BHOPAL: Prime Minister Narendra Modi's concept of smart city and its attainability was debated and discussed at a GenNext Cities seminar here on Friday. While former secretary of Union ministry of urban development Sudhir Krishna defined smartness of a city in terms of efficiency and transparency of services, the hindrances and challenges were pointed out by bureaucrats of Madhya Pradesh government.
Minister for urban administration Kailash Vijayvargiya said it is easier for China to make a smart city than India. Sharing his experience in Guangzhou, where he was sent to understand the model of a smart city, Vijayvargiya said, "Chinese authorities claimed they evacuated 50,000 families from a slum area in 15 days. We were amazed and asked how. They said notices were served and residents moved out. Those who didn't were sent to jail. But that is possible in communist China where land acquisition is never a problem. This cannot work in a democracy like India. For us, the happiness quotient of citizens is primary factor of a smart city. We cannot use force."
Commissioner urban administration Sanjay Shukla said that there are 378 cities, towns and urban habitations in Madhya Pradesh with an approximate two crore population. He explained state has already started work on a survey of 100 cities that can be used in the planning of smart cities. However, Shukla argued that extreme resource crunch is a major challenge that urban local bodies would face in developing smart cities.
"Urban local bodies are almost entirely dependent on state and central grants. Their own resources are less than 10% to 15% of the total budget. We have to work on building their resources. Infrastructure is lacking in the cities and a large amount of money would be necessary to create that kind of groundwork," Shukla said quoting a central report that to upgrade India's urban infrastructure would mean an expenditure of Rs 39 lakh crore.
"Illegal colonies come up because a large portion of our society are looking for plots and housing at cheap rates which are not available. Hence, they get into illegal housing. Our slums and slum-like habitations have no proper sanitation, street-lights and where even fire-brigades and ambulances cannot enter during emergencies. Till now technical planning of cities was not given priority. And suddenly we need to create efficient urban services," he said.
Urban administration and town planning department justified the toughest challenge is to increase resources as without funds smart cities cannot be built and the infrastructure gap of decades cannot be filled.
Former secretary Union ministry of urban development Sudhir Krishna discussed the main ingredients of a smart city. He said, "Drainage should get prime importance and needs to be planned in a way that sewerage does not touch the waters of the city, not even the lakes and ponds. Round-the-clock water supply exists in Nagpur and Ahmedabad and is achievable. Metered water is essential to curb wastage," Sudhir Krishna said.
Bio-digester toilets for Indian Railways, solid waste management plants, recycled brick making machines and a financially viable transport system are some of the key requirements of a smart city, Krishna said. He also said that a smart city should be inclusive and make adequate place for senior citizens, disabled people and have adequate disaster handling capacity. A smart city should also be safe and crime free, he argued.