart Cities Mission. Various projects can be put into place through joint ventures, subsidiaries, public-private partnerships (PPP), turnkey contracts, and well-fitted revenue streams.

The work is being anchored by a special purpose vehicle that has been constituted in January 3, 2018, according to BM Vijay Shankar, Special Commissioner (Projects), Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP). He explains that the Municipal Commissioner is the Managing Director of the SPV. Two board meetings have been held, with the Project Management Consultancy. An office is being set up and human resource personnel are being hired. The Detailed Project Reports (DPRs) are being prepared for tendering, he confirms. He is firm in declaring that the processes are being put in place.

Pic: Shree D N (file: 2009)

Still, why did Bengaluru manage to make it to the list only in the fourth round of selection? Vijay Shankar, reveals, cryptically, that “the qualification criteria have not been disclosed.” But earlier, according to AR Ravi, the city did not qualify as there was a fixed population cut-off limit for the selection. In 2015, it could not get into the list of capital cities that have been allowed to compete above and beyond the quota allocated to every state. By January 2018, 99 cities had been selected.

What is a ‘smart city’ anyway?

The definition of a ‘Smart City’ varies from city to city, according to the government. It is basically a plan that can help to meet the aspirations and needs of citizens. It aims to develop the urban eco-system by different aspects of comprehensive development. It also needs to factor institutional, physical, social and economic infrastructure.

Seven cities in Karnataka have been allocated Rs 14,000 crore. Namma Ooru Bengaluru is among the 30 cities that have been categorised under this label, and Rs 1,700 crore has been allocated. The nearby areas, cities and towns around Bengaluru are expected to grow as a result of a “trickle-down effect”.

Bengaluru’s Smart City hot spots

At first, the planning does not seem to be very different from the bigger Masterplan for the city, as they seem to be addressing the same problems – roads, area planning. So what is the difference between Smart Cities and the Master Plan anyway?

“Master plan is about zoning and how various parts of city should develop and which parts of city should be reserved for what kind of use,” explains Vijay Shankar to CitizenMatters. “On the other hand, the Smart City mission is about implementation of projects. We have both area-based as well as pan-city development projects. They are about road works, market development, transit hubs, retrofitting of buildings, command and control centers and lake development.”

AR Ravi agrees that there is some convergence of projects and plans, and sometimes they even pose a problem. “With Rs 11,000 crore allocated for development of roads, there would be some overlapping of interests and activities. We are restricted,” he exclaims.

Pan City proposals factor different features that are inclusive, with citizen-centric e-governance and services. The plan is to upgrade the city’s infrastructure as well as participation. The specific institutions that are involved in development include a Grievance Management center, Municipal Finance Reforms, Participatory Budgeting, neighbourhood safety, Property Tax collections, B-TRIPS (Bengaluru transport-related information and planning system), Public Project Management and Data for citizens.

The major key of the smart city project is the  Area Based Development (ABD). About 21.8 sq kms of core areas are getting special attention, with Rs 1,666 crore from the Rs 2,090 crore allocated to the entire Smart City. They involve revitalising the historic heart as well as economic zones of the city.

Itemised project capital cost for Area-based Development:

Project Money (crores)
Revitalisation of historic heart of city 1166.72
Integrated mobility towards creating vibrant destination 234.12
Shivajinagar bus station and Russel Market precinct 233.12
Majestic bus station 1
Upgradation and redevelopment of historic economic centers 184.92
KR Market 53.08
Malleshwaram market 131.83
Innovation of downstream clean-up of drainage system 37.35
Ulsoor Lake 24.42
Sankey Tank 12.94
Protection and redevelopment of centrally located parkland 6.07
Increasing affordable housing stock through slum redevelopment (Swathanthra Palya Slum Redevelopment) 43.93
Retrofitting of a healthcare facility (KC General Hospital) 12.01

Itemised project capital cost for Pan city proposals:

Project Money (crores)
Municipal Finance 1.7
Improvement in property tax collections for the whole city in a phased manner 5
Grievance Management -Central command centre for accepting citizen queries 31.11
Participatory Budgeting 2
Online project information system for public project management 5
Open data portal for citizen information and innovation 5
Improvement of Neighborhood Safety 32.4
B-TRIPS (Bengaluru Travel Related Information and Planning System) 25

Chosen Smart City areas

Revitalisation of historic heart of city has been proposed a funding of Rs 1166.72 crore. There is also proposal for ‘uprgadation of economic centers’. The main areas selected for upgradation include Pete and Cantonment with the old markets and commercial hubs of MG Road, Brigade Road, Chickpet, Avenue Road, KR Market and Commercial Street. Other projects include redevelopment of Shivajinagar and Majestic bus depots, Russell Market, Ulsoor and Sankey lakes, Cubbon Park, Swathanthra Palya slum and KC General Hospital.

