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Thursday, 18.04.2024
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The National Democratic Alliance government's flagship Smart Cities Mission, launched in 2015, aimed to bring transformative changes in urban governance in 100 selected cities. As the mission draws to a close in June (revised; December 2023 was the first deadline), the performance of the participating cities has been a mixed bag.

A parliamentary panel report tabled last week stated that Tamil Nadu's Madurai was the only city that completed all of its projects by December 2023. Fifty-six cities completed more than 80% of the work in the same time frame. However, in 14 cities, the progress was 50% and below. Port Blair, Saharanpur, Puducherry, Itanagar, Silvassa, Shillong, Atal Nagar, and Gangtok had completed between 16% and 39% of the assigned projects till then, the standing committee on housing and urban affairs stated.

SCM required participating cities to focus on 21 sectors including housing, transport, water, health, solid waste management and smart governance. Here is a look at some of the projects that made the maximum impact on residents in select cities with the highest rates of completion of projects. As of January, out of the total ₹86,850 crore allocated over eight years by the Union and respective state governments, ₹72,571 crore has been utilised.

  • Madurai: Ancient, and smartened up

    Madurai, a temple town, is one of India’s oldest continuously inhabited cities and a popular destination for pilgrims and tourists alike. Making the most of funds and domain expertise provided under the SCM, the city authorities here took up key projects to upgrade civic facilities and give its public places an aesthetic makeover. This included replacing old street lights of the city area with LEDs, restoring the Vaigai riverfront, upgrading the solid waste management and water distribution systems and creating multilevel car parking.

    Ruban Suresh Ponnaiah, chief engineer at the Madurai Smart City Limited, said among all the projects taken up, the renovation of the Periyar bus terminal, spread over 30,500 sq metre, and the construction of the new convention centre at Thamukkam grounds, had the most impact.

    The bus station renovation started in January 2019 to modernise the transit hub. Now the bus station has two levels of basement housing parking spots. Other than these, the revamped bus terminus also houses a police outpost, a transport control office, an emergency medical care point, and cloakrooms. The bus terminus sees the arrival and departure of more than 500 intra and inter-city buses daily and acts as the transit hub. Among the new additions are also dedicated resting areas for drivers and conductors. The revamped bus station was inaugurated in December 2021 after two years of work.

    Ponnaiah said the city did not have many spaces to host exhibitions, meetings, and gatherings. Now, thanks to SCM, it has a convention centre that can host 3,500 persons in a 4,300 sq metre hall, which can be divided into smaller halls using acoustic movable partitions. The facility also has an open ground of 5.6 acres. The entire convention came up at a cost of ₹48 crore and was completed in six months in 2022.

    While both the convention centre and the bus stand are of use, it must be seen how the authorities carry the maintenance of the facilities in the long run, said

    K Hakkim, a civic activist in the city, added that the shopping complex renovation project, which was taken up by the Smart City alongside the bus station revamp, is yet to be opened for use.

  • Surat: Efficiency in service

    Surat in Gujarat was among the cities with the highest rate of completion of projects. It focused on improving services like waste management, traffic, mobility and traffic administration, area-based retrofitting of high-footprint areas, water supply, and recycling among others. Devang Patel, general manager at Surat Smart City Limited said among all these projects, the two most vital missions were the restoration of an old fort and the reuse of wastewater. “These two are not necessarily core civic functions. However, these two projects would not have been possible without the SCM.”

    The restoration of the 1540 AD-built Surat fort spread over 72,000 sq metres at Chowk Bazar has now turned it into a public attraction after years of neglect. A light and sound show on the premises depicts the history of the city and acts as a crowd-puller. The municipal corporation also regularly conducts heritage walks, and the fort plays the venue for many exhibitions.

    The restoration works involved removing excess load and undoing repairs that were done before incoherent with the original structure of the fort. The SCM also engaged in extensive archival research to ensure that the restoration work was based on accurate historical references and information, said Meghavi Desai, executive engineer at Surat Smart City Limited.

    The age-old structure was dilapidated. The restoration project included the relocation of several government offices and services that were operating inside the fort premises like police station, PWD godown, revenue department, registrar, and election department offices. The restored fort was virtually inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in September 2022. Since then, the fort has been a cause of pride for locals and a tourist attraction as well. Patel said that on average 6,000 people visit the fort monthly.

    The other project, Patel said, had a wide impact was the augmentation of reused water capabilities of the city. He said under the SCM, works for augmentation of the Anjana STP (sewage treatment plant) from 82.5 MLD (million litres per day) to 122 MLD and similarly for Dindoli STP from 66 MLD to 167 MLD was carried out. A total of 115 MLD of fresh water is saved currently as the same volume is supplied to industries in the Pandesara Industrial Estate. On the other hand, the city is earning a guaranteed revenue of ₹140 crore annually, he said.

    Mahreen Mattoo, team lead of the sanitation capacity building platform at the National Institute of Urban Affairs, the think-tank of ministry of housing and urban affairs said this is a win-win situation of using used water as advocated by Union government missions and some state government policies. “This not only reduces the supply side stress but also abates pollution,” she said.

  • Indore: Heritage and a side of culinary culture

    Indore is another city that has seen near saturation of all physical projects under the SCM. Indore Smart City CEO Divyank Singh said Chappan Dukaan and Rajwada Palace renovation are the two most effective interventions under the mission. “We have refurbished the entire palace using the original techniques that were used to build the palace. It has now become the tourist hotspot of the city,” he said.

    The 250-odd-year-old structure was refurbished over a period of more than five years for ₹16 crore. Himanshu Dudwadkar, co-convenor of Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage’s Indore chapter said the restoration works by the SCM at Rajwada Palace was a welcome step. On the other hand, he said, “Much of the old city structures were demolished by many road projects taken under the mission.”

    The much-talked-about Chappan Dukan is an area housing 56 eateries (hence the name: chappan means 56 in Hindi) on a 200-metre-long road of 30-metre width. The street was made a pedestrian-only street and various theme-based seating arrangements, street corners, lights and ornamental plants were installed. An underground drainage system was laid and some of the shop facades were modified to compliment the new street design. This redevelopment with ₹5 crore has seen the daily average footfall of the streets double, he said.

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Autor(en)/Author(s): Soumya Chatterjee

Quelle/Source: msn, 14.02.2024

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