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18 months after inception: Srinagar ‘Smart City’ project fails at outset

Srinagar, Jan 25: Launched with a lot of hype a year-and-a-half ago, the Srinagar ‘Smart City Project’ is yet to acquire a definite shape for want of proper vision and strategies from the authorities in J&K, a recipe to turn yet another innovative project into a boondoggle.

On June 23 2017, Srinagar and Jammu cities made it to the list of 30 ‘Smart Cities’ announced by the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA).

 

Some of the core infrastructure elements in these ‘Smart Cities’, as per MoHUA, would include adequate water supply, assured electricity supply, sanitation, including solid waste management, efficient urban mobility and public transport, affordable housing, especially for the poor, and sustainable environment.

However, there has hardly been any headway on the project in the summer capital, where the administration is still stuck in evaluating the entries for the logo design for the ‘Srinagar Smart City’ programme.

An official of state’s Housing and Urban Development Department (HU&DD) said the time-frame fixed for the preparatory activities has been missed by the authorities.

“No preparatory activities like engagement of project management consultants, hiring necessary manpower, calling tenders and issuing work orders have been completed till date,” the official said, wishing not to be quoted by name.

MoHUA, as per the official, had allocated Rs 52 crore to ‘Srinagar Smart City’, however the authorities have not prepared the necessary work plan to be able to avail the funds.

“The projects selected under Round-3 have to be completed during years 2020-21 and 2021-22. Going by the current pace, it seems they won’t be finished within the set deadlines,” the official said.

“So far only Special Purpose Vehicles have been established for both cities,” the official said.

Even the full-fledged Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) for Srinagar Smart City Limited and Jammu Smart City Limited have not been selected yet.

District Development Commissioner Srinagar, Abid Rasheed Shah, who holds the additional charge of CEO Srinagar ‘Smart City’ Project, said that funds have already been sanctioned for various projects under the project.

He said they had a meeting with various experts last month about the implementation of various projects under the mission.

“Work has been expedited now,” Shah said, refusing to give details of the projects in pipeline.

As per the guidelines of the Smart Cities Mission, MoHUA, J&K government was required to set up Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs), engage Project Management Consultants, hire necessary human resources, call tenders and issue work orders–all within a period of 12 to 18 months.