According to the United Nations, by 2050, 60% of the world’s population will be living in urban areas [1
]. The opportunities for economic and social benefits could be important reasons for the urbanization and movement of people from hinterlands to big cities [2
]. This would also increase the burden on the environment and the urban areas’ natural resources. The issues that accompany the burgeoning population in cities need an immediate solution to ensure the sustainable coexistence of our society, economy, and environment, which will require a paradigm shift in the management of our cities. Management processes will have to focus on creating unique, innovative, and sustainable solutions [3
]. The evolution of the concept of the Smart City has, over the years, comes to be recognized as a way to adapt to the changing dynamics of the present cities.
Traditionally, “Smart City” has been widely used to refer to innovative, technology dependent, sustainable, efficient, and livable cities of the future [4
]. Information and communication technology (ICT) and big data has been identified as the most important component, as it integrates information from the rest of the components to help in the decision-making process of the management of smart cities [5
]. In smart cities, ICT and big data provides the integration of developed infrastructure, consisting of data from public services, authoritative sources, society, and the participation of private sectors to gain a better understanding for better decision-making for various services. However, it has been accepted that there is no universal definition of “smart cities” [6
]. According to Dameri (2013) [7
], smart cities follow a “bottom-up” approach, suggesting that the concept of a smart city is oriented towards local needs and challenges rather than global, as each smart city may have its own environmental and socio-economic structure. Six dimensions of a smart city have been identified in the literature; a smart economy, smart people, smart mobility, smart governance, smart living, and smart environment [8
]. Making cities sustainable, along with an improvement in quality of life through use of ICT in our daily life, have been identified as key objectives of smart cities [3
According to the World Cities Report (2016) [11
], cities should focus on creating a just environment to ensure justice and equity for an improvement in our quality of life, and also for a sustainable development. Making cities just will require focusing on things such as equal access to resources, poverty alleviation, disaster and hazard management, land use to reduce biodiversity loss and deforestation, and creating a low-carbon and energy-efficient society. The above goals have been integrated from the sustainable development goals, and goal number 11 particularly focuses on making cities more sustainable and livable [12
]. However, creating sustainable cities will need to use big data to overcome the dynamic challenges of cities [5
]. Use of big data, generated from environmental and socio-economic sources, has the potential to prepare a better disaster plan, ensure equitable distribution of resources among people, to improve the livability of cities, and to provide a rapid response to a changing environment [16
The growing population and burden on the scarce resources of Indian cities has led to several social and environmental problems [17
]. The management of infrastructure and resource needs of the urban areas imposes several challenges on policy makers and governments [19
]. These challenges include governance, greenhouse gas emissions, lack of infrastructure, unemployment, high waste generation, unplanned land use, ecosystem degradation, and loss of green space [17
]. Recognizing the immediate needs of the urban areas of India, the Indian government created the Smart City Mission [20
]. However, after the announcement of the Smart City Mission, there has been limited literature on understanding the need for integration of the environment and big data [21
The objective of this paper is to assess the integration of big data technology and environmental components in the Smart City Mission of India. Hence, for the purposes of this paper, the authors have considered smart cities as being a technology-driven urban area to overcome environmental challenges. This paper has been arranged in the following format to address the said objective: the second section of the paper addresses the inclusion of big data and environmental components in the Smart City Mission—for this purpose, key words such as “big data”, “IoT”, “ICT”, “environment”, “green space”, “climate change”, “air pollution”, “energy”, “water”, and “land” were searched in the Mission Statement and Guidelines document [20
]; the third section identifies the well-recognized environmental components of smart cities from recent literature and discusses the need of integrating these with big-data opportunities to achieve environmental sustainability in the smart cities of India.
The growth of smart cities in the future will depend on the success of the inclusion of big data and the management of our resources for society’s use. The importance of our environment and its dependence upon ecosystem services means that it needs to be sustainably managed. Efficient use of environment is going to need good evaluation, monitoring, feedback, and policy formulation, which is only possible through meaningful information. Information on the environment of smart cities can be obtained from several international, national, and local authorities or agencies. Information collected will be big, and will thus require technological expertise for it to be processed. Prior to establishing infrastructure for smart cities, the formation of data centers is paramount, which will lead to the identification of problems and also help in providing solutions. A continuous monitoring system of land use changes, water quality, green space, and energy consumption should be made public through an online platform to ensure that the society is also able to participate.
There are several technological and environmental challenges, which are obstacles to the success of the Indian smart city mission [19
], where policies are still lacking but are essential for each smart city. The first challenge is how presently undervalued environmental components, such as geography, climate, and green space, can be clearly defined and how they can be included in the criteria of the smart city mission for the identification of smart cities. Secondly, in view of increasing natural hazards and climate-related challenges, how to find an equitable way of using resources and provisioning for the future is another challenge which should be the core of the formation of smart cities.
It is imperative that we include various components of the environment’s ecosystem, as these parameters provide a holistic view to the Indian mission of smart cities. A majority of the cities are already reeling under the stress of high pollution, and are amongst one of the most polluted cities in the world. As the majority of the Indian population will be living in cities in the future, the Indian government needs to make preparations in regard to the equitable use of resources to promote sustainable development. This initiative would require inclusion of the parameters discussed in this paper as a vital component of smart city governance, as well as the generation of real-time spatial and temporal data. The digital ecosystem, consisting of big data, ICT, and IoT, should be integrated into our natural environment, which could well make the Smart City Mission in India a success.