NEW DELHI: It was in June 2015 that the NDA government launched the Smart City Mission (SCM) to set up 100 smart cities-all with complete core infrastructure with ‘smart solutions’ and encourage citizens towards clean and sustainable environment.
Over 5,100 projects worth over Rs 2 lakh crore were planned. But despite the lapse of four years, just 8% of the total projects have been completed across cities.
Ministry of Urban Affairs data suggest that of the projects sanctioned, 3,800, worth Rs 1,38,000 crore have been tendered; 3,000 projects worth Rs 94,000 crore have been grounded and 1,000 projects worth over Rs 16,000 crore have been completed.
The Centre is committed to release Rs 480 crore to each of the 100 Smart Cities with a matching amount coming from states to the special purpose vehicle (SPV) created. As of August 28, 2019, the Mission has released a corpus of Rs 17,349 crore to the SPVs.
The data itself is proof of the pace at which work has progressed. Senior officials of the ministry said the process of commissioning projects, creating SPV, appointing officials and making detailed project reports was time-consuming though pace has picked up.
Manvendra Deswal, urban strategist and head of SCM, CII, conceded that the Mission wasn’t moving at the desired pace and one of the reasons was lack of capacity.
“The perception that desired progress is lacking is absolutely right. The key focus of the mission was to integrate technologies with all urban utilities. It requires a certain degree of understanding on part of civic officers on what technology and utility constitute. Due to lack of capacity, cities have not been able to structure their projects as to attract PPP,” Deswal added.
He said the government had launched a national urban learning platform in a bid to rectify this.
A ministry official said the perception that the Mission had slowed was based on wrong assumption that all projects were initiated together. SCM was launched on June 25, 2015 and thereafter, 100 cities were selected in five rounds, spread over two-and-a-half years from January 2016 to June 2018.
“Given that every city gets 60 months to complete their projects, the total mission duration for 100 cities is 6,000 months (or 6,000 city months), out of which only 3,360 city-months of projects have been consumed. This is only 56% or 2.8 years and not 4, as it may appear,” he said.
He said most projects are a first for the country. “Earlier, there weren’t any command and control centres. But now there are 20 and more are on way. Most cities are actively working on areas such as urban spaces, solar energy, safety, public transport, complete streets, and improved citizen services and so on,” he said.