BHUBANESWAR: Five years after it topped the Smart City challenge, Bhubaneswar today is one of the most sluggish in terms of key parameters such as project completion and spending.
Only 24 per cent projects have been fully completed under the Smart City programme which kicked off in 2016 with great fanfare. Just about 31 per cent projects (by value) in Bhubaneswar are still in tendering stage posing serious question mark on their implementation on time, reveal data generated from the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs.
While this means that most benefits of the Smart City mission have barely reached the people, poor performance coupled with inadequate spending has brought Bhubaneswar’s rank among Smart Cities down from 1 in 2016 to 22 in 2021.
The No 1 spot among smart cities in terms of overall performance now is occupied by Bhopal, while Bhubaneswar is behind cities like Udaipur, Kota, Tumakuru, Salem, Kakinada, Varanasi, Ranchi, Ajmeer and Tripura.
The Government of India has released and transferred Rs 392 crore to Bhubaneswar while another Rs 100 crore grant remains unreleased yet, thanks to its sluggish financial performance.
Cities like Kakinada, Surat, Indore and Bhopal that made it to the list of smart cities along with Bhubaneswar in Round 1 in 2016 have already received full grants from the Centre.
Bhubaneswar has received the lowest amount of funds compared to these cities under the Smart City Mission.
Such has been its performance in last five years that the city has been transferred Rs 392 crore crore grants compared to Rs 490 crore to Surat, Bhopal and Indore, Rs 485 crore to Kakinada and Rs 441 crore to Vishakhapatnam.
The Ministry sources pointed out that the performance of Bhubaneswar can be gauged from the fact that even cities including Ranchi and Amaravati which were selected in second phase of smart city mission have already availed full Central grants.
The Bhubaneswar Smart City Limited (BSCL) has approximately Rs 190 crore unspent balance. Besides, it is also entitled to an additional Rs 100 crore each from the Centre and State which totals to Rs 390 crore and this needs to be spent by March 2023.
The Ministry sources said drainage and sewerage improvement projects could have been accorded more priority given the need. Besides the Area Based Development (ABD) area of Smart City projects in the capital which is only 3 square km is too less and little efforts have been made to expand it.
In last six months, Bhubaneswar spent only around Rs 11.6 crore a month compared to an average Rs 20 crore a month by 20 other cities. Cities like Belagavi, Tumakeru and Visakhapatnam spent an average Rs 30 crore during this period.
Investment made in operationalisation of the Integrated Command Control Centre or Bhubaneswar Operation Centre also needs to show quantifiable outcomes and impact and more focus needs to be given in creation of measurable impact of such high value projects on citizens, said the sources.