-Ved Prakash, Commissioner, Municipal Corporation Jabalpur
A Tier-II city in Madhya Pradesh, Jabalpur is the third largest urban agglomerate in the state (as per the 2011 census), India´s 37th largest urban agglomerate, and was recently selected in the very first list of the government´s smart cities challenge - it stood seventh among all competitor cities. Ved Prakash, Commissioner, Municipal Corporation Jabalpur, shares the vision to make the city odour-free and a gateway of eco-ethnic and spiritual tourism in conversation with SHRIYAL SETHUMADHAVAN.
Jabalpur is the cultural capital of Madhya Pradesh. A recent tweet from the corporation also mentions that the city aims to become a regional economic cultural hub. What is being done to fulfil this?
We are developing a travel market and cultural street here. Our plan is to develop cultural centres where a lot of activities can go on. Also, Jabalpur will be groomed as a city of festivals and events; this is part of the overall tourism plan envisaged for the city. Further, the city can be a gateway for eco-ethnic and spiritual tourism. Hence, it requires economic development that is non-polluting. This is the overall vision.
What efforts have been taken to maintain the city´s heritage?
We plan to develop the surroundings, ambience and access roads along with a robust IT platform where one can access details of the site, its location, how to get there and facilities offered. All these have to be incorporated along with photographs and video clippings on that very IT platform so that one can have all the details of the heritage sites even before coming to Jabalpur.
Tell us about your efforts in the field of sanitation.
We are leading in many things. The waste-to-energy project is a state-of-the-art one in India. We have constructed 23,000 toilets after the inauguration of the Swachh Bharat Mission. And, by the end of December, Jabalpur will be the first city in India to be declared odour-free.
What about upgrading in transportation and water supply?
Transportation, of course, is a real challenge. But we have exemplified a frugal way of improving traffic. In the past one-and-a-half years, we have improved our traffic speed by about 20 per cent just by improving our traffic junctions and creating a free left turn while spending hardly Rs 7 crore. At present, as far as public transport is concerned, 119 public buses are plying and we have to improve this integrated traffic management system that will come in play within a year or so, after we introduce the controlling command centre and optical fibre, smart pole, underground cabling, etc. Another ambitious project is 24/7 water supply; we have large quantities of water as we are situated on the river Narmada.
Jabalpur has been selected among the 20 cities in the smart cities challenge. What is the vision document to make the city smarter?
To make the city smart, we are considering three aspects. First, infrastructure should be world-class. Then, environmental concerns should be taken care of so it can be sustainable. Further, there should be employment generation. Economic liability and business stability will provide economic sustainability and employment generation to the youth who are at present migrating to other cities. Further, we have selected a retrofitting model to develop older parts of the city. Tell us about the projects commissioned under the smart cities vision.
First, a waste-to-energy project of Rs 178 crore has been commissioned in the city; it generates 11.5 MW every day. Further, two IT-based projects were launched on the first anniversary day. The first is Jabalpur 311- this will enable transactions with the corporation and smart city, and monitor and track the various projects going on in the corporation and smart cities. Second, we have launched Jabalpur card (J Card) - this is plastic money being used at some places and some bus routes as moneyless ticketing; it can be used for all kinds of e-transactions in the city.
Who are the consultants involved in making the city´s smart master plan?
PWC has been the consultant on this project; for area-based development and the infrastructure part, IPE Global is the consultant.
Tell us about the SPV and its functioning.
The SPV is governed by a board of directors and its chairperson is the collector of Jabalpur. The executive director is Jabalpur Municipal Corporation´s commissioner. There is an advisory body. It has all the political representatives of the city like MLAs, MPs and the mayor.
Tell us about some DPRs or tenders expected to be floated.
We have already commissioned some projects and many others are in the pipeline. Tenders for some multilevel parking and construction of a stadium have to be floated. Another important upcoming project is the lakefront development of Rani Tal.
Apart from projects under smart cities, tell us about other upcoming projects in the city.
We have already floated tenders for a few multilevel-parking-cum-commercial complexes in the city. A big commercial complex is being developed at Teen Patti Square. It will be a 6-lakh-sq-ft complex with some other buildings also coming up.
Also, what is the city´s contribution to government initiatives such as Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan, Housing for All, etc?
In fact, smart city financing will partly depend on conversion with projects under AMRUT, Swachh Bharat Mission and many others. We have to not only convert from other government programmes but rely on the PPP model of development. Until and unless private investment comes in, we cannot achieve our goal. Our aim of completing the smart city project in the first stage will require approximately Rs 3,900 crore, of which Rs 1,000 crore is to be provided as capital and another Rs 1,000 crore will be by conversions from AMRUT and other projects. The rest of the money is to come from private investments. Our waste-to-energy project has come up as a PPP model and Essel Infra has invested Rs 178 crore.
What is the annual budget planned for the city otherwise?
The annual budget for the city is about Rs 700 crore. About Rs 200 crore is the corporation´s resource and the rest is sourced from various projects, schemes and the state government.
What challenges are being faced by the corporation in achieving the smart vision?
The real challenge is taking people into confidence. Then, our city is being developed on the principle of retrofitting. Hence, converting an old city to a new one is a real challenge. We are also facing challenges in ensuring finances. We are laying emphasis upon PPP projects to overcome many of these challenges. We also plan to source investments from other countries but the inflow will be based on our potential.
You have been the commissioner of the city for the last three years. What is the one big change you have brought about over the years?
We have improved transportation and it will be a real contribution if we could improve the pace of our traffic by about 15-25 per cent. Speed has improved. Further, we are moving towards being an odour-free city. And, Jabalpur is leading in implementation of waste-to-energy.
JABALPUR MUNICIPAL CORPORATION
Total city area: 264 sq km
Population: 1.4 million
Year of establishment: 1864
Administration zones: 15
Ward offices: 79
Municipal counsellors: 79
Annual budget: Rs.700 crore
Smart city budget: Rs.3,900 crore
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