Smart cities gets nod from centre

Smart cities and urban rejuvenation programme for 500 towns and cities received an approval from the cabinet. The initiatives are aimed at reorganization of urban landscape and to make areas more livable and inclusive, besides driving economic growth. A sum of Rs.98,000 crore has been sanctioned to execute these schemes in the next five years.

The work is to be undertaken for smaller cities and towns with one lakh or more population under a new scheme named after former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, called, ‘Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation’ (AMRUT). The centre will spend Rs.50,000 crore for the scheme.

The cities have been selected through a ‘city challenge’ competition under the smart city initiative . Cities will get central aid of Rs.100 crore per year for five years. In order to initiate, around 20 cities would be chosen for the central assistance after state governments come forward with names of cities they want to nominate.

A ministry spokesperson said that criteria for competition would be finalized soon and these will be linked to financing with ability of the cities to perform and achieve mission objectives. The smart cities mission intends to promote adoption of smart solutions for efficient use of available assets, resources and infrastructure with the objective of enhancing the urban life and providing a clean and sustainable environment. Special focus will be on adequate and clean water supply, sanitation and solid waste management, efficient transportation, affordable housing for the poor, power supply, robust IT connectivity, e-governance, safety and security of citizens, health and education.

The projects will be implemented through area-based approach. AMRUT will focus on basic infrastructure services such as water supply, sewerage, storm water drains, transport and development of green spaces and parks with a provision for meeting the needs of children.

Gulam Zia, executive director, Knight Frank India commented,”The scope of improvement under the Smart City Mission is ambitiously widespread to include water supply, sanitation, waste management, transportation, housing for poor, power supply, among others. For a mid-sized city these aspects can be comfortably worked upon and developments can be noticed within the average budgetary allocation of 500 crore per city. So cities like Varanasi, Vizag, Ajmer etc. can stand to draw huge benefits out of this mission. However, for a city like Mumbai wherein transportation projects like the Trans Harbour Link or the Metro Phaze 3 can itself cost upwards of 10,000 crore each, the proposed amount may not even suffice for a fraction of the interest cost of these projects. In such cases a balanced allocation of resources will be the biggest challenge. Moreover, the fear that real estate may take precedence over the broader economic growth agenda looms large in such situations, as observed in the case of SEZs earlier, wherein the carriage was seen pulling the horse.”

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