In response to pleas by several cities which are part of its Smart City Mission, the central government has decided to allow changes in the Smart City Plan (SCP), as well as approve the projects proposed by the respective cities, but only on the condition that the revised plan maintains the “spirit and objective” of the mission. In an advisory issued to all 100 Smart Cities, the Union Urban Development Department said that proposing changes in the SCP and implementing them would be allowed, but only if the process ensured that the “spirit and objective of the mission was maintained, and it incorporated the aspirations of the people”.
“Over the course of the implementation of the project, the special purpose vehicle set up for the development of each Smart City has been requesting the Union government to permit changes in the SCP, which have arisen due to various factors that were not envisaged at the time of preparing the plan,” stated the advisory.
It acknowledged that during the course of implementation, certain conditions may arise — technical constraints, financial issues, supply side challenges or even changes in the aspirations of people — which may necessitate a change in the project. “While some flexibility is understandable so as to match the ground realities with the objectives of the mission, this should not lead to vitiation of the… process and its spirit, that may lead to complications in the future.” While the addition of new projects was allowed, they had to meet the guidelines of the Smart City Mission, stated the advisory. “… fund availability for the project has to be ensured,” it added.
However, the advisory clarified that dropping projects from the SCP would be allowed only in “extreme circumstances”. “The cities will have to give a clear reasoning for not undertaking the work,” it said. Changes in financial parameters were also allowed, provided no material modifications to the project were made and the overall SCP amount didn’t undergo a significant change, said the Centre. “However, an increase in the overall amount of SCP is permissible only on the clear availability of funds, or when an alternative source of financing for the project has been finalised,” stated the advisory.
The Pune Smart City Development Corporation Ltd (PSCDCL) welcomed the Centre’s decision to allow changes in the SCP. “There are a few projects in the SCP that were proposed in the beginning, but which can’t be implemented on the ground level due to various reasons. However, the non-implementation of such projects was affecting the overall performance of Smart City work,” said a senior PSCDCL official. As an example, he cited the planned development of an ‘island’ to supply power to Aundh Baner and Balewadi. The project can’t be implemented due to the large amount of investment needed for it, he said.