New Delhi: Dharamshala has been included in the central government’s list of Smart Cities. Union Urban Development Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu announced the 13 winners of the Fast Track Smart Cities competition. Lucknow topped the list of winners conducted for 23 cities from as many States and Union Territories, while Shimla comes at third spot.

Announcing the winners Naidu said the cities that participated in the competition improved the quality of smart city plans by up to over 25% to become eligible for selection. With the selection of these 13 cities, 25 States/UTs are now covered under Smart City Mission.

On the occasion, Naidu released a publication ‘Urban Renaissance : May,2014-May,2016’ giving a detailed account of paradigm shift in attitudes and approaches to urban planning and governance and the major drivers of urban revival and transformation set in motion during the last two years.

Naidu informed that Lucknow that missed the list of first 20 smart cities improved the quality of its smart city plan by 19% to make it to the select list. Other winners of Fast Track competition were ; Warangal, Telanagana (13%), Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh (27%), Chandigarh (9%), Raipur, Chattisgarh (25%), New Town Kolkata (11%), Bhagalpur, Bihar (25%), Panaji, Goa (9%), Port Blair, Andaman & Nicobar Islands (26%), Imphal, Manipur (27%), Ranchi, Jharkhand (27%), Agartala, Tripura (25%) and Faridabad, Haryana(12%).

Naidu stated the 13 cities have substantially improved their smart city plans by addressing the deficiencies identified in the first round of competition by ensuring better profiling of respective cities in terms of infrastructure gaps and baseline service levels, ensuring consistency between citizens’ aspirations and action plans, more feasible resource mobilization plans and coordinated and integrated picture of how individual projects will contribute to area level changes.

Seven capital cities left out of Smart City Mission will also be allowed to participate in the competition. These cities are: Shimla, Patna, Naya Raipur, Itanagar (Arunachal Pradesh), Amaravati (Andhra Pradesh), Bengaluru and Thiruvananthapuram (Kerala).

The Minister said that as a part of efforts for country’s transformation towards higher levels of social and economic development, renaissance of urban sector has been set in motion through a paradigm shift in policies and programmes.

Giving an account of the gains of new initiatives and approaches, Naidu said that for the first time in the country, 98 smart cities and 497 Atal Mission cities accounting for over 70% of urban population now have long term five year action plans based on comprehensive analysis of infrastructure gaps. Other positives the Minister stated include : Atal Mission cities acquiring technology platforms for transparent and accountable governance and citizen engagement, about 100 cities initiating action for obtaining Credit Ratings necessary for resource mobilization, approvals for plans for providing water taps to the unconnected 25 million urban households besides ensuring water supply at the norm of 135 litres per head per day to all urban households by 2019, smart city development benefitting 130 million urban people, streamlining approvals for building permits in urban areas, efforts for sanitation benefitting all 80 million urban households, well considered initiatives to ensure affordable housing for all the urban poor etc.

Venkaiah Naidu informed that the new urban sector initiatives of PMAY(Urban), Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT), Start City Mission, Swachh Bharat Mission and Heritage Development and Augmentation Yojana (HRIDAY) have a total investment potential of Rs.18 lakh crore. Of this, an investment of Rs.1,48,093 cr has already been approved. This include ; Affordable housing-Rs.43,922 cr, Atal Mission-Rs.20,882 cr, Smart City Mission-Rs.80,789 cr, Swachh Bharat Mission-Rs.2,000 cr and HRIDAY- Rs.500 cr.

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Rahul Bhandari is Editor of TheNewsHimachal and has been part of the digital world for last 15 years.