[Answered] ““Smart Cities Mission that aimed at providing better cities and infrastructure has failed to do so”. Comment.

Demand of the question
Introduction. What is smart cities mission?
Body. Achievements so far. Issues related to smart cities mission.
Conclusion. Way forward.

Smart Cities Mission was launched in 2015 with an aim to develop 100 cities across the country, making them citizen-friendly and sustainable. Unfortunately the mission has not achieved the pace and till now has failed to attain its objectives.

Progress of projects under smart cities mission:

  1. The total proposed investment in the selected cities under the scheme is over Rs 2.05 lakh crore. Government data shows only 33% of the total 5,151 Smart City Mission projects have been completed or are under implementation, utilising 25% of the envisaged investment.
  2. Total approved budget between 2015 and 2019 is ₹48,000 crore is the, just half of that has been allocated till now.
  3. According to data of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, 67% of the projects have either just been tendered or are yet to go through the process. In 28 cities not a single project has been completed.

Causes of failure of smart cities mission:

  1. No framework for development: The mission fails to develop a framework for urban development. A sustainable blueprint for governance for smart cities is still not prepared. There is lack of a city development model and adequate standards to guide project implementation, including for housing, water, sanitation, health, and environmental sustainability.
  2. Multiple of policies for urban India: The Swachh Bharat Mission; Housing for All; the National Urban Livelihoods Mission; and the Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana (HRIDAY) has not been converged with smart city mission.
  3. Multiplicity of projects: There are multiple infrastructure projects like expansion of city roads and highways, water reservoir and storage-related development which are mostly undertaken by development authorities or the State governments. The Smart Cities Mission’s convergence with all these projects is not done.
  4. Decreased role of local governments: In the guidelines for the mission, the role of the local governments was significantly reduced, delegating the decision-making powers to a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV), a body to be set up and which would implement the mission. This lead to poor governance of the projects and lack of coordination.
  5. Exclusionary approach: Government is incentivising development of a small areas in patches and not the entire city. By focusing on only 100 cities and on select areas within those cities, the Mission demonstrates a restrictive approach to urban development.
  6. Overlapping powers: The Mission Guidelines require each ‘smart city’ to create an entity called the special purpose vehicle (SPV). This resulted in in overlapping powers, substantively diluting local government role and thus poor governance.
  7. Issue of funding: It is estimated that the implementation of India’s Smart Cities Mission would require investments worth 150 billion US dollars over the next few years, of which 120 billion dollars would be required from the private sector. This is not an easy task.
  8. Absence of human rights-based standards and monitoring indicators: With the absence of any human rights-based indicators to monitor implementation, missions ability to deliver on its aims and ensure the fulfilment of rights and entitlements of all city residents is questionable.

India added about nine million people to the urban areas in last decade. Further, the growth in total urban population is higher than the absolute rural population growth. It is in this context that a close scrutiny of the Smart Cities Mission is needed.

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