Coronavirus | Push for pedalling during pandemic

Urban Affairs Ministry proposes non-motorised zones, community-led schemes.

June 25, 2020 10:46 pm | Updated 11:25 pm IST - NEW DELHI:

Cool wheels:  Cycling-friendly initiatives are the need of the hour, the Urban Affairs Ministry has said.

Cool wheels: Cycling-friendly initiatives are the need of the hour, the Urban Affairs Ministry has said.

A plan to promote cycling in cities and a finance portal for urban local bodies were among the initiatives announced by the Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry on the fifth anniversary of the Smart Cities Mission on Thursday.

The Ministry marked the occasion with a webinar addressed by Housing and Urban Affairs Minister Hardeep Puri. A release here said the ‘Cycles4change Challenge’ was an initiative of the Smart Cities Mission to support cities to quickly implement cycling-friendly initiatives in response to COVID-19. Low-cost interventions such as pop-up cycle lanes and non-motorised zones and community-led cycle rental schemes would be explored.

The finance portal plan is part of an effort to get financial statements of all cities on a single platform to enable sharing and learning of best practices and to help urban local bodies in accessing market funds, the release said.

About 31% of projects identified under the Smart Cities Mission and 33% of urban housing sanctioned through the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban) have been completed in the five years since the schemes were launched on June 25, 2015, the Ministry said. Mr. Puri said while the targets would be achieved, there was a need to broaden the scope of the schemes.

Through PMAY (U), 1.05 crore houses had been sanctioned against a demand of 1.12 crore homes in 4,550 urban cities. About 35 lakh houses have been delivered to the owners, the Ministry said.

Under the Smart Cities Mission, 5,151 projects worth ₹2 lakh crore had been identified in 100 cities. The Minister said that so far around 4,700 projects worth ₹1.66 lakh crore or 81% of the total projects had been tendered and 1,638 projects worth ₹27,000 crore had been completed.

The command and control centres created under the Smart Cities Mission in 47 cities had been deployed as control rooms during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, the Minister said. He said 33 more such centres were in the process of being set up.

Through the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT), the government had provided 79 lakh household water tap connections and 45 lakh sewer connections. Projects worth ₹10,654 crore out of the approved projects of ₹77,640 crore had been completed, the Ministry said.

Mr. Puri said the country had been better off with these missions in place before the pandemic hit.

“We are living in difficult times. In many ways, the pandemic is a wake-up call for all of us. I am sure we will all come out of this crisis stronger and resilient,” he said.

He said the city administrators should address any shortcomings they have noticed in dealing with the pandemic in future plans.

Earlier in the event, Mr. Puri launched new initiatives of the Ministry, including a city finance portal for urban local bodies and a “Cycles4Change challenge” to promote cycling in response to COVID-19.

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