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Published : November 30, 2016 | Author : surabhi bhola
Category : Miscellaneous | Total Views : 1547 | Rating :

surabhi bhola


Smart Cities - Challenges On Way Ahead

To meet the mission of ‘housing for all’ by 2020, the Government of India launched its flagship project of Smart Cities. This was followed by release of Mission Statement & Guidelines (“Guidelines”) by the Ministry of Urban Development (“MoUD”) in June 2015. These Guidelines outline the smart cities features, its selection process, implementation mechanism, financing, fund release, mission monitoring etc. The Smart Cities Missions targets to cover 100 cities in duration of five years beginning from financial year 2015-16.

The Guidelines elaborate amount of funds that has been allocated by the Government for financing the Smart Cities Mission and the manner of release and utilization of such funds. The process of implementation of the smart cities project through formation of special purpose vehicles has also been clearly laid down under the Guidelines. In furtherance of the Smart Cities Mission, MoUD has announced 98 (ninety eight) shortlisted cities across India as cities having potential for development of/as smart cities.

The projections made by the Government indicate that through the Smart Cities Mission the Government intends to achieve overhauling of the all Indian cities. The Government aims to achieve its mission of smart cities by introducing and employing the concepts of retrofitting (improvement of existing city), redevelopment (renewal of existing city), greenfield project (city extension) and pan-city development (application of smart solutions to the existing city-wide infrastructure). The task in hand is humongous and needs efficient use of resources, strategic planning and strong legal framework. Announcement of the project and release of Guidelines seem to be a hush-hush affair as despite outlining various aspects of the Smart Cities Mission, there are number of issues that have not been addressed and likely to pose as challenges for the mission on its way ahead.

Extent of smartness: Through various discussions and the Guidelines it is being projected that the smart cities will provide smart solutions to infrastructure and services. The Guidelines prescribes list of features of a smart city. Much emphasis is being laid on IT enabled infrastructure and services in a smart city. A close look at the condition of various cities indicates that the cities lack basic facilities and infrastructure such as 24x7 water supply, roads, waste treatment facilities, regular and continuous electricity supply, garbage disposal system, adequate parking spaces, housing for migrants and urban poor etc. Ideally, the Government should focus on providing these basic facilities and infrastructure for its population in exiting cities. Further, government should also aim to make these cities as inclusive cities (i.e. to have adequate housing and other amenities for migrants and urban poor) which would automatically make them smart cities.

Once the existing infrastructure and services of optimum standards are provided (may by retrofitting or mix of retrofitting and redevelopment) and existing cities are rejuvenated thereafter only the Government should target creation, development and setting-up of new smart cities in a planned manner (i.e. greenfield projects). Thus, it is necessary for the Government to explicitly clarify meaning and objective of smart cities. The extent of smartness that is to be achieved needs to be defined.

Choice of cities: Secondly, choice of cities is also a challenge. The criteria laid down in the Guidelines for selection of cities for Mission Smart Cities indicates that the cities/areas which are already under the process of development or have various favourable factors will be preferred. Whereas, the clear aim of such kind of mission should be to target the cities / areas where no development has taken place or which lags behind due to inadequate resources.

In achieving its target of smart cities by the timelines specified, another prime challenge is to quantify the funds required for each city and to make arrangements for the same. Though funding of Rs.100 crores for every city over a span of five years of project implementation has been assured by the Government but the committed funding for sure is grossly inadequate to develop a smart city from scratch. The urban local bodies and states/union territories need to chalk out innovative schemes for collecting funds and inviting investments for financing development of smart cities. Collection of pending property tax/municipal tax or introduction of new taxes is few of the suggested ways. However, it is pertinent to note that in many states, legislations or policies regarding applicability of the property tax are still ambiguous or are in nascent stages. Introduction of new types of taxes/levies is a time consuming process and will lead to increase in burden on assesses/residents. The states/union territories and urban local bodies can also seek financial assistance from lending institutions or can raise funds from the public private partnership (PPP) model. However, the industry itself is cash stripped and with so much of unsold inventory already in hands of private players the sector is already looking out to the Government and Reserve Bank of India for relaxations. In such an existing scenario where the real estate market is so vulnerable it will be a big challenge for the states/union territories to encourage lenders and investors to park their funds in the smart cities by assuring them that it’s a safe bet with promising returns.

Multiplicity of authorities: Exercise of powers by the multiple authorities as contemplated by the Guidelines will also add up to the challenges that the mission of smart cities is likely to face. The powers to be exercised by other statutory authorities for grant of approvals, regulation of projects, site inspections etc. may also add to the woes of developers / collaborators in the mission. Currently, the procedure for obtaining approvals, permissions and licenses for development of any project is a time consuming endavour. With the timelines and targets already in place, to satisfy and meet with requirements of all the authorities will be a task in the hands of developers / collaborators engaged in the mission.

Mobilization of labour and workforce: Once the states/union territories start the procedure for development of smart cities there will be significant rise in demand of labour and skilled work force. The direct impact will be migration of labour and work force to these places. To cater to basic needs of the labour and workforce well planned and developed infrastructure will be required. Also, it would require commutation facilities such as well developed roads, metro links, adequate and affordable train and bus services.

The list of challenges can be an extensive list and with the course of implementation of the Mission Smart Cities, new challenges will rise. Need of the hour is to plan effectively and to utilize the available resources to an optimum level. This would require better cohesion and co-operation between various authorities and agencies and establishment of effective communication channels to address concerns of various stakeholders including organizations, societies, private players and individuals.

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