Few smart city projects impact vulnerable sections: Report

The report stated that the projects mostly benefit the middle class and upper class urban residents and do not focus on areas like North Chennai.
For representational purposes (Express Illustrations)
For representational purposes (Express Illustrations)

CHENNAI: Of the 37 projects that have so far been completed under the Smart Cities Mission in Chennai, only seven have a ‘direct impact’ on vulnerable sections, according to a report released by the Information and Resource Center for the Deprived Urban Communities (IRCDUC), on Monday. The report analysed the expenditure and impact of Smart Cities Mission in Tamil Nadu as on June 2021, based on the information available at the web portal of the Smart Cities Mission. 

According to the report, among the seven projects having a direct impact on vulnerable sections, four directly benefit persons with disabilities (PwDs), one benefits children studying in corporation schools, one reaches out to resettled slum dwellers in Kannagi Nagar and another to set up a tele-counselling centre for Covid. “Of the Rs 184.21 crore expenditure, only Rs 3.89 crore has benefited vulnerable sections directly. Of the Rs 3.89 crore project benefiting the vulnerable sections, only Rs 0.77 crore is spent directly for a low-income settlement,” the report stated. 

The report stated that the projects mostly benefit the middle class and upper class urban residents and do not focus on areas like North Chennai. “The analysis also reveals that projects such as Smart Bikes were set up in the most affluent areas of the city benefiting the affluent groups. Most components in the non-motorised transport and walkability sector benefited only people in T-Nagar.”“Of the four programmes for PwDs, three were located in T-Nagar and therefore PwDs across the city were not included in such projects,” it added. 

When contacted, Corporation officials said that Area Based Development (ABD) was a common concept in Smart Cities where an area is chosen and a large portion of projects take place in the area (in this case, T-Nagar). The plan is for the city to learn from these ABDs and replicate the projects wherever possible. 

“However, there are all kinds of people in T Nagar. We have collaborated with vendors in the Pondy Bazaar area and the number of vendors under the flyover have actually increased. We pushed them back and made space so that their customers can spend some time looking through their wares,” the official said. “If you take the Mega Streets project, for instance, areas like Tondiarpet feature prominently,” the official added. 

Under recommendations, the IRCDUC suggests that the Slum Clearance Board’s plans on housing for the urban poor involving public/public-private/public-community-private/public-community models to be linked under the area-development project of the Smart Cities Mission for holistic development. For example, settlements that require housing upgradation and access to basic services may be linked under the area-development project so as to carry forward a cost-effective area-development plan.

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The New Indian Express