Implementation of the Smart City project in 60 towns will entail an investment of Rs 1.35 lakh crore and 20 cities have started rolling out their schemes, says Urban Development Minister M Venkaiah Naidu.
While there is a stiff competition among states to get smart city projects in their cities, Uttar Pradesh has so far not shown any interest in the mega scheme, a brain child of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, says the Minister.
The results on the ground of the game changer scheme will be visible soon as the first batch of 20 cities are starting to roll out a range of projects to ensure better living, Naidu told PTI in an interview.
He said smart city mission is a huge landmark and a distinct departure from the past as far as the country’s approach to urban development is concerned. “Cities are now imbibed with a new consciousness to do things differently and with a spirit of competition. Accordingly, this mission is the corner stone of urban renaissance set in motion by this government.
“Under Smart City Mission, a total investment of about Rs 1,35,000 crore has been proposed by the 60 cities that have so far been identified for financing smart city plans. This is a huge leap forward as against the meager investments for urban development in the past,” he said.
Identifying waste management as a challenge, Naidu said cities across India generate around 65 million tones of solid waste every year and government has drawn up a plan to convert the refuse into 50 lakh tones of compost and generate over 400 MW of power from it.
Naidu was critical of Samajwadi Party government in Uttar Pradesh for not being forthcoming in taking advantage of Centre’s various urban development schemes including the smart cities project.
Implementation of competition-based smart city mission has helped make a paradigm shift in addressing problems of the cities.
Naidu said the states and urban local bodies, known for the notorious ‘business as usual’ and callous and lethargic approach to urban governance, planning and execution, are now looking forward to recasting the urban landscape with a spirit of competition.
“For the first time, all statutory urban local bodies have been evaluated for the current levels of infrastructure and financial and technical and administrative abilities,” he said.
Naidu said for the first time, 100 cities accounting for one third of the total urban population have come out with comprehensive action plans based on detailed assessment of infrastructure deficit, resource availability and capacity to mobilise resources which is “remarkable”.
The government has already announced the names of 60 cities that would be developed as ‘smart cities’ and plans to a new set of 40 cities early next year.
Rejecting criticism that smart cities project was anti-slum dwellers, he said housing was an “important integral part” of the mission to take care of the slums and this denunciation has more to do with politics.
“The mission has taken off and is running ahead of schedule. Results on ground would soon be felt as the projects of first batch of 20 cities take shape. The mission is off to a great start and will be a game changer as we go along,” Naidu said.
The minister, however, said converting the cities and making them better for living “cannot be done overnight”. “It takes time. It’s not like Aladdin ka chirag (Aladdin’s lamp).”
The government set itself a target of completing the ambitious initiative by 2019-20. It is providing financial support of Rs 48,000 crore under the project with each of the cities being given Rs 500 crore.
Naidu said selected cities under the project will have features such as assured water and power supply, sanitation and solid waste management systems, efficient urban mobility and public transportation, IT connectivity, and e-governance.