After missing it at the previous two rounds, Rajkot finally made it on the list of Smart Cities Mission of Central government as the city found a place among 30 cities from the county which were added as mission cities on Thursday and thus became eligible for Rs 500 crore Central government grant. With Rajkot, Gandhinagar and Dahod also got selected as other two cities for the initiative.
Among the 30 cities added to the Mission, Rajkot was placed third on the list behind Thiruvanananthapuram and Naya Raipur. Gandhinagar, the capital of Gujarat was on serial number nine and Dahod on 22nd. Rajkot’s selection comes just six days before visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the city to inaugurate the link-III pipeline of Saurasthra Narmada Avataran Irrigation Yojana (SAUNI) through which Narmada water is being pumped to Aji-I dam, a major source of drinking water for the city. The link-II pipeline pumps Narmada water from Dholi Dhaja dam in Surendranagar to Aji-I dam on the eastern outskirts of Rajkot city. Modi is also scheduled to organise a major road show on that day.
However, Rajkot mayor Jaiman Upadhaya said there was no connection between Rajkot getting selected as a mission city and the PM’s proposed visit. “The PM’s proposed visit to Rajkot was finalised very recently while the date of announcing results of round-III of Smart Cities Mission challenge was was decided at least two months ago. There is absolutely no connection between the two dates. Selection of Rajkot is completely based on our smart city proposal and planning for its execution. We had missed the cut in round-II just by a margin of 2.5 points. But we have made for it this time round by securing third position on the list of 30 cities selected today,” said Upadhaya.
There were 50 cities in contention for the 30 slots in round-III. But Rajkot Municipal Corporation’s proposal to undertake green-field development on 250 acres of land in Raiya area and retrofitting the 11-kilometre-long BRTS corridor as part of Area-based development found favour with the Union Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD). The RMC’s proposal also includs slum-redevelopment on 50 acres along Aji river and retrofitting 500 acres area of Race Course in the heart of the city.
The greenfield area development in Raiya will be a complete modern urban district with high-density residential development including affordable housing, hotels, restaurants and other commercial space, corporate offices, hospitals, educational institutes, recreational spaces and places will give glimpses of rural life. Similarly, 250 metre area on either side of the BRTS corridor between Gondal Chowkadi and Madhapar Chowkadi will be retrofitted by allowing mixed development, creating eco-mobility systems like bicycle tracks, footpath networks and making municipal services accessible.
Slum redevelopment proposal includes creating social infrastructure along the riverine patch and thereby rejuvenate Aji river. Green pathways covered with solar panels will be created in the area besides recreational zones. The pan city projects in RMC proposal include creating infrastructure for managing water and waste-water, solid waste management initiatives like reducing generation of waste, recycling, converting it into energy etc.
Setting up Intelligent traffic and transport systems with the help of electronic surveillance system and further integration of information technology in delivery of municipal services also make up the pan city project proposal. According to the RMC propsal, the smart city projects will entail total investment worth Rs 2,623 crore over the next five years. Out of them, 2,177 crore will be spent on area-based development projects while the remaining 446 crore will be spent on pan-city projects.
The largest part of this investment, around Rs 736 crore will come via public-private partnership mode. It constitutes 28 per cent of the total investment. Convergence of various schemes funded by the state and Central governments will bring in another Rs 587 crore while Rs 300 crore will be raised through infrastructure development. The Central government will give Rs 500 special grant and the state government will also help with Rs 250 crore special grant. The RMC plans to contribute the balance Rs 250 crore.
The Smart Cities Mission was launched in 2015. However, Rajkot had failed to get selected as a mission city in the previous two rounds even as Ahmedabad, Vadodara and Surat had made the cut. RMC modified its proposals subsequently before the city was finally selected on Friday. Gujarat had got been given the quota of six cities for nomination in the Smart Cities Mission. And now, all of them have been selected as mission cities. So far, 90 cities have been included as mission cities. Another round will be held to select the remaining 10 slots.