Two years on, city lags in completion of Smart City projects

After a Special Purpose Vehicle was formed for the project, only ₹7 crore of ₹210 crore allotted under the Smart Cities Mission has been used

December 04, 2019 12:56 am | Updated 12:19 pm IST - Bengaluru

Work under the Smart City project is under way on Bhagwan Mahaveer Road.

Work under the Smart City project is under way on Bhagwan Mahaveer Road.

Bengaluru is not only the last city in the State to make it to the Smart City Project, it also has the dubious distinction of being one of the laggards in implementing the project. The city has till date been able to use an abysmal 3.33% of the funds allotted under the Smart Cities Mission — ₹7 crore of ₹210 crore.

Two years after a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) was formed for the project, the city is yet to see the completion of even a single project.

The ranking of the city on the Smart Cities Mission has dropped from 30 in March earlier this year to 36 in October. A total of seven cities in the State have been selected under the Smart Cities Mission of which only Mangaluru has performed worse than Bengaluru, with a ranking of 38. Davanagere, Tumakuru, Hubballi-Dharwad, Shivamogga and Belagavi have performed better.

The city has taken its time in clearing Detailed Project Reports (DPRs), issuing tenders and work orders, and is also lagging in actual work on the ground, said a senior official of Smart City Mission Management Unit of the Union government.

Hephsiba Rani Korlapati, Managing Director, Bengaluru Smart City Pvt. Ltd., said tenders for various projects were under way and work orders will be issued soon. “Work has begun on multiple road work projects — almost half of all projects to be taken up under the the Smart City project — in the core city this week. Under the project, 36 roads of 30 km are being developed as per TenderSURE specifications,” she said.

The SPV is now aiming to finish tendering process of all the projects by March 2020 and issue work orders by June 2020, which will ensure work on multiple projects will be carried out simultaneously. “The SPV is working on a deadline of 2022 to complete all projects,” Ms. Korlapati said.

Urbanist Ashwin Mahesh said it was only execution of wrong work under the wrong label. “Projects executed under the Smart City Project are not new ideas. More than half of them are TenderSURE roads, an idea that took off in the city in 2012, five years before the smart city initiative. The works being taken up now are not pan-city. They are only neighbourhood improvement programmes. It is sad that we are lagging behind in implementation of even those projects,” he said.

Yet to raise money from the market

Under the Smart Cities Mission, the selected city would receive ₹500 crore from the central government and a matching grant by the State government. But crucially, the city had to raise a matching capital of ₹1,000 crore from the market, taking the total funding for the project to ₹2,000 crore.

Sources said the city has not made any significant effort to raise capital from the market.

Hephsiba Rani Korlapati, Managing Director, Bengaluru Smart City Pvt. Ltd., said projects carried out under the Public Private Partnership were part of the market capital component, and the city was replacing all street lights with solar powered ones at a cost of ₹800 crore.

However, the LED street lights project was taken up by Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) much before even the city was selected by the Smart Cities Mission, and experts wondered how this is now part of the Smart Cities Mission.

“The BBMP is famous for ‘Hale Kallu, Hosa Billu’ — a novel way of duplication of projects. LED street lights project being included under Smart City project seems exactly that,” said urbanist Ashwin Mahesh.

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