Will smart cities go the SEZ way?

The spe­cial eco­nomic zones started off with a bang, to be re­duced a decade later to just 40% of the orig­i­nal 436 SEZs ap­proved in In­dia. If not im­ple­mented prop­erly, the smart cities plan too could meet the same fate SEZs ver­sus smart cities

HT Estates - - FRONT PAGE - Van­dana Ram­nani

After a head start in 2006, there was a sig­nif­i­cant de­cline in the de­vel­op­ment of spe­cial eco­nomic zones ( SEZs). Till De­cem­ber 2014, of the 436 ap­proved SEZs across the coun­try, only about 40% were op­er­a­tional even after 10 years of land ac­qui­si­tion. Now with the gov­ern­ment plan­ning to set up 100 smart cities – both green­field and brown­field – it needs to be seen if this ini­tia­tive too will turn into an­other “land grab­bing real es­tate ven­ture.”

Even while some real es­tate ex­perts spell doom for the smart cities ini­tia­tive, say­ing it might go the SEZ way, an­other school of thought be­lieves the scheme’s fo­cus is not on land ac­qui­si­tion. The ob­jec­tive is to pri­mar­ily up­grade ex­ist­ing ser­vice lev­els and ur­ban ameni­ties by lever­ag­ing tech­nol­ogy in­stead of just green­field de­vel­op­ment. The mis­sion

does not re­quire or pro­mote land ac­qui­si­tion; it just pro­motes the ethos of do­ing more with less.

The 48,000 crore smart cities mis­sion is aimed at ap­ply­ing smart so­lu­tions to im­prove in­fra­struc­ture and ser­vice de­liv­ery in se­lect cities across In­dia. The ‘quo­tas’ or num­ber of smart cities each state will have will de­pend on its pop­u­la­tion and the num­ber of its cities and towns. All cities will have to com­pete with each other to ful­fil the pa­ram­e­ters drawn up by the gov­ern­ment, after which only 20 will be cho­sen for the first phase of fund­ing in 201516. The re­main­ing cities will have to do a re­think and redo their pro­pos­als to qual­ify for the next round.

The smart city mis­sion en­ables the com­pre­hen­sive im­prove­ment of the living con­di­tions and qual­ity of life in each city through a strat­egy for area- based plan­ning and de­vel­op­ment, re­sult­ing from ex­ten­sive pub­lic par­tic­i­pa­tion in es­tab­lish­ing the vi­sion for the city and guid­ing the in­te­grated plan-

TO­TAL SEZs IN IN­DIA WORK­ING SEZs AS ON MARCH 2015

ning of ur­ban ar­eas, and the sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment and man­age­ment of in­fra­struc­ture and ser­vices us­ing big data and smart so­lu­tions, says Ja­gan Shah, director, Na­tional In­sti­tute of Ur­ban Af­fairs.

It is rad­i­cally dif­fer­ent from SEZ de­vel­op­ment as it takes into con­sid­er­a­tion the holis­tic needs of ex­ist­ing ar­eas of cities, lever­ag­ing eco­nomic driv­ers that de­fine the iden­tity of cities and their cit­i­zens.

The dis­burse­ment of funds to the spe­cial pur­pose ve­hi­cles, which will be set up to man­age the trans­for­ma­tion of the 100 cities will be linked to the achieve­ment of mea­sur­able out­comes and the im­ple­men­ta­tion of re­forms.

The re­for ms and out­comes are di­rected to­wards en­sur­ing the so­cial and fi­nan­cial sus­tain­abil­ity of th­ese in­ter­ven­tions and to demon­strate the city’s ca­pac­ity to cre­ate broad based change. Land needs to be an ef­fi­ciently utilised resource through mixed land use and im­proved spa­tial and phys­i­cal plan­ning for achiev­ing pub­lic good, ex­pand­ing hous­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties, in­clu­sive de­vel­op­ment through walk­a­ble streets and ac­ces­si­ble open pub­lic spa­ces,

im­prov­ing ser­vice de­liv­ery and en­sur­ing trans­parency through e-gov­er­nance. The mis­sion does not re­quire or pro­mote land ac­qui­si­tion; in­stead, it pro­motes the ethos of do­ing more with less, adds Shah.

Amit Bhatt of Em­barq In­dia agrees. Ac­cord­ing to him there are sub­stan­tive dif­fer­ences be­tween the two. While the SEZs were aimed at re­viv­ing man­u­fac­tur­ing, were largely ser­vices driven and were set up with the in­tent of pro­mot­ing ex­ports through ser­vice de­liv­ery and adding an­cil­lary fa­cil­i­ties, smart cities will be ar­eas where peo­ple will live and work. There will be sev­eral ap­proaches to set­ting up such cities – green­field, retrofitting and re­de­vel­op­ment un­like SEZs that were mostly green­field projects.

Smart cities will be im­ple­mented via an SPV and the ma­jor­ity stake will be owned by th tt tF t The SEZ ini­tia­tive pri­mar­ily fo­cused on the need for in­te­grated in­dus­trial-ur­ban de­vel­op­ment with a fo­cus on ex­ports

The SEZ pol­icy re­quired a min­i­mum land size of ap­prox­i­mately 5,000 acres and this in most cases led to the need for large parcels of land. The ac­qui­si­tion process of­ten de­layed im­ple­men­ta­tion of projects cities, the ma­jor­ity stake will be owned by state gov­ern­ment and the ur­ban lo­cal bod­ies.

N li ibl t d 15% i SEZs, the res­i­den­tial com­po­nent in smart cities on the other hand will be at least around 50% t 60%

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