Sustainable Urban Networks For Dynamic and Resilient (SUNDAR) INDIA

The accelerated pace of urbanization will add 2.5 billion people to the cities of the world in the next three decades. Rapid urbanization offers opportunities and presents challenges, particularly in the context of economic development, energy use and environmental sustainability. In the context of India, the challenges are much larger. Indian cities lag on the quality-of-life metrics compared to their global peers. While infrastructure development will be central to building livable cities, energy use is at the heart of keeping the city running. Achieving sustainable urbanization will require high-quality electricity as cities expand vertically, 24X7 operations are routine, electric vehicles become the norm and digitization accelerates rapidly with 5G networks.

Indian cities have traditionally ignored sustainability considerations. Further, fractured mandates across multiple agencies, lack of coordination across departments and a short-term approach to infrastructure development have all led to suboptimal outcomes. This report examines the proposition that restructuring the arrangements under which city utilities operate their mandates, their spatial responsibilities, and their scale of operations, can deliver benefits of efficiency enhancement through integrated planning and implementation of infrastructure development.

The case of sustainable electricity is chosen as a proxy for the kind of improvements possible across the entire set of city management functions. This choice reflects the future reality that the supply of good quality and reliable low carbon electricity, at reasonable rates, will be at the heart of utility service improvements across the board - reducing the air pollution in cities, providing “green” public transport, improved tele-connectivity and internet services, high quality electricity, water and waste management, ensuring 24X7 digi-intelligent public safety.

The evidence from this research points to a significant upside potential in implementing integrated urban planning. Different models are available of which many have been tried, though at limited scale and in special settings. Learning from these experiences and scaling up the effort to integrate infrastructure (electricity, transport, water, IT, telecom etc.) more systematically in urban planning and delivery of services can enable higher efficiencies, improved quality of life and transition to clean energy.

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