NEW DELHI: As the Smart Cities Mission enters its fourth year, the Centre has finally announced the 100th and last city which will be part of the project: Shillong.
This announcement also sets the final end date for the Mission as June 2023, as every city gets five years to complete its projects, according to a senior Mission official. The first 20 cities were selected in January 2016, and they should now be at the halfway point of their mission.
The total proposed investment in the 100 cities will be ₹2.05 lakh crore, according to a statement by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs issued on Wednesday. Until May 2018, about 2.5% of that amount -- Rs. 5,225 crore -- has been spent on 316 completed projects, according to senior officials. Another 632 projects are under implementation, at a cost of about ₹25,000 crore, they said.
“The entire lifecycle of a project must be taken into account,” said joint secretary Kunal Kumar, when asked about the seemingly slow pace of a Mission that was launched with great fanfare in June 2015. “Yes, three years have gone by, but the first one-and-a-half years were used to put the foundational elements in place. Simply creating infrastructure without an SOP [statement of purpose] and guidelines is of no use.”
Each selected city is required to set up a Special Purpose Vehicle which will actually carry out the Mission, a process that takes at least six months, according to Mr. Kumar. “The original smart city proposals were aspirational. An SPV’s first job is to prepare a detailed project report which could then take another 6-18 months,” he said.
While the initial proposals are available online, there is a need for transparent monitoring of the actual projects, says Partha Mukhopadhyay, a senior fellow researching urbanisation and infrastructure at the Centre for Policy Research. “One of the big stories of the Smart City Mission was supposed to be public participation,” he said. “So the public should be able to track the progress of the projects, similar to the earlier Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission.”
“We are trying to build a project-wise progress tracking mechanism. What we have right now is very crude,” said Mr. Kumar, estimating that the tracking mechanism would be online within a month.
In keeping with the competitive tone of the Mission, the Ministry has announced awards for cities and projects that have distinguished themselves so far. While Surat won the best city award, innovative idea awards are being given to projects in Bhopal and Ahmedabad.