The fourth largest city of Gujarat and the centre of Saurashtra, Rajkot has bagged the third position in the fourth list of the 30 cities to be developed under the government's Smart Cities mission. Under the mission, the city will receive a Rs 500-crore grant from the Centre and Rs 500 crore from the Gujarat government; the total project cost of the smart city proposal is around Rs 2,623 core. With the city getting a makeover under the programme, Banchha Nidhi Pani, Municipal Commissioner, Rajkot Municipal Corporation (RMC), elaborates upon the plans exclusively with CW.
Rajkot is Saurashtra's financial hub; what do you consider its strengths? How are you utilising these positives to make the city a smart one?
The city has a strong industrial character as evident from the two industrial areas located in the city and the three industrial estates surrounding it. These areas house over 26,000 industrial units. Over the years, it has remained a strong leader in areas such as automotive components, gems and jewellery (the unique craftsmanship is popular worldwide), foundry, metal, machine tools and food products. The best part is that Rajkot is strategically located adjacent to other industrial hubs such as Jamnagar and Morbi, helping to establish it as a financial hub of Saurashtra. While discussing the smart city proposal, we gave considerable thought on how to further boost the entrepreneurship culture of Rajkot and surrounding areas. During our consultation with the business community, it came to the fore that Rajkot lacks a proper management and convention centre and a skill development centre. We will build a new management and convention centre and skill development centre in the greenfield area as part of area-based development (ABD). Similarly, Rajkot Business Portal is a key initiative to improve the ease of doing business in the city.
This one-stop portal will help entrepreneurs get all the necessary permissions from RMC to start a business within a short timeframe.
Considering the development in the city, tell us about the upcoming opportunities for the construction industry.
Rajkot has been selected as a smart city in the third round and is ranked fifth in the Swachh Bharat Mission. There are ample opportunities for young, enthusiastic and innovative youths as well as experienced professionals in upcoming projects.
Is there any completed or ongoing project in the city that you would like to highlight?
We recently completed Phase-1 of the Rajkot Integrated Command and Control Centre (ICCC), a security and surveillance project. This project is unique; even before we qualified for smart city in Round III, we were working on setting up a solid foundation to start project execution as soon as possible once we qualified. We expanded the scope of the security and surveillance project we were implementing with Rajkot Police under the Safe and Secure Gujarat (SASGUJ) initiative and implemented a full-fledged ICCC. Today, we have all major IT solutions of RMC integrated to our ICCC. Over time, we have developed our own standard operating procedures to help optimise and control operations. The project recently bagged the best security and surveillance project award at a business world event. Given that we are a Round-III city, having a full-fledged ICCC in operation is a significant achievement.
Give us an overview of smart city-related developments. Are any tenders to be floated in coming months?
We are working aggressively on smart city projects. There are multiple focus areas and we want citizens to reap the benefits as soon as possible. We are working on tenders related to a traffic control system, transport management solution, enterprise resource planning and geographical information system. The tenders will be out soon.
How is Rajkot being positioned as a smart city? What is the main focus and amount budgeted to achieve the plan?
Smart city, as it is well known, has its focus on two initiatives: ABD and pan-city. As part of pan city, our focus is on traffic and transport, internal operations of RMC and water and waste management. As part of the ABD, we have proposed a complete greenfield area in the western part of the city. The total estimated cost of the project proposed under the smart city campaign is Rs 2,623 crore. This includes Rs 2,178 crore for ABD and Rs 446 crore for pan-city solutions.
The city finds mention in the UN report on 'District Energy Initiatives in Cities' under which, after implementation, no building in Raiya Smart City will require air-conditioning.
Rajkot is among the five Indian cities feasible for the implementation of a district cooling system. This central system liminates the use of air-conditioners and other equipment that emit greenhouse gases while they bring temperatures down. The system will be implemented in the 930-acre Raiya greenfield smart city.
We will complete the town planning process for this smart city in a span of six months. The project is estimated to cost around Rs 1,600 core; it will be implemented on the PPP mode, where an operator will invest and we will also get fees from the users of the system.
Also, tell us about current developments in waste management, water and power distribution?
We are taking measures to deal with waste management and have started on waste collection.
Our focus is on a 'waste-to-energy' project that is expected to cost Rs 1,500 crore.
What can one expect from Rajkot in 2018?
For us, the year 2018 will be a watershed year. We are looking forward to the completion of various projects and a lot of new beginnings in the areas of infrastructure development. IT projects will also be on the rise. This will be a positive year for us.
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