New age technologies for cities and infrastructure planning

Mar 2024 | No Comment

Integration of land use, utilities, transport and building on a common network helps optimize space efficiency and configurations.

A K Jain

Worked as Commissioner (Planning), Delhi Development Authority and as a member of the Committee of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs on the DDA (2015). He was a member of UN Habitat (2007-12). Author of several books, he is visiting faculty in planning and architecture. He was awarded 2nd Urban Professional Award 2014 at World Urban Forum in Medellin, Colombia and IBC Lifetime Achievement Award (2023), Living Legend (2022) by the Indian Institute of Architects (NC) and the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Smart Habitat Foundation (2022)

During last decade, new age technology has changed the script of urban planning and management. As demonstrated by Smart Cities Mission, PM Gati Shakti Master Plan, the 21.8 km long Mumbai Trans Harbour Link (MTHL) inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 12th January 2024 new technology is vital for delivery with speed, scale and skills.

The breakthrough in digital technology and informatics has multiplied space, energy and time. It is time that new forms of energy, services, construction and recycling are evolved, which are characterized by online exchange of information, interactions, dynamic networks and floating nodes. Integration of land use, utilities, transport and building on a common network helps optimize space efficiency and configurations.

The ICT (Information and Communication Technology), Artificial Intelligence, Big Data Analytics, Machine Learning, Deep Learning, blockchain, GIS, GPS, etc. are disrupting the urban planning processes, infrastructure projects, transport systems, land management and enforcement. In this light, it is urgent to review the drafts of NCR Plan 2041 and Delhi Master Plan 2041.

At the United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP 26, Glasgow, 2021) PM Narendra Modi committed to achieve by 2030, 50% of the power requirement from renewables and reduce the carbon intensity of the economy to 45%. India must achieve net zero emissions by 2070 by clean technologies, like smart grid, electric transport, ethanol blending in gasoline, solar photovoltaic and batteries (Fig.1). At the COP 27 (2022, Sharm-el-Sheikh, Egypt), India launched its long-term Low Emission Development Strategy (LTLEDS) by expanding renewable energy, power grid, and energy conservation, rational use of fossil fuels, nuclear energy, green hydrogen, fuel-cells, and biofuels.

The 28th Conference of the Parties (COP 28, 2023, Dubai) agreed to accelerate climate actions and operationalization of the Loss and Damage Fund and adoption of a framework for the Global Goal on Adoption (GGA) to strengthen action on climate resilience. It focused on climate action and sustainability challenges in the urban sector, building and construction industry. This needs radical changes and use of new technologies in the urban sector.

The PM Gati Shakti Master Plan provides an example of sustainable infrastructure for seamless movement of people, goods and services. It leverages new technologies, breaking the silos of departmentalisation to achieve ease of doing business. It is based on the six core principlesincorporating infrastructure such as laying utilities during the planning phase, enhancing connectivity to help seamless movement, ensuring ecological focus on conservation of forests, biodiversity, rivers, etc., and expeditious clearances.

Prioritisation, synchronisation and coordination are made possible by focussing on each aspect of a project in granularity on one platform with visibility across stakeholders. This also helps drive faster prioritisation and easier synchronisation to avoid delays. The detailed analysis from the data layer ensures better optimisation of project and quick interventions for closure. The Gati Shakti Master Plan has coordinated with the Indian Space Research organisation (ISRO) for spatial planning, engaging BiSAG (Bhaskar Acharya National Institute for Space Applications) and Geo-Informatics. This GIS platform builds over 1200 data layers of Central Government and 755 of the States/Union Territories. Multimodal integration, last mile connectivity and e-governance are the pillars of PM Gati Shakti Master Plan. All the modes of goods and passenger transport are digitised and pooled and adopt Intelligent Transport Systems and transitoriented development. This envisages road design with dedicated tracks for cycles, pedestrians and public transport. The highways, roads and railways provide for safe crossing of pedestrians, prams, wheelchairs and animals.

