The cornerstone of the Smart Cities Mission is integration. During the Smart Cities challenge, cities used integrated planning to prepare the Smart City proposals. Citizen involvement has to be continued as part of this integration, says Dr Sameer Sharma, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Urban Development, Government of India, in conversation with Gautam Debroy of Elets News Network (ENN).
Smart Cities Mission has completed two years, what is your observation of the progress made so far?
During the journey of two years, the Smart Cities have learned how to plan and engage the citizens effectively. Most importantly, we have left the cities to define their own version of ‘smartness’ depending on their level of development, availability of resources, wish list of residents and aspirations of citizens. The Indian Smart Cities Mission adapted and redefined the global discourse around ‘Smart Cities’ to create its own unique take on a ‘Smart City’, one that features but is not centred exclusively on technology and includes a strong emphasis on areabased development, citizen preferences, and basic infrastructure and services.
“A total of 90 cities have been selected under the Smart Cities Mission so far. Funding is available for 100 cities.”
The focus now is on implementation. During the planning phase integrated implementation is the defining feature. So we have integrated smart solution deployment, smart road development, etc.
It seems many of the city administrations are finding it difficult to implement Smart Cities projects due to shortage of funds. Are you taking any steps in this direction?
Presently, there is no shortage of funds for implementation of Smart City proposals. For future requirements, we are encouraging cities to explore innovative financing mechanisms such as municipal bonds and use of Value Capture Financing (VCF) tools. The Ministry is actively supporting cities by providing technical support for credit rating, transaction advisory services for issuance of municipal bonds, and review of VCF tools that can be used. All Smart Cities have undergone credit rating and many are in the advanced stage of issuing bonds and implementing VCF tools. Pune has already floated a bond for Rs 200 crores.
“The Ministry is actively supporting cities by providing technical support for credit rating, transaction advisory services for issuance of municipal bonds.”
Have you set any timeframe to implement the Smart City projects?
We want to show substantial progress on ground within one year and cities have identified 261 high impact projects to be completed by June 2018.
What are the challenges that are coming ahead of project implementation?
The cornerstone of the Smart Cities Mission is integration. During the challenge, cities used integrated planning to prepare the Smart City proposals. Now they have to also integrate implementation. Thereafter, design of projects and developing bid documents is the major challenge. Additionally, citizen involvement has to be continued as part of this integration.
Are you planning to announce any more cities as Smart City?
A total of 90 cities have been selected under the Smart Cities Mission so far. Funding is available for 100 cities.
What are your suggestions for the city administrations implementing Smart City projects?
Our experience with implementation is that decisive and committed bureaucratic leadership at the State and city level will play an important role for the implementation of the Mission. Additionally, citizen involvement will lead to best outcomes.
What are your plans to get foreign investment for Smart Cities projects?
Cities have issued tenders for a large number of projects and foreign companies should participate in the tenders. We are also considering engagements between the States/Smart Cities and private companies.