NEW DELHI, (Smart Cities News): Imagine clean air every day round in currently pollution-racked Delhi, with sensors monitoring its air quality 24×7. Think of parched Chennai receiving a 24×7 water supply through an intelligent metering system that conserves water traffic chaos disciplined with the help of digital devices.
These scenarios sound almost impossible in India’s meters struggling for years with urban issues such as pollution, water shortage and waste management crisis. However, the government of India planed the smart cities mooted in 2016 to be anywhere close to meeting its first deadline. These could have been a reality today. This is because a smart city, as per the government, is “livable”, “sustainable”, and “thriving”, with opportunities for people to pursue diverse interests.
India’s Smart Cities Mission identified 100 cities, covering 21% of the urban population, for a makeover in four rounds starting January 2016. Each smart city is expected to complete its projects within five years from the date of allocation. These projects are meant to improve core infrastructure and services to make cities more liveable, economically vibrant and environmentally sustainable.
More than 49% of 5,196 project work orders were issued across 100 smart cities in India remain unfinished, as per the government report. Among 33 towns that completed their five-year duration this year, 42% of projects are incomplete.
In 2019, around 470 million people lived in Indian cities, about a third of the country’s total population. India’s urban population is expected to rise to 38.6% by 2026. Rapid urbanisation will pose even more significant challenges related to waste management, air pollution, traffic congestion, scarce resources and more. Smart cities were imagined to be a solution to these concerns.
“The budget allocated from the government of India for each city for five years is around Rs 1,000 crore, which is approximately Rs 196 crore annually. On the other hand, proposals have been planned and designed by the city-level municipal corporation,” Dwivedi explained. “For example, a second-tier city with a government grant of around Rs 1,000 crore has sent a proposal of Rs 2,500- Rs 3,000 crore. The Rs 1,000 crore is like seed funding given by the government, and then based on this seed funding, the special purpose vehicle and municipal corporation have to raise more funds to implement the smart city projects.”
According to the report, the Centre is supposed to release Rs 100 crore annually to every smart city. However, this is subject to submitting a “City Score Card” that will be used to analyse the city’s financial and physical progress, milestones crossed, and the functioning of its special purpose vehicles.
Between the financial years 2015-’16 and 2020-’21, of the 33 cities selected in the first round (including fast-track), the Centre released no funds to two cities for four years, 13 cities for three years, 12 cities for two years and five cities for one year, according to the government report.
The government of India had proposed to spend Rs 48,000 crore each over five years. By June 23, 2021, Rs 40,622 crore 42% of the Rs 96,000 crore was released. Of this, Rs 27,862 crore 69% was utilised, according to utilisation certificates submitted by the cities. Between the financial year 2015-’16 and 2020-’21, of the 33 cities selected in the first round (including fast-track), the Centre released no funds to two cities for four years, 13 cities for three years, 12 cities for two years and five cities for one year.
Four Indian cities such as Hyderabad, New Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru – saw a drop in their positions in the Global Smart City Index 2020, wherein citizens from the 109 cities were surveyed on technological provisions in five key sectors are health, safety, mobility, activities, opportunities and governance.
According to the report, almost 40% of the transportation projects focus on roads and parking lots and 20% on public transportation with only 2% of the transportation budget dedicated to buses.