Making of Jammu Smart City


Romesh K. Pandita The Smart Cities Mission, a major urban development initiative designed to improve living conditions and achieve higher economic growth in 100 cities across the country was launched by Government of India in June 2015. The purpose to launch the mission was to provide the State and City Governments another opportunity to think creatively and work towards the betterment of their cities. India is the second country in the world with nearly a fifth of the world’s population. According to the 2019 revision of the World Population Prospects the population stood at 135.60 crore. India is projected to surpass China to become the world’s most populous country by 2024. In India nearly 31% of India’s current population lives in urban areas and contributes more than 60% of India’s GDP. The increase in urbanization, urban areas is likely reach to 40% of India’s population that is likely to contribute 75% of India’s GDP by 2030. Therefore, these cities require comprehensive development of physical, institutional, social and economic infrastructure. All are important in improving the quality of life and attracting people and investments to the City, setting in motion a virtuous cycle of growth and development. Development of Smart Cities is a step in that direction. 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. 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 and a 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 by way of e-Governance and citizen participation, sustainable environment, safety and security of citizens (particularly women, children and the elderly), good health and education. In order to meet the aspirations and needs of the citizens, the entire urban eco-system that is represented by the four pillars of comprehensive development consisting of institutional, physical, social and economic infrastructure are proposed to be upgraded under the mission. The purpose of the Smart Cities Mission is to drive economic growth and improve the quality of life of people by enabling local area development and harnessing technology, especially scientific intervention that leads to Smart outcomes. Area-based development will transform existing areas (by way of retrofitting and redevelopment), including slums, into better planned ones, thereby improving liveability of the whole City. New areas (green field) will be developed around cities in order to accommodate the expanding population in urban areas. Application of Smart Solutions will enable cities to use technology, information and data to improve infrastructure and services. Comprehensive development in this way will improve quality of life, create employment and enhance incomes for all, especially the poor and the disadvantaged, leading to inclusive Cities. The focus of Smart City Mission shall be to expand housing opportunities for all, reduce congestion, air pollution, boost local economy, promote interaction and ensure security. Providing good road network, decent public transport, preserving open spaces like parks, play grounds and recreational spaces are priorities of the mission. Citizen friendly governance, better educational and healthcare infrastructure facilities also remain on the top priorities of the mission. The mission will require retrofitting in the existing build-up areas to achieve smart city objectives and to make the area clean and liveable. Jammu is the most populous district in the UT of Jammu & Kashmir and is home to the winter capital of the UT. The project for development of Jammu as one of the smart cities was approved with a cost of Rs. 3600 Cr. The project cost among other interventions includes Multilevel parking cum commercial complex at old bus stand Jammu, up gradation of city roads, improvement to lanes & bye lanes, improvement to traffic islands, additional parking spaces etc. The project cost also includes removal of over ground utilities, providing of underground ducting for multiservice including providing underground cabling for power supply and uninterrupted power supply, augmentation of distribution system and storage capacity, smart power metering, LED lighting etc. Several initiatives like multi level parking/ commercial complex near old bus stand, providing of LED lighting in nook and corner of the city etc have been initiated and nearly completed. Many works concerning improving of overall aesthetic of Jammu city particularly under Anterior Expressway Corridor (flyover) Jammu are either in progress or about to kick starts soon. The proposal involves covering the flyover columns with a vertical garden/ bio wall system using drip irrigation process to beautify the entire stretch under fly over Jammu. Providing of such gardens / Bio walls is aimed at reducing pollution due to flow of heavy volume of traffic in the area and also to improve aesthetics of the area. Although several initiatives for improvement of Jammu city under smart city mission have been taken and/or are under way, but the retrofitting measures like removal of overhead utilities by way of providing multi-service underground ducting for power supply cables and other services is nowhere to be seen despite takeoff of the project almost three years back. The biggest irony of the day remains that the over-ground utilities are further mercilessly being defaced by addition of multiple cable networks tied with electric poles by different private players/companies. Defacing of roads at multiple places by placing of municipal huge garbage bins in driveway of very important roads remains a common feature. These sites have become breeding grounds for mosquitoes, stray dogs and animals and also lead to congestion, air pollution, and traffic jams. Contrary to mission objectives to reduce congestion, air pollution and to improve aesthetics these sites have become eyesores and places of serious health and traffic hazard. The concerned departments are required to consider ways and means to develop proper enclosures for garbage bins outside the carriageway and/or footpaths on scientific lines to match the objective of making Jammu a smart city. Scientific management of wet and solid waste at source is also required. (The author is Ex. GM SASB, Retd. SE, R&B)