New Delhi: The government’s initiative for creating 100 smart cities achieved a major milestone today as the various stakeholders came out with the criteria for the selection and ranking of cities and also broadly agreed on innovative financing models and urban governance reforms to be implemented as part of the project.
The way forward emerged after intense discussions at a two-day ‘Consultation Workshop of States and Stakeholders on Smart Cities’, which concluded here today. Among the basic eligibility conditions suggested by the states and other stakeholders for participation in the ‘Smart City Challenge’ were the need for a vision and city development strategy, progress under Swachh Bharat Mission, timely payment of salaries to municipal staff, information and grievance redressal mechanism and e-newsletter.
The important stakeholder consultations were organised by the Urban Development Ministry upon the direction of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to take the states on board before proceeding further with a the launch of the smart city initiative. As per an official release, the final recommendations of states and other stakeholders were presented at the concluding plenary session chaired by the Minister of State for Urban Development, Babul Supriyo.
Principal secretaries and municipal commissioners from about 25 states took part in the deliberations along with industry representatives and urban experts. For the further ranking of cities for final selection, the states have suggested the parameters and respective weightages that include self-financing ability (25 per cent weightage), institutional systems and capacities (25 per cent), existing service levels and committed plan of action for three years (25 per cent), past track record in implementing reforms (15 per cent) and quality of vision document (10 per cent).
On the reforms front, the states have suggested two sets of reforms separately for small and metropolitan cities, land monetisation, increased FAR norms with transparent policies, quick progress towards e-governance and online service delivery. Integrated GIS-based Master Plans, including for sanitation, mobility, land use, digital connectivity, disaster risk management and climate change, policy reforms, fixed tenures for mayors and municipal officials, improving revenues through 100 per cent collection of taxes and user charges and credit rating of urban local bodies were suggested as part of the reforms in urban governance.
As regards financing, the states suggested that in addition to the PPP model, they should be given the option of EPC (Engineering Procurement Contract), user-fee based concessions to promote private sector participation, imposing impact fee on organisations that benefit from improved infrastructure and making cluster-based projects to improve
viability of projects for private funding.
Government support for making projects viable for private investors, unbundling of services to make projects investment worthy, creation of a low-cost pooled fund with the support of Asian Development Bank, World Bank, Pension Funds, Sovereign Funds and credit rating of cities have also been sought by the states. Besides, the states advocated policy changes to make urban projects viable, such as support to sale of compost prepared from solid waste, corporatisation of services, etc.