Smart city projects in Rajasthan tardy, residents say basic issues not addressed
Even after getting ‘smart city’ tag, Jaipur, Udaipur, Kota and Ajmer continue to have faulty sewage network, inefficient traffic system, inadequate garbage treatment and encroached roads, residents say, but the refrain of officials is that projects are in the pipeline.
Funds received by the four cities under the Smart City Mission have been spent to build smart roads (cement-concrete roads with demarcations for motorised, parking and non-motorised areas), construct underground duct for hanging wires, set up open-air gyms in parks and renovate bus stops, among others.
Several projects are carried out under special project vehicles (SPVs), such as Jaipur Smart City Limited, Udaipur Smart City Limited, Kota Smart City Limited, and Ajmer Smart City Limited. Funds are also spent on convergent projects carried out in collaboration with civic bodies; 50% of the investment has been provided by the union ministry of housing and urban development, 30% by the state government and the rest by local bodies.
Nearly Rs 1000 crore has been spent in Jaipur for the completed and ongoing projects and convergent ones, officials said.
Vivek Bharadwaj, a shopkeeper and general secretary of Chaura Raasta Vyapar Mandal, Jaipur, said the basic problem in the city was encroachment, which continues even after setting up smart roads. “It would have been better if smart solutions were given for encroachment and parking problems. Firstly, smart roads were constructed which also led to construction of electricity duct, but wires are still hanging,” Bharadwaj said. “Businesses were hit during constructions. A smart solution for managing the traffic would have been of more use.”
Other projects, such as multi-level car parking, façade development and retrofitting in major markets, are in the pipeline. Officials claim that the process will yield better traffic management in the city once work is completed. Alok Ranjan, chief executive officer of the Jaipur Smart City Limited, said interdepartmental cooperation with civic bodies will produce better results in the development of projects.
“Jaipur Smart City Limited has been working for the last three and half years primarily in the walled city area which has also been given the heritage status. The work is of civic nature and therefore the execution takes its due course. The work done is supposed to take heritage and redevelopment part into consideration,” Ranjan said. “We are also focusing on making changes in the work execution. A better scheduling of the work along with smooth coordination with other departments will yield better results.”
A sum of Rs 106 crore has been spent in Kota under the smart city mission and in convergence. “We were expecting a lot to happen. Kota has not got much benefit out of the smart city mission. The city could have been developed as a tourist place which did not happen. Another thing we as residents expected is resolution of parking, traffic and cleanliness. No solutions were found for the same. The only thing done is the renovation of the Dusshera ground where recently a fair was organised which too is not up to the mark,” said Kanti Jain, president of the Kota Vyapaar Sangh. “The city has witnessed no advantages of living in a city listed as a smart city. Be it development of infrastructure, innovative solutions for garbage collection or even anything as basic as parking.”
NK Gupta, CEO, Kota Smart City Limited, said work sanction and identification of development works are in the pipeline. “Works amounting to nearly Rs 100 crore have been completed. Kota Dusshera ground renovation has been completed; identification and sanctioning of more works will be done soon,” Gupta said.
Mosin Khan, leader of opposition at the Udaipur Municipal corporation, said no significant change has been witnessed in the lives of residents of the city, where nearly Rs. 101 crore has been spent under the smart city mission and Rs. 98.81 core under convergence projects. “The entire city has been dug up for constructing underground duct for electric wires. Several other works done, such as open air gyms, are seldom being used,” Khan said. “The city has a lot of potential in terms of tourism. We were expecting something significant to happen but we are disappointed.”
Qummer Ul Zaman Choudhary, CEO of Udaipur Smart City Limited, said “We have a major integrated infrastructure project. In another four months we will see a good number of projects completed. The projects, such as the ones on heritage, city bus and IT, are at the tendering stage. We are restoring the existing sewer lines. To increase the speed of the projects, multi-fronts have been opened up.”
In Ajmer, Rs 88.71 crore has been spent out of Rs 349 crore obtained under the Smart City Mission. Kanti Sharma, president of the workers’ union in Ajmer, said, “Smart city tag seems to be a mere illusion. The government claims that elevated road is constructed but sewage and garbage treatment is still lagging. There is nothing new about the works on Anasagar Sagar lake. Most of the works are also incomplete.”
Chinmayi Gopal, CEO, Ajmer Smart City Limited, said, “We prioritised work on projects, such as improvement of water supply and elevated roads. We are rebuilding the old bus terminal. We are presently working on many projects which would create direct impact on the living conditions of the people.”