The 'Smart Cities Mission' announced in India two and a half years ago has been one of the Modi government's most ambitious projects'. The intent is to make the citizens' quality of life a sustainable and friendly one through restoration and retrofitting of cities.
As per the selection process carried out by the government, it must be recalled that 90 cities had been selected for a transformation to 'Smart Cities.' These 90 "Smart Cities" identified 2,864 projects. However, the progress has not been satisfactory. As per the data released by Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry, the year 2017 ended with only 5.2% of the total identified projects being completed which is just 1.4% of the total envisioned investment of Rs 1,35,958 crore.
According to Union Housing and Urban Affairs Minister Hardeep Singh Puri, "As on January 17, 2018, there were 2,948 projects worth Rs 1.38 lakh crore in various stages of implementation, while 189 projects worth Rs 2,237 crore have been completed." Further, 'Smart City Centers', have become operational in only four cities - Pune, Surat, Vadodara and Kakinada. The work continues in 18 more cities.
Hike in the Budget for Smart Cities Mission:
Nevertheless, the government has gone on to add 9 more cities to the mission, making it a total of 99 now. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley stated at the budget presentation of 2018-19 that the total proposed investment in the 99 Smart City Mission now stands at Rs 2.04 lakh crore, adding that "Infrastructure is the growth driver of the country."
Inclusive of the 9 new cities to the Smart Cities Mission in the fourth round, the allocated funds from the center to the states have increased to Rs. 9940 crores. The nine cities are - Bareilly, Moradabad and Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh, Silvasa in Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Diu in Daman and Diu, Kavarati in Lakshadweep, Erode in Tamil Nadu, Bihar Sharif in Bihar, and Itanagar in Arunachal Pradesh. Shillong could be the 100th city if it submits its proposal in the next three months to the Centre. According to Union Housing and Urban Affairs Minister Hardeep Singh Puri, "The nine cities selected have proposed an investment of Rs 12,824 crore... which would be impacting 35.3 lakh persons living in these areas." He added, "These cities have proposed to take up various project, including "smart" roads, rejuvenation of water bodies, cycle tracks, walking paths, smart classrooms, skill development centers, up gradation of health facilities and pan city projects like integrated command control centre."
The city-centric data:
GIFT: The GIFT city could be India's first operational Smart City. It also intends to create one million jobs by 2025. An investment of Rs. 10,500 crores have been committed towards the development of GIFT.
Canada-India Initiative: Lack of governance and capacity building in many states has contributed to the slow growth of Smart Cities. But a Canadian-Indian Initiative to train smart city planners in the aforementioned categories, has been proposed. The Canada-India Centre for Excellence (CICE) has already developed a 'Smart Cities Navigator' portal to identify the investment opportunities in India by Canadian investors/companies.
Pune: Panchshil Realty and Developers, Switzerland’s Carbon Asset Management Ag (CAM), Korea’s Smart City Korea (SCK) and Posco E&C have formed a joint entity 'to develop real estate projects in line with the government’s Smart City initiative in India.' The first such project will be developed in Pune's Kharadi area with an investment of Rs. 3200 crores over 120 acres.
Hyderabad: A fund of Rs. 200 crores have been raised by selling muni-bonds by the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation for their Smart City project. The municipal intends to strengthen their road projects in the form of building more flyovers and underpasses and widening existing lanes and roads.
Jaipur: Harmonizing modernity and heritage, under the Smart City Mission, Jaipur will be transformed through projects that will revamp and beautify facades, restore the traditional buildings, and focus on buildings 'smart roads' with integrated traffic management system - electric poles with CCTV cameras, Wi-Fi system, intelligent lights, environment monitoring system, information display system, charging points, bins with sensors, and safe movement of pedestrians.