“Selection of smart cities to be competition based,” says Venkaiah Naidu

By Accommodation Times News Services

Venkaiah NaiduMinister of Urban Development and Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation Shri M.Venkaiah Naidu today revealed that ‘It will not be business as usual in the matter of financing of cities and towns under new urban initiatives and instead, it will be based on the ability of urban local bodies to reform urban governance and rise to the new challenges’. He was addressing a ‘Consultative Workshop on Urban Governance’ organized here today for Municipal Commissioners of 130 cities and towns from nine northern states of Delhi, Haryana, Chandigarh, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. The Workshop has been organized to sensitize municipal commissioners about the demands of new urban initiatives and the implementation issues in the light of the experience of implementation of JNNURM. The Minister did some plain speaking about serious shortcomings in urban planning, execution and management of rapid urbanization and stated that things are in a bad shape on several counts.

Shri Venkaiah Naidu informed that his Ministry is currently working on a ‘City Challenge’ framework with the objective of selecting right city candidates for participation in schemes like building 100 smart cities and development of 500 cities and towns. Elaborating on the new initiative, he said that all cities and towns seeking to participate in these schemes will be profiled based on specific parameters that have a bearing on their ability to address issues of governance reforms, resource mobilization, execution etc. the Minister further said ‘While addressing the issue of geographical spread, only the deserving will be assisted’. The Minister referred to sub-optimal performance in respect of promoting reforms,  physical targets and resource mobilization under JNNURM. Shri Naidu stressed that ‘ a radical reorientation of mindsets and methodologies is the need of the hour to convert rapid urbanization into an economic opportunity’.

Shri Venkaiah Naidu referred to the present appalling state of affairs in urban areas which is marked by : weak urban governance structures, uninspiring leadership at the level of both selected and elected urban managers, poor inventory management and resource base, weak urban planning and execution, urban mobility being a nightmarish experience, housing shortage, inadequate water and power supply and despicable management of solid waste and treatment of sewerage etc.

In terms of service parameters, Shri Naidu noted that only 73 litres of water per capita per day is being supplied as against the norm of 135 litres, only 50% of households having water connection, 40% households with toilet facilities, treatment of only 16% of sewerage, collection and disposal of only 23% of solid waste and recycling only 10% of city waste.

Referring to the investment needs for urban initiatives, Shri Naidu said that about Rs.40 lakh crore is required for provision of basic infrastructure besides another Rs.20 lakh crore for Operation & Maintenance of urban utilities over the next 20 years, another Rs.15 lakh crore for meeting housing shortage besides Rs.60,009 cr for sanitation. The total investment needs comes to about US $ 1200 billion, most of which has to come from private sources, said the Minister.

Stating that private investment flows would be dependent on the confidence of investors in urban local bodies including their governance capacities, credit worthiness and city management, Shri Naidu urged the municipal commissioners to rise to the occasion so as to leave a mark of their own on respective cities ‘as was done by Shri S.R.Rao as Municipal Commissioner of Surat’.

Shri Venkaiah Naidu suggested, to begin with, the following 10-point charter to be ensured  for each city:

1.City Master Plans wherever due and City Sanitation Plans;

2. Long Term Urban Development Plans for district headquarters focusing on an area of 25 km radius;

3. Long Term City Mobility Plans;

4. City specific strategies for promotion of renewable energy sources like solar and wind power, waste to energy etc.;

5.Regulatory bodies for pricing of utilities like water and power and assessment and revision of taxes from time to time to enhance resource base;

6. Taking necessary initiatives for assessing credit worthiness of each city to mobilise resources from appropriate sources;

7.Promotion of water harvesting and water recycling on a large scale through necessary provisions by revising Building Bye-laws in line with emerging needs of cities and aspirations of people;

8.Promoting citizens in urban planning , decision making and management;

9. Capacity building in key disciplines; and

10.Improving urban governance through adoption of ICT platforms to ensure accountability and transparency besides online delivery of various services.

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