Amritsar selected for Smart City project in 2016, but little progress visible
Even as work under the Smart City Mission — an urban renewal and retrofitting programme of the Union government to make 100 cities citizen-friendly and sustainable — has got some thrust, it still seems a distant dream for Amritsar that has a religious and historical significance.
Amritsar, which is home to Golden Temple and Jallianwala Bagh, was included in the mission’s third list of 27 cities on September 20, 2016, for the flagship scheme. Since then, different government bodies have been on the job to give shape to the project, but nothing ‘smart’ is visible in the city yet.
“Residents of the holy city only read news regarding the meetings of smart city project officials, but nothing is noticeable on the ground,” says Kulwant Singh Ankhi, patron Amritsar Vikas Manch (AVM), an NGO.
Gunbir Singh, president, Dilbir Foundation, says, “Smart City programme envisages using technology to improve urban spaces and services to facilitate the economic growth. There is little evidence on the ground in Amritsar to see milestone progression since its selection in 2016.”
However, officials of Amritsar Smart City Limited (ASCL) — a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) incorporated for implementing the projects under the mission — refuted the claims that “nothing has been done for making the city smart” or “slow execution of works”. ASCL functionaries say work started in January 2018 and it is too early to expect discernible changes.
PROJECTS UNDER EXECUTION
In the first phase, ASCL has come up with five projects which are under execution, even as changes are not yet visible. The only visible work is installation of solar panels on rooftops of 17 government buildings. Under the Rs 10-crore project, solar panels of 140KW capacity are being installed on the Amritsar Improvement Trust’s building. Another Rs 35-crore project to install LED streetlights is still at the survey stage.
The third project is development of 17 parks and open spaces at a cost of Rs 3.7 crore. As per ASCL chief executive officer Komal Mittal (IAS), work order was issued about a couple of weeks ago and execution will start soon. Introducing WiFi in the Heritage Street (800m stretch from the Partition Museum to Golden Temple) is another project for which work order has been issued and. She says work will start in a month and the facility will be available in 3-4 months. “Apart from this, we trans
ferred a sum of Rs 6.17 crore to department of education for smart classrooms in government schools. Almost half of the work has been done,” Mittal said.
TENDERS STILL BEING INVITED
Projects worth Rs 600 crore are at the tendering stage. Among the works is strengthening of underground wastewater disposal network in the walled city at a cost of Rs 13 crore (approx). This has been formulated to connect all the households to the underground sewerage so that roadside drains carry only the stormwater during rains.
As per data accessed by HT from the ASCL, developing 7.4-km-long circular road (Rs 133 crore) to connect all historical gates around the walled city is another big project. The tenders for this project have been floated.
Integrated command and control centre (ICCC) for surveillance is another big project worth Rs 110 crore. Under this project, nearly 1,100 CCTV cameras will be installed in the city, along with a central control room. As per the officials, tenders will be floated soon for development of spaces below flyovers with thematic lighting and beautification at a cost of Rs 8.34 crore. The stretch below the elevated corridor between Bhandari Bridge to Taranwala Pul on GT Road and the area below the Kichulu Chowk flyover have been identified for the purpose.
Construction two foot overbridges worth Rs 5 crore on the old GT Road is awaiting tenders. “Out of allocated budget of Rs 1,000 crore, projects worth Rs 60 crore are being executed, while tenders for works worth Rs 200 crore will be floated by July-end,” says Mittal. Setting up of automatic sanitary napkin vending machines and electric incinerators, reverse vending machines and construction of multi-level car parking are at the tendering stage.
PARTICIPATION OF CITIZENS
Although the ASCL has been making efforts to ensure participation of citizens through meetings, interactive sessions, seminars and health-oriented events such as marathons, residents say nothing much has been done.
“This task cannot be done without citizens’ participation. We need to first make the citizens smart and city will become so automatically. At this stage, citizens’ participation is minimal,” says Tarundeep Singh Ghuman, a local.