Mumbai: The government, including local bodies, has to learn to create value from waste and emphasize planned development and traffic management, if it wants to create smart cities, said Nitin Gadkari, Union minister for road transport and highways, shipping, water resources, river development and Ganga rejuvenation, at the Danfoss-Mint annual conclave, Transformation Agenda 2020, on 8 June.

India is facing many problems because it is the fastest growing economy in the world. The failure to control rural-urban migration was one reason for the stress on urban infrastructure, Gadkari said.

There was a time when 90% of the population lived in rural areas. Now, with 25-30% of the rural population migrating to cities, the composition has come down to 60-65%, he said. “We had neglected the rural economy and that is why we are facing huge problems in urban areas," said the minister. He emphasized the need to provide opportunities and infrastructure for rural India.

Gadkari, who also holds the responsibility for implementing the transformation of existing cities into smart cities, said planned development and pollution-free environment are two key issues for the government’s smart cities programme. It has to be a green city, where people can be ensured a sustainable life for the future, irrespective of their economic background, be it the poor or middle class, he said.

To maintain sustainable living standards, various measures have to be taken, including the use of green methods of public transport such as electric vehicles, ethanol, methanol or bio-CNG vehicles, and a traffic management system that would take growth projections into account.

Gadkari cited the example of the national capital, which has been facing high levels of pollution and traffic congestion despite massive road infrastructure, and how the government is taking various initiatives to decongest the city and tackle pollution.

Eastern Peripheral Expressway and Delhi-Meerut Expressway, for instance, would reduce traffic congestion by 41% and help curb pollution levels by 27%, he said. Smart cities, Gadkari said, were a collective effort and citizens need to help the government make their cities clean and green.

Gadkari, who also holds the water portfolio, talked about the need for innovation. He said the water crisis between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka could be resolved by looking at alternative methods.

The government plans to have 2,000MW wind and solar plants at a few ports and this power will be used for desalination of sea and ocean water. Potable water will be provided at 3 paise per litre in southern states, he said.

He also announced his vision for Mumbai under which the centre, along with the state government, is working on a project to reclaim 1,000 acres of land with JNPT to establish a green park.