This January, Dharamshala was declared the second capital of Himachal Pradesh. What's more, the city, also renowned for being the residence of the Dalai Lama, has been selected as one of the 100 Indian cities to be developed as a smart city under the government's mission. Gearing up for that, Dharamshala Municipal Corporation, shares more on the city's infrastructure and developments in conversation with SERAPHINA D'SOUZA.
Tell us about the current projects under the smart cities initiative.
Dharamshala is an important hill town especially vis-a-vis India's foreign policy because His Holiness the Dalai Lama has made Dharamshala his abode. The town is centrally located and people from Punjab, Himachal, Haryana, all over North India and Mumbai visit it. About 20 lakh tourists visit the city yearly not only from India but from foreign countries too. It is seen as an important pilgrimage town.
For this, we require basic services, which we are focusing on under the smart cities programme: Streetlights, roads, proper channels for water discharge, greenery, protection of the environment and prevention of landslides, apart from modern amenities like the Internet and an intelligent transportation system. Also, of the total 17 wards in the city, half will come under area-based development, which will be about Rs 1,500 crore. Overall, about Rs 2,200 crore will be invested for the smart city projects in the city. In coming months, tenders will be floated in the normal course for constructing roads and under area-based development.
Housing for All is another initiative from the government. Tell us about the city's plans in this direction?
The Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana or Housing for All is one of the most successful models in Dharamshala. We have the highest number of beneficiaries being identified. In such a small town, there are 1,227 of them. Of these, 107 houses have started construction. For the rest of them, we have received the first instalment from the Government of India. The beneficiaries have been asked to complete codal formalities. We do not have slums in Dharamshala. For a few who had a portion of land available but were houseless, grants are being given to build houses.
Please highlight the opportunities for EPC contractors, building contractors and builders in the city.
They need to do best quality work of international standards. They should be ready to get all their work inspected by third parties and independent inspecting committees. The contractors can bid for constructing almost Rs 350 crore worth of smart roads, which would mean interlocking tiles, bollards, reflectors, traffic signal, drainage, etc. We also have a command and control centre coming up. Besides, several buildings will be coming up in the city, along with convention centres, reclamations, etc, which provide immense opportunities for contractors. The detailed RFP documents will be prepared for these projects, after which tenders will be floated.
Being a tourist destination, what are the efforts taken by the corporation to maintain the city's heritage?
As such, we have old British buildings that are being maintained through mutual efforts. We try not to disturb the original character of the buildings by not giving permissions for any new construction in those areas. Also, the department of TCP is in the process of preparing a master plan that will define the heritage zone. We are also in the process of restoring an old institute building located near Dharamkot.
Introduce us to the core infrastructure projects planned. Are there any tenders to be floated in this direction? What about smart transportation systems?
We are working towards making intelligent transport, whereby the buses are connected and the commuter knows which buses are going to arrive. So, there will be intelligent room centres with full information about the transportation system, but this will be in place once the PMC is appointed. Once the proposal is submitted, all the codal formalities will have to be completed.
Also, tell us about the parking lots to be built over drainage channels...
Because of the lack of parking space, we have decided to make parking lots over the drainage channels on the two sides of the city's link roads. This will come up under the PPP mode and tenders will be floated in the course of time. Our aim is to make intelligent puzzle parkings also wherever feasible.
Further, tell us about the city's contribution towards the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.
We have a proposal to process waste under the PPP mode. We have already started door-to-door collection of garbage in certain pockets. In terms of waste management for sustainable urban development, we have already done a successful underground dustbin project, which is running in the area.
Tell us about one aspect of Dharamshala the corporation is proud of.
Our roads are good. And it is a peaceful city; people live in harmony. In terms of challenges, it is a hilly area where infrastructure is difficult to build, even with high-quality engineers.
What is the annual budget planned for the city?
The budget will be around Rs 20 crore annually. It comes from internal sources as well as government grants. The state government provides half the budget.
Area: 27.6 sq km
Population: 53, 543 (as in 2015)
Year of establishment: 2015
Municipal councillor: Rs.17
Annual budget: About Rs.15 crore
Smart city budget: Rs.2,200 crore