Smart City Mission: 3 years on, Dharamshala on slow path to progress
Dharamshala, home to the Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, was the first town in Himachal to be selected under the Smart City Mission when it edged out state capital Shimla to find place on the first list of 98 cities on August 27, 2015.
The high court quashed Dharamshala’s selection in the centrally-sponsored scheme on Shimla municipal corporation’s plea alleging fudging of data by the government, but the town — nestled in the lap of the mighty Dhauladhar range — regained the tag on May 24, 2016, winning the fast-track smart city competition.
But three years on, projects under the Smart City Mission are yet to gather steam, thanks to red-tapism and lack of manpower.
Deepika Thakur, a local resident, said there was nothing smart in the town. “Garbage disposal and traffic congestion are the two main problems here,” she said.
A local tour and travel operator Ashwani Kumar said it was disappointing that nothing significant has been done in three years. “Illegal construction is going on unabated while pollution in water sources due to a garbage dump is yet to be resolved,” he said.
Of the total outlay of Rs 2,109.69 crore for the town under the mission, 86% (Rs 1,828 crore) will be spent on the area-based development projects and the rest on pan-city projects. A total of 32 main projects and 71 sub-projects have been proposed under the mission.
So far, only four projects have been completed under the smart mission. These include the water supply project — augmentation and automation at source and plants — and rest are related to online services for citizens.
“Project worth Rs 35 crore have been completed, including a water supply scheme and GIS web portal, e-Nagarpalika, under which all certificates and map approvals are being done online,” said managing director-cum-chief executive officer of Dharamshala Smart City Limited Sandeep Kadam.
He said lack of manpower and objections at the approval stage led to the delay.
But Dharamshala mayor Devinder Jaggi blames the state government for the delay. He said the previous government had empowered the special purpose vehicle (SPV) for the approval of projects. “But the present BJP government divested the SPV of this authority and it can now approve projects which entail an expenditure of Rs 10 crore or less. The government is delaying approval to bigger projects,” he alleged.
Projects under progress
Kadam said work on at least eight projects is under progress. Of the five proposed root-zone sewage treatment plants, two are complete and the work is underway on three others. Underground dustbin project is almost complete and has helped curb the garbage problem in the town, he said, adding that rooftop solar power plant project is on the fast-track.
Smart classrooms have been built in some schools and the work on the project is on in others, he said, adding that the construction of the integrated command and control centre of the smart city is also underway. “Works worth Rs 67.71 crore are under progress in the town and change will be visible in the next few months,” Kadam said.
Projects at tendering stage
Seven projects worth Rs 117.83 crore are at the tendering stage. These include the smart roads project worth Rs 84 crore. Tenders for augmentation and automation of sewage treatment plant and the state-of-the-art water treatment plant for portable water costing Rs 17.19 crore are also being invited, said Kadam. Projects such as intelligent and barrier-free bus shelters, parks and playgrounds, digital payment system for tourists and citizens and public bike sharing scheme are also at the tendering stage.
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