October 2017 News

Smart City Proposal Not So Smart

19 October 2017
Rising Kashmir
Yawar Hussain

Srinagar: The proposal prepared by the Jammu and Kashmir government for the development of Srinagar under the central government's smart city mission is full of visuals-edited photographs, graphics and sketches-showing how the smart city would look like but does not suggest any action plan to achieve the transformation it proposes. The document has over a dozen digitally-edited images showing how various places in Srinagar presently looked like and how they would look like after the city transforms into a smart city. However, it does not mention how the change would be realized. Describing the proposed plan to develop the city centre Lal Chowk, the document shows a photograph-titled 'before'-of the existing road and its surroundings near the Ghanta Ghar. The accompanying, digitally-edited image-titled 'after'-shows the same place with two vehicular lanes, perpendicular parking, plaza area, two pedestrian paths, a green buffer and two cycle tracks, one of them doubling as an access road. However, the document does not mention any strategy about how the infrastructure would be built with the surrounding buildings intact. Ironically, another edited image visualizes the developed Maulana Azad Road near recently-inaugurated mechanized car parking. It shows four vehicular lanes, two parallel car parking spaces on the two sides, three green buffer zones-one of them dividing the four lane road-and two pedestrian paths. The image shows the existing buildings intact on both sides of the proposed road, but again, no strategy to achieve the look. Under retrofitting of the heritage district, an image of 'Tchunt Kaul'-atributaryof Dal lake-has been put up under the 'before' category while the edited image shows the weed-free tributary. In another photograph of Khanyar chowk, only the signboards of the existing shops and the zebra crossings for the pedestrians have been put up to depict the change after Srinagar is transformed into a smart city. Under the redevelopment plan, the smart city document has proposed to improve the wetlands and botanic gardens of Srinagar but the document only shows the edited photographs and no workable strategy. The document mentions the present scenario of Srinagar city. It mentions that there is only 33 percent sewerage connectivity in the city. However, the proposal is silent on the projects planned to improve it. The document also reveals that Srinagar has a meagre 2.6 square-meter per capita green space, with 200 parks, but does not mention if the government plans to improve the green cover or parks in the city. The proposal mentions that 80 percent of the city population depends on public transport with 54 percent using buses, 43 percent using mini-buses and 3 percent using other public transport systems. It also reveals that 71 percent population is in favour of an organised public transport system but the proposal is silent on how the government plans to develop the system. The document mentions that the city is situated in seismic zone 5 and a major part of the city is situated in the flood-prone area. Thedocument is silent on the plan to make the city resilient against such natural disasters. Farooq Lone, Chief Executive Officer of the Special Purpose Vehicle for implementing the smart city proposal, told Rising Kashmir that the government would engage a project monitoring consultancy soon, which would suggest projects needed to fulfil the proposals in the smart city document. He said the smart city document was'just a broad idea of what is being planned under the smart city concept'. Srinagar city became part of the Government of India's smart city mission in June this year. The mission aims at improving basic urban infrastructure in the cities. Under the programme, a smart city will get Rs 1,000 crore funding by the central government for its comprehensive development and effective delivery of public services.For Srinagar and Jammu, the state government has submitted proposals seeking funds of Rs 3,600 crore and Rs 3,400 crore respectively. According to its website, urban planners ideally aim at developing the entire urban eco-system to provide for the aspirations and needs of the citizens. It terms the four pillars of comprehensive development as 'institutional, physical, social and economic' infrastructure. Meanwhile, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, in June this year, termed the central government's decision to include Srinagar and Jammu cities in the smart city list as 'historic'. She said the move would 'herald a new era of planned, futuristic and eco-friendly development of the two capital cities'.