Determined to bring tech-savvy Bengaluru its Smart City tag, the BBMP, which is going all out, hopes to raise Rs 2,200 crore over the next five years for a slew of projects like smart bus shelters, smart parking, smart bins and e-rickshaws. This has raised eyebrows for two reasons: First, the BBMP will need to raise Rs 1,500 crore from private investors, a huge challenge considering its blemished track record. Second, when the BBMP's lack of vision even with basic projects like pothole-free roads is well known, a project of this magnitude maybe almost impossible to achieve. Will they rise to the occasion, asks Chandrashekar G.
The BBMP is determined to no stone unturned in its attempts to make Bengaluru a smart city and is now looking to raise Rs 2,200 crores through a Special Purpose Vehicle for the purpose. While the Smart City move has been welcomed by welfare associations and urban experts alike, the BBMP’s hopes of raising some Rs 1,500 crore through private investors has raised many an eyebrow. Experts have also begun to question the lack of public participation and consultation, aside from the BBMP’s well-known lack of vision when it comes to solving issues that have plagued the city for years.
Aesthetics of a city are important but the services offered should be consumer-oriented and smart enough to satisfy the demands of the public.
— D.S. Rajshekar, CAF
The main bone of contention here is that the BBMP, which is still crippled by the basics including pothole-free roads and the efficient mobilisation funds from property tax, may not be equipped to take up the ambitious projects listed under the Smart City initiative. “What’s so smart about the projects that have been taken up,” questions D.S. Rajshekar, President, Citizens Action Forum (CAF).
Providing e-applications and a flurry of mobile apps is not the answer, he argues. “The visual appeal of a city is one thing and is important but the services offered should be consumer-oriented and smart enough to satisfy the demands of the public.” The BBMP talks of projects like bays for bicycles, e-buses, e-rickshaws, smart bus shelters, smart bins, smart parking and intelligent traffic management, he says, adding caustically, “And still, there is no roadmap to improve mass rapid transportation!”
Roping in citizens from different walks of life, instead of limiting inputs to field experts will result in a transparent, truly smart and people-friendly city, says Rajshekar. “Who decides if the money is spent smartly, on projects that are even smarter? The public does! The city is in dire need of certain basic facilities like rapid public transport. A nodal officer has been appointed but the lack of transparency is evident,” he believes.
The city has been having a perennial electricity, water and traffic problem. When will the BBMP solve these basic problems. A nodal agency must be formed to rope in other agencies for better delivery of smart city initiative.
— Nirmala Nagaraj, resident of Rajajinagar
Sridhar Pabbsetty, Chief Executive Office (CEO), Namma Bengaluru Foundation (NBF) says that it is important to understand the situation in which Bengaluru is growing. The BBMP and state government have the ability to raise Rs. 500 crore, what about involving private partners to pump in Rs 1,500 crore? Given the lack of transparency and the fact that the BBMP is mired in scams, getting private partners to make big investments is going to be a challenge,” he remarks. “The BBMP’s Namma Bengaluru Nanna Koduge, which kicked off a couple of years ago, was a farcical exercise. Investors weren’t given due credit and those who had spent huge money on the upkeep of public parks were shunted out unceremoniously,” he says, adding, “Many private investors have expressed their reservations about the way in which public-private partnerships are evaluated here. With this track record, bringing in genuine private partners is a tall order.”
Projects with five-year deadline will be done in two: BBMP Commissioner
The Smart City initiative will cost the BBMP Rs 2,220 crores, which the Palike plans to spend over five years in the upgradation of roads and e-initiatives like smart bus shelters and auto rickshaw stands. BBMP Commissioner N. Manjunath Prasad tells DC that the approved projects will be completed in two years.
What is the funding pattern for projects under the smart city initiative?
Although the project is spread out over five years, the Centre will release Rs 200 crore in the first year, Rs 100 crore in second and Rs 200 crore in the third year. The state government will give matching grants of Rs 500 crore. The BBMP is expected to invest both from its exchequer and through PPPs.
How will you prioritise the projects under the Smart city initiative?
We will not prioritise any projects as such. Projects like road development, markets improvement, slum development and other smart initiatives will be taken up simultaneously. The BBMP will mobilize funds to ensure unhindered progress of projects.
Why is there no project or plan for public transportation like sub-urban or mono rail?
The BBMP has already submitted certain projects and some have been approved by the high level committee. Projects like suburban trains cannot be included as these don’t fit into smart city project guidelines. The projects should be area specific and cannot be taken up in bit and pieces. Some of the projects under the initiative include, smart vendor kiosks (collapsable/ portable), e-bus shelters, auto rickshaw stands, bicycle share points, cycle stands, pedestrian and cycle network around the lake, public toilets/ e toilets, drinking water points, smart bins, public space features/ furniture, solar tree, CCTV Installation, including tree planting, hedges and maintenance.