Guwahati: Key issues of the city not addressed in Guwahati Smart City Project
GUWAHATI: The Guwahati Smart City Limited (GSCL), a special purpose vehicle (SPV) and a subsidiary company with equal stakes of the central and state governments to execute the Smart City Mission in Guwahati, has failed to address the key issues of the city.
Guwahati, the most populated and largest city in the northeast, was among the 20 cities selected in the first phase to be developed as a Smart City under the Smart Cities Mission in 2016, but has been missing deadlines since inception.
So, when the then Union Minister of Housing & Urban Affairs, M Venkaiah Naidu in April 2017, after reviewing the progress report had termed the progress “tardy”, the residents of the city were not too surprised nor amused.
Not much has changed a year and four months later despite a change in stalk from Naidu to Hardeep Singh Puri, as was evident from the Ministry’s tweet on August 26 that blamed the city’s “unique geographic & demographic conditions” behind the sluggish execution of the projects under the Smart City Mission.
But, when Guwahati people were asked which among the nine most-hyped projects under Smart City Mission - development of Borsola Beel, development of Bharalu River, development of Mora Bharalu River, Brahmaputra river-front development project, conservation and restoration of Deepor Beel, construction of National Flag at Gandhi Mandap, integrated traffic management system, installation of 30 drinking water ATMs and 30 public toilets and conversion of all the streetlight posts into solar smart poles – they opined that developing Bharalu River was the most important project and setting up the National Flag as the least important.
This was revealed in a survey – Let’s Talk Guwahati – conducted by G Plus in which more than 10,000 people from about 100 locations of the city were asked about these nine hyped projects under the Mission and a majority of 40 per cent of the total respondents voted for developing Bharalu River and only 21.4 per cent of the total respondents voted for the National Flag installation.
As part of the Rs 2.9 crore worth project to refurbish the Gandhi Mandap into a tourist spot, the GSCL has set up a 310-feet tall pole to hoist a 120’ X 80’ National Flag atop Sarania Hill here on August 15 – the first visible completed project under the mission.
Meanwhile, a total of Rs 5.58 crores has been sanctioned so far for the development of Bharalu River even as the 7.8 km stretch of the river from Jonali Bridge to Bharalumukh still remains a far cry. The most important aspects of the project are construction of a Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) with capacity of 85.5 million litres daily (MLD) near Ulubari fish feed farm, a new bridge at Jonali, dismantling of the existing wooden bridge and construction of RCC Bridge with pathways and utility corridor, new pedestrian bridges, retaining walls/embankments all along the banks up to Bharalumukh pumping station, walkway over the river along its banks, children play area, public toilets, drinking water points etc.
“It is a matter of pride and patriotism that we now have the country’s third tallest flag, but this should not have been the first priority of the government especially when it is suffering from real problems such as landslides, water logging, lack of electricity, traffic jam etc. Those needed to be solved first and thereafter the rest could have been taken up,” Beauty Das, a resident of Anil Nagar, one of the most flood prone areas of the city, said.
Another resident, Basab Goswami said, “We are patriots with or without a tall flag, but we are not comfortable and safe in the city without an integrated traffic management system or a foolproof flash flood solution. Those are the issues that needed to be taken care of.”
Only 11 out of 24 projects been taken up: MoHUA
The Union Ministry of the Housing & Urban Affairs had informed that out of the 24 sanctioned projects amounting to Rs 3,012 crores under the Smart City Mission, in two years, the Guwahati Smart City Limited (GSCL) has begun work on only five projects while six others have been tendered.
“Guwahati has a sanction for 24 projects amounting to Rs 3,012 crores under the Smart Cities Mission. Funds, amounting to Rs 196 crores have been released by government of India, and an amount of Rs 190 crores has been transferred by the state government to the special purpose vehicle (SPV). GSCL has invited tenders for 5 projects amounting to Rs 513 crores while 6 projects worth Rs 25 crores have either been partially or fully completed,” a tweet from the verified account of the MoHUA informed.
The GSCL had divided the projects into three major parts based on the area of its implementation namely, pan-city projects with three projects in it, area-based development (ABD) projects with five projects in it and three more in the category of other projects. This aside, it has also taken up a project to have a Geographic Information System mapping of the city for policy making for the various official departments.
The GSCL has taken up the Borsola Beel development project at a cost of Rs 2.1 crores, Mora Bharalu banks development at a cost of Rs 4.88 crores, development of Bharulu River at a cost of Rs 5.58 crores; Brahmaputra Riverfront development at a cost of Rs 8.26 crores; conservation of Deepor Beel Project at a cost of Rs 2.50 crores that are part of the ADB projects. Of the other project list, it took the setting up of 20 water ATMs at a cost of Rs 2.09 crores, 20 bio-toilets, refurbishing the Gandhi Mandap at Rs 2.9 crores.
Of the Pan City projects, the SPV has taken up the Smart Pole with City Optical Fibre Project at a cost of Rs 66.15 crores in which, 46 smart poles capable of providing light, WiFi, night-time CCTV surveillance etc.
However, except for the Pan City projects, the rest were supposed to be completed by May this year.
About the delay, MoHUA in its tweet said, “Due to unique geographic & demographic conditions, execution of projects in the North-East States face challenges like availability of resources, including professionals at a competitive price, complexity in management due to multiple stakeholders & land issues. Due to these challenges, projects have to be tendered out multiple times before a vendor is selected.”