The Whole of Government platform enables easier collaborations across departments, dramatically simplifying the planning process while ensuring the design that is mindful of all economic and social aspects. Area Development Approach has been conceptualised to create convergence of adequate infrastructure catalysing socioeconomic and sustainable development within a geographical location. Major areas of planning include Integrated Command and Control Centre (ICCC), physical infrastructure, i.e. energy, water supply, sewerage/sanitation, drainage, waste recycling, roads, parking, workspaces and social amenities, such as education, hospitals, parks, art and cultural spaces, tourism, etc (Fig. 2).

According to NASSCOM- McKinsey Report ‘Sustainability Opportunity for Tech Services and Solutions’ (2022) digital technologies such as Cloud, IOT, Blockchain and AI (Artificial Intelligence) can be critical in evolving sustainability solutions, for urban management infrastructure, energy management, property, real estate and buildings which end up benefitting bottom lines and accelerating deliveries (Fig. 3). It is estimated that during next 25 years, the number of buildings in India will be multiplied six times. These have to be net zero and energy efficient. This involves upgrading the power monitoring system, unlocking renewables, smart waste management/recycling with easy to digest dashboards, which provide Real Time measurement of power loads.

The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MOHUA) in 2021 launched the National Urban Digital Mission (NUDM). It aims to push for the digitalization of urban planning and governance by the ULBs. Global positioning systems and satellite-guided GPS devices are being increasingly used for urban surveys, planning and laying of services. By data analytics the plans can be implemented with precision and accuracy.

Under the Geospatial Policy 2022, Digital Twins provides a technology platform for 3D modelling and virtual representation of an object or a system that uses sensors, drones, 5G Internet of Things (IoT) and industrial IoT (IIoT) data. It applies advanced analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to derive real time insight into the performance, operation and sustainability of a project, a city, buildings, energy storage, energy distribution network and renewable energy.

The MOHUA and NIUA, along with the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) have developed The Unified Digital Infrastructure – ICT Reference Architecture Standards (IS 18000:2020) for digitalization of urban practice. The “Unified Digital Infrastructure” comprises the sensors, data systems, IoT systems and platforms. Smart Cities – GIS (IS 18008: 2020) standards define key formats for GIS platforms; and Unified Data Exchange Standards lay out the architecture for instituting data exchanges or marketplaces.

The ‘‘smart nodes on a smart grid’’ concept enables high-speed communication and data management, carbon-emission accounting and performance to optimise their performance, monitoring and maintenance. The Inter Agency and Inter Sectoral collaboration can be achieved efficiently by Digital Infrastructure (Fig. 4). The National Urban Innovation Stack (NUIS) is part of the agenda of digitalization and datafication by creating certain design principles, defining digital components, platforms and standardization. The creation of a “shared digital infrastructure” aims at systematically organizing India’s urban data and employing it for a variety of purposes. It is a collection of cloud-based services, which provide a single capability across multiple urban services, accessible through simple, open APIs compatible with global standards and specifications. Together, these services and standards create a powerful framework to drive convergence and a faster implementation cycle.

The MOHUA has established several assessment frameworks to measure the progress of digitalization and datafication in cities over time. The Data Maturity Assessment Framework (DMAF) and the Integrated Command and Control Centre Assessment Framework (IMAF) have been developed for the centralized monitoring and evaluation of datafication in cities.

The Centre for Digital Governance (CDG) has been established in the NIUA in 2020 to create policies through research, digital infrastructure, platforms, partnerships, and act as an advisory body for the cities. The CDG is guided by two committees, the City Data Alliance (CDA) and the Smart Cities Advisory Forum (SCAF), which are composed of citizens, academia, industry, and municipal agencies.

The Data Analytics and Management Unit (DAMU) coordinates with the cities on datafication, advises cities on data analytics and legal frameworks, creates case studies, and reviews progress of use of data in governance. The SPV hires Project Management Consultants (PMCs) for Area Based Development (ABD), Pan City Projects (PCP), civil infrastructure and digital projects. Data registries enable the planners to have access to common sets of data as a shared resource to improve collaboration and decision making. The strength of the microservicebased stack approach is that each new program creates reusable services, increasing the speed of delivery.

