Five years on, Modi government's Smart Cities project stuck in doldrums

In 2014, when the central government launched the Smart Cities Mission aimed at developing a 100 smart cities over five years, it was touted as the biggest urban reform in India.

Published: 16th April 2019 01:38 AM  |   Last Updated: 16th April 2019 11:37 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

In 2014, when the central government launched the Smart Cities Mission aimed at developing a 100 smart cities over five years, it was touted as the biggest urban reform in India. But, despite a strong push from the centre, not much progress has taken place in most of the cities chosen for the mission. Five years on, the project is still to overcome squabbles between municipal bodies who control the cities and central authorities who are pushing for the mission. 

According to a Lok Sabha submission by the Ministry of Urban Development and Housing, a total of 5,151 projects worth Rs 2,05,018 crore have been included by the selected 100 cities in their Smart City Proposals (SCPs). However, as on January 25, 2019, only 2,748 projects worth Rs 1,04,964 crore have been tendered, of which just 2,032 projects worth Rs 62,295 crore are under implementation or have been completed.

“Barring a few cities, like Pune and Bhubaneshwar, the project has not moved much. Not even the selection of cities which won in the first round is complete,” a senior official in the Ministry of Urban Development told this publication. For instance, in Bhopal, the ministry has spent Rs 750 crore so far, out of which Rs 690 crore has been spent on the smart or intelligent street light project alone, while nothing much has happened in accompanying area-based development projects.

Barring the top few cities, a lack of basic amenities like water, sewerage, and road infrastructure has made it difficult for municipal bodies to mount a proper effort, with city administrations content with dragging their feet.

One major challenge for many smart city candidates is the shortage of water. Cities like Chennai, Coimbatore, Solapur, Indore, Visakhapatnam, and Solapur are in the midst of a water crisis, with progress on the Smart City mission taking a back seat.

In other cities like Ludhiana, Guwahati, and Kakinada, where footpaths are in short supply and roads are highly congested and narrow, projects like cycling tracks and smart mobility concepts are difficult to implement. Many cities also have dismal IT infrastructure, making a city system based on Internet of Things technology appear a distant dream.

In the case of  Delhi, at least 45 per cent of the total area of the city has no sewerage facilities. According to an affidavit filed by the Delhi Jal Board, almost 60 per cent of the city’s untreated sewage, accounting for more than 500 million gallons a day, gets dumped into the Yamuna river. 

Poor infra woes

  • Barring the top few cities, a lack of basic amenities like water, sewerage, and road infrastructure has made it difficult for municipal bodies to mount a proper effort.

  • Cities like Chennai, Coimbatore, Solapur, Indore, Vishakapatnam and Solapur are dealing with a water crisis.

  • In places like Ludhiana, Guwahati and Kakinada, where footpaths are in short supply and roads are highly congested and narrow, projects like cycling tracks and smart mobility are difficult to implement.

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