Five years of smart city and a humongous budget of Rs 5,900 crore for development have just delivered a smart city office building in Chandigarh. While officers of the UT Administration kept making trips to foreign countries to ‘study’ smart concept or attend smart city conferences which may have cost over Rs 80 lakh to the exchequer, nothing tangible happened on the ground in Chandigarh ever since it was declared a smart city by the government in June 2015.
The actual “smart projects” which city residents were promised at that time — intelligent traffic management system, underground wiring to avoid blackouts during storms, smart metering, innovative use of open spaces, public bike sharing, and last mile connectivity — have remained on papers, it appears.
An underpass which UT is constructing connecting the Rose Garden and Sector 17, which will not really see much footfall and is of no use as per architects, is being constructed from smart city funds and even this hasn’t seen completion and missed several deadlines. Chandigarh CEO of the Smart City Limited K K Yadav told Chandigarh Newsline that they have floated tenders worth over Rs 900 crore for various projects again.
“There were some projects in which we didn’t get any takers. So we have floated tenders for those again. In public bike sharing project, people have shown some interest and that project will begin soon,” Yadav said. But residents question why the tenders were floated almost after five years.
Baljinder Singh Bittu, chairman of the Federation of Sectors Welfare Association of Chandigarh, said, “They did absolutely nothing. In the name of smart city, the officers kept enjoying visits abroad. Smart city is nothing but just a means for these people to enjoy trips. Not a single project which is actually a smart project has been implemented. We have been hearing for the last five years that this project will be introduced soon.”
R K Garg, social activist, told Newsline, “They are just befooling residents in the name of smart city. This is not the way how things should work. At least something tangible should have been available on ground.” Back-to-back meetings with French delegations were held but to no avail. Even this month, a French delegation met UT Administration officers to discuss the smart city project in Chandigarh.
Chandigarh Newsline takes a look at some of the key projects which were supposed to be implemented:
Public bike sharing project
Since 2016, city residents have been hearing that public bike sharing project will begin soon. But it has actually not started. Even in 2018 last year, it was stated that the project will be implemented now. But ‘now’ never came for the UT Administration. Officials yet again stated that it is almost ready and they will finalise it soon as the request for proposals (RFPs) which were floated have received interest from different firms. Under the project, 5,000 bicycles were to be placed at different locations in Chandigarh to encourage non-motorised transport. This was to be done in the PPP (public private partnership) mode. 24X7 water supply.
On a pilot basis, the 24X7 water supply project was to begin in Manimajra. For the last many years, the preparation of detailed project report of the project had been under process. The Smart City Company Limited claimed to have asked for a loan of Rs 550 crore from French development bank, AFD. The AFD had asked them to submit DPR for this project by June this year. However, residents have been waiting for this project for the last five years.
Urban park in Sector 17
This project was supposed to be completed by July 2018. A land spread across 60 acres at the rear of Neelam Cinema was to be developed into a park with a seating capacity of 2,500. An amphitheatre, three open badminton courts, food court and children’s play area were all planned. UT Administrator V P Singh Badnore was the one who kicked off this project but to no avail.
Smart parking: A project that never worked
In the name of smart parking, the only thing that was done was rates of parking were doubled. A mobile app was launched which was supposed to help residents to book their parking space but the app didn’t work. The company that was supposed to bring in smart parking facilities in Chandigarh never brought so and was shunted out by the civic body. Now, all over again, new contractors will be brought in with new terms and conditions.
Underground electricity wiring project
This project was to be of great use to residents because a power blackout happens whenever there is rain or a dust storm. All the electricity wires were to be made underground, beginning from Sector 8. This project has been hanging fire for the last three years. Officials of UT engineering wing, which is executing the project, said that expression of interest from firms has been called at least thrice but there were no takers. They still maintained that the project will begin soon.