The Integrated Command and Control Centre (ICCC) is one of the key projects under the Smart Cities Mission. The ICCC coordinates multiple municipal functions and operations, and monitors services, transportation, weather, and disasters (Fig.5).

India has been playing a leading role in the field of disaster risk reduction for G 20 countries and has significantly contributed for its mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery, viz. early warning for all, resilient infrastructure, improving finances and capacities for response and eco-system-based approaches invoking geospatial data and new technologies.

Blockchain is emerging as a new age technology for urban development, land management, real estate, title transfer, etc. Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are unique digital assets with distinct properties on a blockchain ledger. These represent unique assets in digital or physical form. The new technology has potential of drastically change the way to manage land management, land pooling, planning and land transactions. Digital distributed ledger technology can simplify the complex and open to manipulation paperwork used for property records. As blockchain is immutable and not easily vulnerable to hacking, title records become verifiable and simple to establish a chain of legal ownership.

The Land Administration Domain Model (LADM) defines the Spatial Units and different forms of property ownership (commonly held, public or private). The differentiation is valid for converting private lands for public use (roads, infra services, facilities, parks, etc.), taking over contiguous parcels of lands, and readjustment of ownerships of remaining private lands. It assigns the class and contains the Rights, Restrictions and Responsibilities, which are the basis of land adjustment, registration and land pooling.


Burry, Mark (2020) Urban Futures: Designing the Digitised City, Architectural Design, Vol. 90 (3) John Wiley, Sussex, UK

IPCC (2021) Climate Change Working Group III, 6th Assessment Report, Cambridge University Press, UK and New York

Jain A.K. (2023) Climate Resilient, Green and Low Carbon Built Environment, Springer Nature, Singapore

Jain A.K. (2021) Environment, Urbanisation and Development, Discovery Publishing House, New Delhi

Jain A.K. (2018) City Planning for a Changing India, Bookwell Publishers, New Delhi

Jain, A.K. (2015) Smart Cities: Vision and Action. Discovery Publishing House, New Delhi,

Khan, Khalil Uttah (2022) Wastewater Reuse, Linear Economy to Circular Economy, Shashwat, TERI, New Delhi

Klaus, Daniels, (1994) The Technology of Ecological Building. Birkhauser, Verlag, Berlin.

Ministry of Commerce and Industry (2023) Compendium of PM Gati Shakti, New Delhi

Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MOHUA) (2018) National Urban Innovation Stack: Strategy and Approach. New Delhi, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs

Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MOHUA) (2018) Data Smart Cities: Empowering Cities Through Data. New Delhi, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs

Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MOHUA) (2018) Data Maturity Assessment Framework (DMAF). New Delhi, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs

Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MOHUA) (2021) Making a City Smart: Learnings from the Smart Cities Mission (Workbook). New Delhi: Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs

Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MOHUA) (2021) ICCC Maturity Assessment Framework (IMAF). New Delhi,

Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs MOHUA (2015) Guidelines for Smart Cities, New Delhi

Muller Dominique (2004) Sustainable Architecture and Urbanism, Birkhauser, Basel

NASSCOM- McKinsey (2022) Sustainability Opportunity for Tax Services and Solutions, Mumbai

NIUA (2022) Climate Centre for Cities, NIUA, New Delhi

Parkar, Khaliq and Uttara Purandare (2023) Decoding Digitization of Urban Governance in India, Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi

UNEP (2019) Global Status Report for Buildings and Construction Sectors, Nairobi

UN Habitat (2021) Blockchain for Urban Development, UN Habitat, Nairobi

UN Habitat and NIVA (2022) Leaving No One Behind, UN Habitat, Nairobi

UN Habitat (2022) Intermediary Cities and Climate Change, UN Habitat, Nairobi

Verma, Seema (2022) Towards Data Science, Reproduced in Shashwat, TERI, New Delhi.

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (1 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)

Leave your response!

Add your comment below, or trackback from your own site. You can also subscribe to these comments via RSS.

Be nice. Keep it clean. Stay on topic. No spam.