The Madhya Pradesh government may have changed the location of its proposed ‘smart city’ in Bhopal, but the challenges remain.
The residents of Shivaji Nagar and Tulasi Nagar withdrew their protests after chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan announced the shifting of the smart city project to North Tatya Tope (TT) Nagar last Monday, making city officials heave a sigh of relief. Urban development experts and environmentalists, however, continue to question its feasibility.
According to experts, the same problems that plagued the smart city project in the earlier locations – namely, the absence of a master plan, environmental loss and area expansion issues – seem to have followed it to North TT Nagar. While the smart city was supposed to be built over 350 acres of land in Shivaji Nagar and Tulasi Nagar, it would be developed over 691 acres in the new location. Moreover, it is likely that this area would spill into many residential localities across South TT Nagar, spurring new protests and bringing the government’s plan back to square one.
Others question how the smart city can be created when Bhopal does not have a master plan. Though the government had planned to make one in 2005, there is still no document in existence to define the areas in which the project can be implemented.
The official objective of the Smart Cities Mission is to promote particular cities by providing core infrastructure and a decent quality of life to its residents amid a sustainable environment energised by ‘smart’ solutions. The elements of core infrastructure include adequate water supply, assured electricity, sanitation facilities, and institutions providing for health and education. However, the state government has been talking only about developing select locations – not the entire city. Not many seem happy with the idea.
“I always thought that the smart city project would urbanise the whole of Bhopal – bringing up more industries, ensuring widespread digitalization, and improving the quality of life of its residents. But now that I realise that only a few areas would become ‘smart’, I wonder how that will help the city in its entirety,” said Ayushi Sharma, an Old City resident.
Others fear that the project would affect the greenery in the city. “While I have been given to understand that there will be benefits from the project – including the setting up of proper transportation, waste management and rain-harvesting systems – nobody said that so many trees would be cut to build concrete jungles in a few areas. All we will get in return is a high-tech complex that’s too expensive for the common man to afford,” said Kavita Chakravarty, a resident of New Bhopal.
Environmentalists say around 6,000 trees will have to be cut for the smart city project at TT Nagar.
When asked to comment on the environmental loss likely to arise from the smart city project, Bhopal Municipal Corporation commissioner Chavvi Bharadwaj said, “The loss of some trees and shifting of some houses are inevitable for redevelopment.”
He also said the civic body would soon come up with a comprehensive master plan for the city.