Bhubaneswar: The announcement of Bhubaneswar and Rourkela, two cities of Odisha, in the first list of smart cities by the Urban Development Ministry has brought momentary cheer among the people especially among the young men and women in both the cities.
While most of the people in Bhubaneswar and Rourkela erupted in joy with this news, there were equal voices of dissent and protest in other major cities of Odisha including Berhampur, Sambalpur and Balasore who felt left out from the developmental train.
Even many of the people in Bhubaneswar and Rourkela who went into celebratory mode immediately after the announcement had very little awareness on what is on anvil for the two cities after this announcement. One segment of people in Bhubaneswar instantly recounted the recent horror of a nine old boy dying after stepping on a open pothole and drain in a flood like water logging in the heart of the city just a day before the announcement.
It may be noted that as per the Smart City Mission, all the selected cities in the first round will be sanctioned an amount of Rs. 2 crores and will have to prepare city level Smart City Plans and these will be evaluated in the second stage of competition based on a broad set of criteria to pick up the top scoring 20 cities for financing during this financial year. Funds may be released to these 20 cities by the end of this year, he said. Others will be asked to improve upon the identified deficiencies before participating in the next two rounds of competition. Those cities to be selected in the second stage of competition would be provided with central assistance of Rs.200 cr in the first year followed by Rs.100 cr each year during the next three years.
Minister of Urban Development Shri M.Venkaiah Naidu today announced a list of 98 cities and towns selected for development as smart cities. These cities and towns were nominated by respective States and Union Territories at the end of first stage of ‘City Challenge’ competition in which all the urban local bodies in each State and UT were evaluated based on their financial and institutional capacities and past track record. Shri Naidu gave details of profiles of all the selected cities and towns in terms of population and characters of each city/town. He informed that 24 cities are capital cities, 24 are business and industrial centres, 18 are of cultural and tourism importance, 5 are port cities and three are educational and healthcare hubs. In terms of population 8 have population up to one lakh, 35 have population between one and five lakhs, 21 cities are in the population range of five to ten lakhs, 25 have population of above 10 lakhs and below 25 lakhs and 5 in the range of 25 to 50 lakhs and four viz., Chennai, Greater Hyderabad, Ahmedabad and Greater Mumbai have population above 50 lakh.
The minister observed that 65 small and medium towns and cities making to the list of smart city aspirants is a welcome feature since making them smart would lay good foundation for better urban management when they further expand. The Minister informed that nine capital cities viz., Itanagar, Patna, Shimla, Bengaluru, Daman, Thiruvananthapuram, Puducherry, Gangtok and Kolkata failed to be selected and this goes to prove that the smart city selection was not influenced by the stature or importance of the cities. Shri Venkaiah Naidu informed that two more cities would be announced in due course since the Government of Jammu & Kashmir sought more time to make up its choice while additional information was sought from the Government of Uttar Pradesh regarding the 13th smart city slot allotted to that State.
Adding that the 98 cities selected under Smart City Mission have a population of about 13 crore accounting for over 35% of the country’s urban population, he stated that under Smart City Mission and Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT), 80% of total urban population would benefit from enhanced quality of living.
Elaborating on the concept of Smart City, the minister said : “ A smart city would ensue core infrastructure needed for decent living in urban areas. We are not aiming at making our urban landscape look fanciful and flashy. The prime objective is to enhance the quality of urban life by addressing deficiencies in core infrastructure. Expectations in various quarters may be high but the Mission is very practical and realistic in its intentions and objectives.”
He said that the central government has undertaken measures to empower them to meet the challenge through substantially enhanced central assistance and decentralizing decision making besides assisting in capacity building of urban local bodies. He informed that as against the central assistance of only Rs.36,000 cr during the 10 years of JNNURM, centre would provide about Rs.3.00 lakh crored under various new urban initiatives.
Naidu observed that the country can not afford to miss this opportunity of recasting country’s urban landscape and the situation is ‘perform or perish’ for the states and urban local bodies. The minister said that formulation of new urban sector initiatives is based on ‘bottom up’ planning based on citizen consultations as desired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi.