Is the Smart City project truly smart?

Is the Smart City project truly smart?

The first question is what is meant by a ‘smart city’. The answer is, there is no universally accepted definition of a Smart City. It means different things to different people. The conceptualisation of Smart City, therefore, varies from city to city and country to country, depending on the level of development, willingness to change and reform, resources and aspirations of the city residents. A Smart City would have a different connotation in India than, say, Europe. Even in India, there is no one way of defining a Smart City. 

Some definitional boundaries are required to guide cities in the Mission. In the imagination of any city dweller in India, the picture of a Smart City contains a wish list of infrastructure and services that describes his or her level of aspiration. To provide for the aspirations and needs of the citizens, urban planners ideally aim at developing the entire urban eco-system, which is represented by the four pillars of comprehensive development — institutional, physical, social and economic infrastructure. 

This can be a long term goal and cities can work towards developing such comprehensive infrastructure incrementally, adding on layers of ‘smartness’. In the approach to the Smart Cities Mission, the objective is to promote cities that provide core infrastructure and give a decent quality of life to its citizens, a clean and sustainable environment and application of ‘Smart’ Solutions. The focus is on sustainable and inclusive development and the idea is to look at compact areas, create a replicable model which will act like a light house to other aspiring cities. The Smart Cities Mission of the Government is a bold, new initiative. It is meant to set examples that can be replicated both within and outside the Smart City, catalysing the creation of similar Smart Cities in various regions and parts of the country.  The core infrastructure elements in a Smart City would include:

 adequate water supply, assured electricity supply, sanitation, including solid waste management, efficient urban mobility and public transport, affordable housing, especially for the poor, robust IT connectivity and digitalization, good governance, especially e-Governance and citizen participation, sustainable environment, safety and security of citizens, particularly women, children and the elderly, and  health and education.

In regard to the state of Sikkim two cities has been selected for the smart city projects they are Namchi and Gangtok wherein the funds are equally divided between state and the centre government.

The Gangtok smart city currently are working on 11 projects estimating about 337.5 cr wherein the centre government has granted 194cr in two instalments following which the state is yet to sanction a penny from its part.

According to the official website of the smart city project the work details are 

RAIN WATER HARVESTING

Construction of “Rain Water Harvesting System” at various administrative and educational blocks. The project strives to improve the physical infrastructure and more importantly reduce the pressure on existing water supply system in the PAN City areas, which are situated within the boundary of Gangtok Municipal Area. The Modular Tank technology would be used for storage purpose enabling storm water control and management system.

CONSTRUCTION OF NEW FOOTPATH

Footpaths within the city is a subject matter directly dealt by the Gangtok Municipal Corporation. Construction of new pedestrian walkways are taken after due consultation with GMC and as per Government directives. The estimates are prepared based on case to case basis. Presently two footpaths have been taken up: (a) Old slaughter house (near Sher-E-Punjab) to Indira bypass (zero) (Arithang Ward) and (b) Vinayak Mission to Sikkim Housing Board colony, 6th mile.

ROAD AND JUNCTION IMPROVEMENT

The project intends to improve road and junction at 17 locations of Gangtok city for increased convenience, comfort and safety of the road users including pedestrians to some extent. The issue of traffic congestion and vehicular movement would be partially addressed by undertaking the following activities at the feasible locations: (a) widening of intersection points, (b) widening of road, (c) shifting of footpath, (d) turning radius improvement, (e) installing roundabout etc.          

PALACE REJUVENATION, RETROFITTING AND REDEVELOPMENT

The Tsuklakhang Complex in the city is the royal seat of the erstwhile king (Chogyal) of Sikkim. The Palace complex as it is commonly known also houses the royal chapel and residence of the then Chogyal. It is one of the main tourist attractions of the city with its unique art, architecture and culture. This heritage complex required to be redeveloped and the work "Palace Rejuvenation Project" at Gangtok, aims to conserve the old and also bring in new infra structures; duly maintaining the heritage and sanctity of the place while undertaking the retrofitting and redevelopment activities in consultation with the Trust.

INTEGRATED COMMAND AND CONTROL CENTER

The Integrated Command and Control Centres are envisaged to be the brain for city operation, exception handling, and disaster management. Integrated Command and Centre (ICCC) will integrate various systems of different stakeholders in the city that will enhance safety, security and provide better public services for the city. PAN City network of CCTVs, Smart Pole, Smart Lights, VMD and other ICT interventions are included in the project.

IMPROVEMENT OF PEDESTRIAN WALKWAY/ FOOTPATH FROM BALUWAKHANI (VAJRA CINEMA HALL) TO RANIPOOL, GANGTOK

Improvement and Retrofitting of Pedestrian side walkway, from Baluwakhani to Ranipool, 12 km approx., seeks to remodel the footpath by providing longitudinal ducts for utilities including cross ducts at strategic places.

The total cost of the smart city project of Gangtok is 1000cr where the state has to provide 50% of the sum according to the guidelines given by the ministry of human resources department government of India while submitting the proposal in the year 2017 during the time of the Sikkim democratic party government. Yet after 4 years the smart city project amount sanitation by the state government is yet to be completed by the state government

In regard to which Sikkim chronicle team tried contacting with the Sikkim democratic front as well as the current Sikkim Krantikari Morcha officials have refrained speaking on the issue despite calls and serval messages.