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HindustanTimes Sat,20 Sep 2014

Govt’s ambitious ‘smart cities’ project could pinch your pocket

Moushumi Das Gupta, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, August 27, 2014
First Published: 00:36 IST(27/8/2014) | Last Updated: 10:40 IST(27/8/2014)

With an initial development cost estimate of Rs. 35,000 crore a year, the government’s ambitious ‘100 smart cities’ project will not come cheap. And the funds will in all likelihood come out of your pocket.

A first blueprint, or concept note, prepared by the urban development ministry proposes a host of measures for raising funds from the public — such as a green tax on fuel sold to private vehicles as well as on commercial vehicles; a betterment tax (surcharge on stamp duty on sales transaction, property tax); and an urban tax on purchase of new vehicles, both private and commercial.

The government hopes to earn Rs. 39,000 crore from these, and may pitch in with an additional amount (see box). The note estimates the project development cost over 20 years would be Rs. 6.86 lakh crore.

Read: Indian cities to get smarter, efficient

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All this money would go into giving citizens 100 high-tech cities with uninterrupted power and water supply, online delivery of all public services, a stronger public transport system and much more.

The ministry plans to soon make the concept note available online and invite suggestions from stakeholders before taking the final plan to cabinet. It also hopes to rope in the private sector in a big way, possibly even get an expert from there to head the project. The ministry would remain the central nodal agency.

Though the list of cities to be developed is yet to be finalized, the National Capital Region may be first off the block. Gurgaon, Sonepat, Noida, Ghaziabad and Faridabad are expected to be in the first batch of 35 satellite cities to be converted into “smart cities”. Salt Lake City in Kolkata, Navi Mumbai, Yelahanka in Bangalore and Kanchipuram in Chennai could also make the cut.

Read: IIT Bombay and IIT Roorkee to help the government build smart cities

Though the ministry is working on the selection parameters, it has broadly proposed including cities with a population between one million and four million, and a city each from the northeastern states. Other criteria for selection would include cities with an approved Master Plan, or those willing to offer a minimum 5,000 acres of land that can be used for economic and housing needs.
“It won’t be one-size-fits-all. Proposals for individual cities would have to come from state governments along with sources of funds they propose to use for making these investments,” said a government official.

The selection of 80 of the 100 cities would give equal weightage (50% each) to a state’s total population and its urban growth rate, while the remaining 20 would be identified on the basis of additional considerations, such as unique growth potential and the need to accommodate a diverse range of city types.


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