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Almost four years after the announcement, projects under the Smart City Mission are yet to see the light of day

First Dharamsala and then Shimla — both cities were brought under the National Smart City Mission. The prior selection of Dharamshala had triggered a row among the then ruling Congress, Opposition BJP and the CPM.

Almost four years down the line, neither Prime Minister Narendra Modi nor Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur talk much about the much-hyped Smart City projects.

It was only last week, when the Chief Minister laid the foundation stones of some of the Smart City projects in Dharamsala to avoid a backlash from the Congress and the CPM on the “dismal performance of Smart City projects in Shimla and Dharamsala. This has once again brought into focus the Smart City projects in these two major power centres — Shimla and Dharamsala — of the state.

Fate of projects hangs in balance, courtesy NGT ban

The fate of Smart City projects worth Rs 1,500 crore in Shimla remains uncertain due to the ban imposed by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on construction activities in core and green areas of the city since November 2017. The government is yet to bail the city out from the NGT’s restriction from the Supreme Court, though it has been talking about it for long.

A seven- member Board of Directors (BoD) of the Shimla Smart City Project Ltd (SSCL) was constituted in March 2018 and received a grant of Rs 19 crore. The state government prepared a “smart city way forward document” with projects worth Rs 2,906 crore. But the board is yet to appoint consultants for preparing the detailed project reports for these projects. The board members, including Shimla Mayor, plead that the state government should find a legal remedy to NGT’s order, which has put most of the Smart City projects worth Rs 1,500 crore on hold.

The consequences thereafter...

Smart City Projects aim at refurbishing and retrofitting of the old and dilapidated buildings located in Ganj Bazaar, Lakkar Bazaar, Lower Bazaar, Middle Bazaar, Ram Bazaar and many other old localities in the core area of the city, where new construction has been banned, ward councillors said.

The order shattered the dream of house owners of merged areas, who have been seeking one-time settlement policy to regularise their houses, which were built when these areas were not part of the Shimla MC.

“The NGT only hears the plea of NGOs, but that of house owners of merged areas are not heard,” said Govind Chatranta, convener, Shimla Upnagriya Samanvay Samiti. The NGT exempted the health institutions from its order, but the fate of Rs 45 crore regional cancer centre at the IGMC and Hospital in the core area of the city still hangs in balance. “The government has taken the matter with the NGT. But the funds will lapse after March 31, 2019,” said head of cancer centre Dr Manish Gupta. “We have a hope now as the government has got relief from the NGT and the project will see the light of the day,” he said.

On the other hand, the SSCL was hiring consultants for Smart City projects, who would design, develop, manage and implement the projects in the city. “But the NGT ban has stalled the process started by the SMC. Central government’s Smart City Mission remains confined to its files,” said SSCL members. Shimla Mayor Kusum Sadret said: “The Smart City projects will see the light of day once the government gets relief from the NGT order. We have taken up 12 projects that need no permission from the NGT.”

“Funds are not an issue, but the fact that the DPRs are not ready is,” said an official of the Smart City projects. “The funds for Smart City depend on how much we spend. The more we spend, the more we will get,” he said.

Drone survey data

Shimla Municipal Corporation (SMC) generated a complete data on water supply, transmission lines, water sources, consumers’ usage for 24x7 water supply project in the capital city on 60,000 households through a drone survey done for the first time in the country. The data will also be used for executing Smart City projects and for redressing citizens’ grievances, officials said.

According to SMC officials, the drone surveyed over 60,000 households and captured images of buildings, plots, parking, roads, paths, transmission and water supply lines, vegetation and empty spaces in its high-resolution cameras.

The survey started in September and the data generated by drones was then verified physically by the surveyor company by going door to door to get the latest information on the size of family, demand for water and existing usage,” said Dharmender Gill, Chief Executive Officer, Shimla Jal Prabandhan Nigam (SJPN) of the SMC.

Fund Smart City projects in 90: 10 ratio, demands state

Reeling under a severe fund-crunch, the state government-run civic body has sought 90 per cent funding from the Centre for “all Smart City projects in Shimla and Dharamsala on the ground that Himachal is a special category Himalayan state and the civic bodies are not in a capacity to fund 50 per cent of the project cost as mandated under the National Smart City Mission”.

According to official sources, it has become next to impossible to fund 50 per cent of the cost of the projects from the kitty of the civic body as per the provisions of the Smart City guidelines issued by the Ministry of Urban Development. The rest of the 50 per cent funds for the projects will come from the Centre that, too, are being raised from loans from the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, sources said. The Centre would give Rs 500 crore, while the designated Smart City will provide a matching grant as laid out in the smart city guidelines. “The state government is yet to take a call on funding Smart City projects with the Centre. Himachal is a special category state and it is logical to plead its case with the Centre,” he said.

7-member Smart City Board

The state government constituted a seven-member board of the special purpose vehicle (SPV) of the Shimla Municipal Corporation (SMC) recently, while the SPV of Dharamsala Municipal Corporation (DMC) was notified in June 2016. The SPV is mandatory under the Smart City guidelines to get funds from the MoUD under the mission. The MoUD has cited examples of cities including London, Dubai and New

York and others to increase user charges to “enhance the source of income” of municipal corporations of Shimla and Dharamsala, The municipality should increase its income from the levy of property tax, profession tax, entertainment tax, advertisement tax, Octroi and entry taxes and user charges from parking fee, water and sewerage, sources said. SMC and DMC have overcome the stage-I challenge, both bodies prepared Smart City proposals after getting Rs 2 crore grant from the MoUD, which would be adjusted in the share of each city.

In the first year, the MoUD proposes to give Rs 200 crore to each selected Smart City to create a higher initial corpus. Each Smart City is to get Rs 194 crore out of Rs 200 crore in the first year, followed by Rs 98 crore out of Rs 100 crore every year for the next three years, an official said.

But the SMC is yet to start the charging of green fee from tourist vehicles that is expected to give it Rs 10 crore to Rs 15 crore per year. SMC is charging property tax, user charges on garbage and sewerage from residents to comply with the Smart City guidelines, MC officials said.

‘Will take up 12 projects’

We held a series of meeting and have decided to take up 12 different projects, including widening of ambulance roads, construction of e-toilets that will take some shape by March this year. We expect that the issue of ban on construction in the core area by NGT will be taken up by the state government to get relief from the Supreme Court. —Kusum Sadrate, Shimla Mayor

‘Have received Rs 19 cr’

We have received Rs 19 crore for putting in place the system to execute Smart City projects. We are appointing consultants who will prepare detailed project reports for its implementation. We are carrying out projects as per norms. As far as the ban on core areas is concerned, we will take up those projects first that do not need NGT clearance. We can carry out retrofitting of buildings and can rebuild old structures. —Sunil Chaudhary, Chairman, Divisional Commissioner, Shimla Smart City Mission

‘Was just a political stunt’

Nobody in the BJP government now talks about the Smart City, as it was a political stunt. Nothing has been done by the BJP-headed Shimla Municipal Corporation and the state government on the Smart City projects. We fought a legal battle to earn a Smart City tag for Shimla, as neither BJP nor Congress preferred this status for it as they had given preference to Dharamsala. The status of Shimla has gone from ‘smart to not so smart’, as we see more traffic chaos, congestion and dirt in the city. Nothing has been done to decongest Shimla. —Sanjay Chauhan, Former Mayor, Shimla MC

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Autor(en)/Author(s): Kuldeep Chauhan

Quelle/Source: The Tribune, 26.01.2019

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