Bhopal smart city still confined to papers

Five months after it was shifted to a new venue, the Smart City project is yet to take off at the ground level

BHOPAL: Of the two projects that were slated to transform Bhopal, one – the Metro Rail Project – is already all but shelved, what with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) denying funding for it. And the implementation of the second one, the Smart City Project, is proceeding at a snail’s pace, if at all.

The only development is the state steering committee clearing allocation of 350 acres of land to Bhopal Smart City Development Corporation Limited (BSCDCL). The decision was taken at a meeting held under the chairmanship of Chief secretary BP Singh on November 5. However, work on the project will start only after the clearance of the union government.

There are some 2,600 government-owned structures in the area. The BMC estimates that 264 of them are occupied. After alternate accommodation is provided to the inhabitants, all the structures will be demolished.

Originally, Shivaji Nagar and Tulsi Nagar were chosen for the project but as 20,000 trees would have been felled to make way for the Smart City, the site was shifted to North TT Nagar. Citizen’s groups, citing irreparable damage to the environment, had opposed the selection of the site tooth and nail. A survey by the government estimates that around 6,600 trees would be felled at the new site, in lieu of which 30,000 saplings would be planted.

Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan had announced in the middle of May, 2016 that North TT Nagar will be developed as Smart City. It was announced that it would come up on 280-acre land lying vacant in the area.

Residents and environmentalists had protested against the selection of Shivaji Nagar-Tulsi Nagar for the Smart City over the project’s possible impact on the environment. There was also resentment among people’s representatives from the ruling party because they were not taken into confidence prior to the selection.

Former chief secretary and convener of the National Centre for Human Settlement and Environment (NCHSE), Nirmala Buch spearheaded the campaign against the selection on the ground that the project would do immense damage to the environment as the area was considered the “lungs of the city”.

The list of 20 smart cities out of the 98 shortlisted for the ‘Smart Cities Mission’ was released by the union government. These 20 cities will be the first to receive funds, thus kick starting the process of developing them into ‘smart cities’. Over the next two years, 40 and 38 cities respectively will be picked up for development. In the first list three cities of Madhya Pradesh – Bhopal, Jabalpur and Indore – were selected.

Of the 98 cities and towns that five years later will graduate into smart cities, 24 are capital cities, another 24 are business and industrial centres, 18 are culture and tourism influenced areas, five are port cities and three are education and health care hubs.

A ‘smart city’ is an urban region that is highly advanced in terms of overall infrastructure, sustainable real estate, communications and market viability. It is a city where information technology is the principal infrastructure and the basis for providing essential services to residents. There are many technological platforms involved, including but not limited to automated sensor networks and data centres. The Smart City Project is an urban development vision to integrate multiple information and communication technology (ICT) and Internet of Things (IoT) solutions in a secure fashion to manage a city’s assets – the city’s assets include, but are not limited to, local departments’ information systems, schools, libraries, transportation systems, hospitals, power plants, water supply networks, waste management, law enforcement, and other community services.

 The goal of building a smart city is to improve quality of life by using urban informatics and technology to improve the efficiency of services and meet residents’ needs.

Along with South TT Nagar, North TT Nagar has also been a part of the re-densification project since 2011.

 The plan proposed construction of 4284 government houses on 35.17 hectare and 15 acre land was to be left for infrastructure amenities. 8.80 hectare land was to be left open for future projects.  Starting from the area opposite Hotel Palash Residency to areas close to 45 bungalows, TT Nagar Dussehra Maidan, Jharneshwar temple, 12 Daftar, Jawahar Chowk, Model School, TT Nagar Stadium and tin Shed areas were included in the project.  As per BMC officials, the Smart City has been planned on 132.52 hectare. Bhopal Development Authority (BDA) already has got the government houses vacated and dismantled in the said area so the proposed project could avail the land easily.  In the earlier site-Shivaji Nagar and Tulsi Nagar, most of the houses were occupied and it would have been a tough task to get the area vacated. Importantly, the shifting, dismantling and other works at Shivaji-Tulsi Nagar would have cost Rs 75 crore whereas this will cost less than 15 per cent of the original estimate at the new site. BDA had planned re-densification of the area in 167 acre by dismantling government houses of South and North TT Nagar in 2011.

No need to send Smart City project to centre

“There is no need of central approval for new venue. We got clearance of nearly 350 acre which was finalized in the meeting for smart city at North TT Nagar. The meeting was chaired by Chief Secretary BP Singh. It was marathon meeting and the main objective of the meeting was to clear the hurdles of allotment of land for smart city development”, said Chandramouli Shukla, CEO, Bhopal Smart City Development Corporation Limited and BMC Additional commissioner. “Now when the allocation of land is complete, process will gain momentum for the development of smart city. Main hurdle was allocation of land. And we did it”, CEO said.  Adding he said, “After shifting the venue, every thing was started from initial stage. We did it efficiently in this matter.”     Shukla, in his reply when asked about central approval after shifting the venue said, “There is no need for us to take approval from center. It is a misconception prevailing in the mind of public that after shifting the venue, there will be need of fresh approval from central government for development of smart city at the new site. It hardly matters. Entire show will be managed by BMC and state government. Central government will be providing fund for it. Rs 1000 crore will be given in the first phase of the project.”  CEO said, “BMC administration will speed up its work at the site. Dismantling the vacant houses and others things are job of BMC administration. Our job was to ensure the land.”

Metro goes off the tracks

As far as Metro Rail is concerned, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), which had earlier agreed to fund the projects in Bhopal and Indore, has gone back on its promise. Besides, the funding agency for Gwalior and Jabalpur projects is yet to be finalised. JICA had assured Rs 7,000 crore for the first phase of the metro rail project of around 26 km to be completed by 2021.

Total cost of Bhopal Metro Rail Project will be 22,504.25 crore. It will have seven routes on the entire 95.03 km stretch. Of this, 84.83 km will be elevated. The first phase will have two routes – Karond to AIIMS measuring 14.99 km and Bhadbhada to Ratnagiri measuring 12.88 km. The cost of first phase will be Rs 6,962 crore.

Smart City highlights

  • First phase would be developed with Rs 3,437 crore
  • An annual income of Rs 6755 crore is expected from the project
  • FAR would be 70
  • FAR for commercial area would be 30
  • Green land and open spaces would be 75 per cent
  • Separate cycle lane
  • Broad roads
  • 24×7 water supply
  • Digital and Wi-Fi enabled
  • 24×7 unhindered power supply
  • Green construction technology
  • Clean environment
  • Transport
  • Energy saving and waste management
  • Hospital and schools

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