New Delhi: Only 32 of the 463 projects sanctioned under a mammoth government urban renewal programme have been completed almost three years after the scheme was announced in December 2005.
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Some 10 other projects are close to completion, while most of the others are lagging because of problems in acquiring land, shifting existing utilities and, sometimes, due to city officials’ inability to handle large projects, according to officials at the ministry of urban development.
The projects are sanctioned under the Rs50,000 crore Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM).
The mission aims to provide grants of between 35% and 90% of the cost of urban renewal projects for 65 mission cities, provided these cities agree to a set of mandatory reforms, which include cleaning up the municipal accounting system and land reforms.
The 463 projects—ranging from roads to sewerage, solid waste management and sanitation—cost an estimated Rs49,000 crore, of which the Central government will provide Rs23,500 crore, with the rest being put in by the state governments and municipal and city bodies.
The programme is seen as essential in a country where nearly one-third of the population lives in urban areas. One in every two Indians will live in a city by the year 2050, according to demographers. But while the programme is seen as a big boon for Indian cities, groaning under exploding populations and huge infrastructure deficits, throwing money at the problem may not always work, as other problems come to the fore.
“They (the cities) have a limitation because the same personnel who implement the projects have other tasks as well,” said an urban development ministry official, who did not want to be named. Another official said other problems being faced by the cities are land acquisition and moving utilities.
“Utility mapping is a big issue. When people start digging, they will suddenly find a pipe or an electricity wire,” said another official with the same ministry, who also did not want to be quoted.
“Land (acquisition) delays a lot of STPs (sewage treatment plants). Nobody wants an STP near their house,” said this official, who also cited the lack of project management experience among city officials.
Analysts say that the big difference between the urban renewal mission and other Central sector schemes is that in JNNURM, projects are appraised to see how they contribute to the city as well as to the programme.
“Why don’t you address the capacity issue when the project comes? If you don’t do the appraisal business properly when the cities submit their project proposals, then how is it (JNNURM) any different from other central sector schemes?” said O.P. Mathur, an urban development expert with New Delhi-based think tank National Institute for Public Finance and Policy.
The urban development ministry official, however, said that city officials assure the ministry that they can handle the project when having their project appraised. “They do say they will be able to handle (the project), but perhaps all of them are not able to handle all the problems.”
Video by Rahul Chandran