TH Harikumar Singh, Municipal Commissioner, Imphal Municipal Corporation, shares more on the city's future plans with CW.
Tell us about the current initiatives under the Smart Cities plan.
We are in the process of engaging a project management consultant (PMC); this is getting finalised. Besides, we have a women's vendor market to be developed that will accommodate about 700 women; construction has already started. Surveys are on for the Imphal Riverfront Development, which is in close proximity to the inner city. The basic groundwork and feasibility study are going on. As soon as these are over, we will invite project preparations. We are also planning to take up the establishment of command and control centres.
Tell us about the city's plans under the 'Housing for All' initiative.
We have done a survey of the entire city based on the 2011 census and learnt that there are about 18,000 beneficiaries. At present, the finalisation of the beneficiaries is under process; by mid-September, we intend to submit the proposal to the ministry. This is for one of the verticals of the Housing for All scheme called Beneficiary-Led Construction. Under the other vertical, Credit-Linked Subsidy, we have received 6,000 applications. So currently, we have 24,000 applications in total for Housing for All.
Introduce us to the other core infrastructure projects the corporation has planned for the city.
As far as mobility is concerned, there are two stretches in the middle of the city: Thangal bazaar and Paona bazaar. We are planning to develop these as non-motorised, which means only pedestrians can access them. As for pan-city development, we are adopting e-buses for mass transport. This will be worked on as part of the existing infrastructure and there will not be much financial involvement. We are also planning to install smart street lighting and smart poles, which will include lighting and other surveillance systems.
This will be the second level of priority for us. We are already in the process of converting the existing street lights into LED lights, for which almost 90 per cent of the work is completed. We have constituted a committee with the transport and traffic departments to resolve traffic movements.
One proposal is to introduce a mass public transport system, followed by multi-layered parking to decongest roads and streets in commercial areas. We are waiting for the committee's final report; it will go for approval to the state government. Following this, we will be able to go for tendering, which will be in about three months' time.
What is the city's contribution towards the government's Swachh Bharat Abhiyan?
For the past year, we have been sweeping the city twice a day.
In the inner core areas, we have already placed segregation bins for wet and dry waste and almost the entire city has been covered by the door-to-door collection initiative. While we have not yet achieved 100 per cent segregation, we hope to achieve the same by August 2019. As far as the deposit of garbage is concerned, we have a solid waste management plant that converts waste to composting methods. Further, a waste-to-energy plant is under construction, which is being planned entirely under the PPP mode; it is expected to be commissioned soon. Once this is commissioned, we will treat the entire waste in the plant itself.
The tenders will be floated after the commissioning of the plant. In terms of funding, we are investing Rs 50 million from smart cities, and using about Rs 50 million from the Swachh Bharat central funding.
Tell us about efforts taken by the corporation to maintain the city's heritage.
We are trying to rejuvenate Kangla fort by combining the Swadesh Darshan fund and some amount from the Smart Cities fund. Works have already started, which include light and sound technologies and rebuilding the boundaries for tourist attraction. Nearly Rs 800 million is being financed under the Swadesh Darshan fund. From the Smart Cities fund, we will be using about Rs 1 billion for the riverfront development as the fort lies on the banks of the Imphal river. So riverfront development will be a part of developing heritage sites.
What are the current challenges faced in the city's development?
The Smart Cities mission is based on a 50-50 funding mode - Rs 5 billion is shelled out by the Centre and an equal matching share of Rs 5 billion has to be gathered by the state. This is a huge amount for a small state like Manipur and a small corporation like Imphal Municipal Corporation. Hence, sourcing our state or urban local body (ULB) shares is the biggest challenge for us. We are trying to encourage private investments for whichever project possible. The second option is to borrow from financial institutions such as ADB and the World Bank, and try to look for soft loans at lower interest rates. We have already spoken to HUDCO and the corporation has agreed to finance us. Another challenge is that as Imphal is a small city, the availability of freehold land either with the government or corporation is limited. So we are trying to find government land that is of no use at this moment and not being utilised for any purpose. Another challenge is attracting and retaining qualified personnel for key management positions for smart cities. Now, 100 smart city projects have been launched at one go and there is a dearth of qualified personnel as the experienced ones are already engaged in the other big cities. So we plan to engage people who have originated from the city.
Imphal Municipal Corporation
Total city area: 35 sq km
Population: 268,243 (2011 Census)
Year of establishment: 2014 (upgraded to a municipal corporation)
Mayor: L Lokeshwar Singh
Annual budget: Rs.800 million
Smart city budget: Rs.13 billion