New Delhi: Insisting that art should be an integral part of the ongoing Smart Cities Mission, Union culture and tourism minister Mahesh Sharma said that without an adequate platform to showcase the unique culture of each city, the value of smartness would go down.

Speaking at the “Smart Cities, Art Cities" event organised by industry lobby Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry on Thursday, Sharma said: “We must aim to make cities based on the art, tradition and culture of the citizens who reside in them."

In order to facilitate this process, the Delhi Urban Art Commission will soon publish detailed guidelines on the use of public art, said the commission’s chairman P.S.N. Rao. “We have already recommended to the urban ministry to use our guidelines as a template for all the 100 smart cities," he added.

Based on available data on committed investments, each of the nominated smart cities has allocated only around Rs80 crore, on average, for projects that are directed towards enhancing cultural identity and heritage.

Sharma said the government’s push to create a cultural map of India had already registered nearly one crore artists from across the country. “We expect to get about four crore artists registered and also aim to feature their work on a government portal," he said.

Participants at the event also shared ground-level experiences on cultural enhancement from cities nominated as smart cities.

Raphael Gastebois, an urban planner who is part of Puducherry Smart City, said that the Union territory’s initial proposal was to create a greenfield city 10km away from the currently inhabited area which was meant to look like a “small Dubai".

“Thankfully, that idea was dropped, most probably because the smart cities challenge placed a lot of emphasis on citizen participation, which got a 30% weightage in the overall score," he said.

But despite the positives, only one out of the 63 selected projects is connected to Puducherry’s cultural heritage, Gastebois added.

While emphasis on culture is essential, N.S.N.Murty, partner (smart cities) at PwC, warned that Indian cities need to get the “fundamentals right first".

“If I do not get 24x7 water supply, what is the use of a beautiful park in front of my house? Our smart cities need to be made functional first," he said.

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