There are several plans to make Shillong a livable and Smart City while reclaiming its premier status as the educational, cultural and tourist hub of the region, says Frederick Roy Kharkongor, Commissioner and Secretary, Urban Affairs Department, Government of Meghalaya, in conversation with Souvik Goswami and Ritika Srivastava of Elets News Network (ENN).
“Future ICT initiatives include a dynamic citizen engagement portal, clean Shillong website, mobile app for garbage, traffic and other citizen centric services, etc.”
Tell us about the mandate of Government of Meghalaya’s Urban Affairs Department?
India’s present urban system consists of 7,933 cities and towns with a population of approximately 377.16 million as per 2011 census. The country is fast emerging as the second largest country in terms of urban growth rising from 5,161 towns and cities in 2001, which is only 10 years ago in comparison to 2011. India has always been a reluctant urbaniser but it has made quite a departure since the adoption of the Habitat-II agenda in 1996. In this backdrop, the mandate of the Urban Affairs Department in the State is to catalyse and transform our urban spaces into livable city spaces while addressing the enormous challenges of infrastructure deficit, governance and urban development.
How is Meghalaya leveraging the Smart Cities Mission to change the urban transformation scenario in the State?
Meghalaya’s capital city of Shillong has been shortlisted as a probable Smart City as per the latest round of Smart City selections announced on June 23. While Shillong aspires to be a leading and a livable hill city, due to the limitations and the constraints of the expected current 50:50 fund sharing pattern ratio, efforts are still on to find a solution to address the above complexities, with a view to benefit the State.
Meanwhile, no stone is being left unturned to ensure structural and functional transformations, which are introduced while also suitably focusing on strengthening municipals systems and their governance and to ensure that they are consistent, and in tune with contemporary changes and challenges. There are efforts to converge to take forward the key principles of Solid Waste Management, garbage disposal and waste energy through various projects like Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT), Swacch Bharat while also making maximum leverage through both Central Schemes and State efforts etc.
What are the challenges being faced by Meghalaya Municipal Corporation?.
The challenges that can be briefly enumerated are infrastructure deficit, low level of sanitation, urban governance, mobility and transportation issues, unplanned urban growth and development in the backdrop of complex administrative difficulties, traditional body administration in urban spaces, and seismological issues.
“A hackathon is being planned to involve and engage students of both schools and colleges and concerned citizens on critical urban issues.”
How can ICT help in building Smart Cities?
ICT is a critical component in building up a smart and livable city. In our State, ICT is being used for registration of birth and death, and proposals are at an advanced stage for developing ICTenabled services and citizen interface for areas like property tax, online license building permission, building by- law, etc.
Future ICT initiatives include a dynamic citizen engagement portal, clean Shillong website, mobile app for garbage, traffic and other citizen centric services, etc. A hackathon is being planned to involve and engage students of both schools and colleges and concerned citizens on critical urban issues that matter to them. The above applications are planned to be launched on August 15.
What are the future plans to transform urban landscape in your State?
There are several plans to make Shillong a livable and Smart City while reclaiming its premier status as the educational, cultural and tourist hub of the region. Plans are being formulated to introduce new systems of mobility, innovative mass rapid transport systems and creation of new township, which will absorb the growing urban population in the context of Shillong having far exceeded its carrying capacity.