Prime Minister Narendra Modi will get a first look at the future of his plan for “100 smart cities” during his visit to France this week, when he travels to the city of Toulouse. Sources told The Hindu that French President Francois Hollande and Mr Modi will discuss investment for the government’s pet project. Puducherry and Chandigarh are top contenders for development as a smart city as part of a bilateral agreement, though sources said Hyderabad and Nagpur are also being considered.
While refusing to confirm which city would finally be announced during the visit, French Ambassador Francois Richier told The Hindu , “I am happy that we would be able to put our energies together for a smart city project, which would allow us to bring together our understanding of urban development, preserving heritage and attracting tourism for such places.”
Mr Modi is expected to spend a day in Toulouse on Saturday, as part of his nine-day, three nation tour that will take him to France, Germany and Canada. Sources say the Prime Minister is particularly interested preserving traditional architecture in India while modernising the connectivity, sewerage system and other amenities.
A deal for a French semi-high speed train (about 140 kms/hour) may also be announced during his visit.
Investors impatient The plan for smart cities announced within weeks of his government being sworn in last May, is awaiting the Ministry of Urban Development’s “blueprint”. However, potential investors are said to be losing patience over the choice of the locations, as well as lack of clarity on what the parameters for the smart cities will entail.
Urban Development Minister Venkaiah Naidu is expected to unveil the government’s vision shortly, but the delay has caused concern for other projects, given a lack of coordination with some state governments. For example, the plan to link Kyoto with the Prime Minister’s constituency of Varanasi, announced during Mr. Modi’s visit to Japan in September ran into rough weather last year over objections from Uttar Pradesh, which said it had not been included in the plans.
Similiarly, the plans to develop Vadodra and Pune, announced by Chinese President Xi Jinping during his India visit, are yet to see any movement.
Toulouse model planned for smart city project
Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to France later this week, Indian and French governments have spent some time identifying the possible city France could help develop as a smart city in India. Part of Mr Modi’s 100 smart cities project, Puducherry, formerly a French colony is the obvious choice for the project, given that French is still an official language there, while Chandigarh, India’s newest city was built by French architect Le Corbusier, and is the other strong contender.
The plan for smart cities that was announced within weeks of his government being sworn in last May, is awaiting the Ministry of Urban Development’s “blueprint”.
Mr. Modi will begin his state visit in Paris on Friday, and after the ceremonial welcome, will meet with two sets of business groups from the infrastructure and defence sectors. He will be hosted at the National Assembly and meet political leaders before his bilateral meeting with President Hollande.
A plan for the two leaders to see the sights of Paris by a boat down the river Seine is still not confirmed, due to the possibility of rain, officials told The Hindu.
After his visit to Toulouse on Saturday, Mr Modi will fly to the town of Lille where he will pay respects to 9,000 Indian soldiers who died in the Battle of Neuve Chapelle in the World War I. Mr Modi will return to Paris and meet with the Indian community, before he heads to the Hannover Industrial fair to promote the government’s other pet project, “Make in India.”