Developed cities edge out towns in the ‘smart city’ racehttps://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/developed-cities-edge-out-towns-in-the-smart-city-race/

Developed cities edge out towns in the ‘smart city’ race

CM Fadnavis announced that 10 cities from the state would compete with entries from other states to bag ‘Smart City’ projects meant to improve urban infrastructure.

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Of the 10 shortlisted cities for the Smart Cities initiative, four lie in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region. (Express Photo)

Developed cities in Maharashtra have edged out emerging towns in the race for bagging central funds for infrastructure.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said in the state legislature on Friday that ten cities from the state were being nominated for the Centre’s Smart Cities initiative, and would compete with entries from other states to bag ‘Smart City’ projects meant to improve urban infrastructure.

The 10 shortlisted cities included Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Thane, Kalyan-Dombivali (in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region); Pune, Pimpri-Chinchwad, Solapur (in Western Maharashtra); Nagpur and Amravati (in Vidarbha); Nashik in North Maharashtra, and Aurangabad in Marathwada.

Although the Narendra Modi government has identified development of new towns close to developed cities as a key goal behind the smart city initiative, government sources revealed that the Centre’s rider that the participating city must contribute Rs 50 crore each year towards the initiative put paid to the plans of some fast emerging towns in the state.

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Ironically, the day when the Chief Minister announced his next plan for development for urban areas in Maharashtra, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India rapped the government for the lack of basic infrastructure amenities in emerging towns in Maharashtra.

The report observed that none of the 36 towns where it conducted a performance audit was found to have met even basic service level benchmarks for water supply, solid waste management, and sewage management. The audit conducted for the period 2011-14 was carried out betwen February, 2014 and August, 2014.

The CAG report said that water supplied in 50 per cent of the audited towns just ranged between 25 and 69 litres per person per day, even as the government’s own norms mandated a minimum supply of 70 liters per person per day.

It observed that this was “due to losses from the distribution system, reduced efficiency of water treatment plans, and irregular water supply”.

Further, not a single town surveyed was found to meet benchmarks set by the Centre, which were adopted by the state in 2010, for coverage of water supply connections, per capita availability of water, extent of metering of water connection, extent of metering of non-revenue water, extent of cost recovery in water supply services, efficiency in collection of water supply related charges, continuity and quality of water supply and efficiency of redressal of customer complaints.

Almost no town was found to be segrating municipal waste, the CAG has further observed, adding, “A number of towns were not even authorised by the state pollution board for waste disposal facilities.” Waste water was directly being discharged without treatment either to open drain or storm water drain leading to nearby rivers, polluting these resources.

The CAG has also identified irregularities in minor irrigation projects. Several minor projects did not master plan and were approved in ad-hoc manner.