Swatantrapalya slum will be redeveloped under Smart City plan. Pic: Shree D N (file: 2013)

Some interesting plans to upgrade K R Market include loading and unloading bays for efficient vehicular movement, smart dustbins, a five-tonne capacity biomethanation plant, 900 smart vendor kiosks and a multi-level car parking system.

In Malleswaram, attention will be on building the parking facility for 375 cars, a water treatment plant, CCTV surveillance, KC General Hospital, Sankey Tank and energy-efficient lighting. Efforts to improve Russell Market include improving the beef market and a pedestrian bridge linking the area to Shivajinagar bus stand.

Total number of PPP projects proposed – 53

  1.    Total Cap-Ex under PPP projects – Rs 276.91 crore
  2.    Funds coming from PPP Players – Rs 234.28 crore
  3.    Viability Gap Funding – Rs 42.63 crore (For Smart Sure project)

Grant released so far

  1.    GoK- Nil
  2.    GoI-Nil

Cleaning up lakes

Downstream clean-up of drainage systems in Ulsoor Lake and Sankey Tank are being considered, involving the development of a water body as a replicable model to reclaim the “dying historic drainage system”. Cleaning and green initiatives will be carried out in 200 acres of the lakes and 2.5 kms of drains in order to create an accessible and vibrant space near the drainage system, improving the water discharge.

Other measures that are considered are: Protection and Redevelopment of the centrally located parkland, increase affordable housing stock through slum redevelopment and retrofitting of a healthcare facility.

Internet of Things (IoT)

Aspects of the project that have been identified for development include 50 smart card-enabled public bicycle sharing points, 30 e-rickshaw stands, 35 e-toilets, water ATMs, 420 sensor-based smart dustbins and 50 designated vending kiosks. All of them are expected to be linked to 1,250 smart telecom towers that will also double as street light poles in roads that would also be characterised by wi-fi.

It would probably take about three years to have mobile apps online. Some of the city’s patches are important for IT initiatives and LED lights. A lot of growth and opportunity has been promised by Taiwanese Information and Communication Technology (ICT) companies. Collaboration in areas such as Electronic toll sharing systems, Metro and public bike sharing can help. Partnerships are being built up in information and communications technology (ICT), virtual reality and artificial intelligence.

Roads to follow SmartSURE model

Integrated mobility to set up vibrant destinations would include approximately seven kms of roads in the central business district area, including MG Road, Brigade Road and Commercial Street. There is a special plan to link them to IoT. Hence, the buzzword is ‘Smart SURE (Smart Specifications for Urban Roads Execution)’ roads, an interesting term has been put together by the civic corporation, referring to the streets that will be IoT-enabled.

Avenue Road is a part of Smart City plan. Pic: Shree D N (file:2013)

It is expected that the project would cost Rs 2,090 crore, for which the civic body will receive an equal share of Rs 500 crore from the state and central governments. The project also hopes to receive funding from a public-private partnership, Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (BMRCL) and Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC).

The innovative development would be conducted over 51.6 kms, or 66% of TenderSURE roads, which maintain certain standards of technology. According to the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, TenderSURE standards include actions such as upgradation and strengthening of carriage ways with uniform lane widths, user-friendly footpaths, essential utility ducts, tertiary storm water drains with proper shoulders, junctions across the roads, bus and auto bays, landscaped footpaths and junctions, street ‘furniture’ including lane marking, cycle lanes, LED street and footpath lights.

Karnataka Urban Infrastructure Development and Finance Corporation (KUIDFC) is coordinating on behalf of BBMP for the release of grants.

E-Mudra to take care of E-security

However, it is possible that IoT makes cities vulnerable to security risk and unethical hacking too. Hence, eMudhra, a Licensed Certifying Authority in India under Controller of Certifying Authorities (CCA), Government of India, in April launched emSecure, an IoT security solution that would support only trusted and safe platform modules.

mLabs, which is in the hub of eMudhra’s Research and Development Center in Bengaluru would be applied for large scale smart city projects. Security and reliable communication between devices as well as reducing human error and intervention would make it a huge asset for the project. Through emSecure, provisioning, deployment and management of identity is streamlined for users, while embedded devices are used through cryptography – Public Key Infrastructure (PKI). It becomes easy to use, getting integrated with various devices.

The plan is ready to launch, yet there are a number of issues waiting to be worked out. Officials say that while the plan is important, floating tenders and launching the Detailed Project Report (DPR) surely takes time for implementation. With work being on the proposals stage, the targets have been identified, yet the goalposts are not fixed. The deadline is “five years”, of which one year is already over.

It remains to be seen whether Bengaluru Smart City project will be ‘smart’ in execution as well.


  1. Amit says:

    Seems to be another jumla before elections, which are over now.

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