Himachal banking on Strategic Progress for Sustainable Growth
HP recently conducted its first ever Global Investors Meet in Dharamshala on 7-8th November, 2019 wherein one of the focus areas was urban development. The policy landscape has been amended in order to facilitate private players to attract investment in Urban areas in fields like Housing, new township, SWM and urban transportation. Realistically speaking, in the coming decade HP would witness most planned urban development in the country based on principles of sustainability and ecological sensitivity. Virendra Sharma, Joint Secretary, Urban Development, Government of Himachal Pradesh explains why rapid and imbalanced urbanization may prove chancy for the ecology and sustainability of the region, in a tete-a-tete with Poulami Chakraborty of BW SmartCitiesWorld. Excerpts Below:
What plans for urban development does Himachal Pradesh holds?
Himachal is one of the least urbanized state in the country and too much of rapid and imbalanced urbanization will play havoc with its ecology and sustainability. It is indeed a challenge to find the most suitable model for development of an ecologically sensitive state like HP. In order to have the advantage of multiplicity of efforts Himachal Pradesh is focusing on-
Empowerment of Urban Local Bodies
Creating an enabling environment for private sector investment in order to reach the optimum level.
Transforming the policy landscape in order to strike a balance between environment and development demands.
The ULBs have a significant role to play when it comes to issues like urban civic infrastructure, solid waste management, planned development, last mile connectivity and transit oriented development. Keeping that in mind State Govt. has incentivized the ULBs through various financial and technical interventions in order to strengthen their capacity- most of these interventions have come in the shape of trained manpower, urban planning laws, master planning, and zoning of the areas.
HP recently conducted its first ever Global Investors Meet in Dharamshala on 7-8th November, 2019 wherein one of the focus areas was urban development. The policy landscape has been amended in order to facilitate private players to attract investment in Urban areas in fields like Housing, new township, SWM and urban transportation. Realistically speaking, in the coming decade Himachal Pradesh would witness most planned urban development in the country based on principles of sustainability and ecological sensitivity.
Any specific strategies for the state to adhere for its Smart City development projects? Would you please share with us the status of various Smart Cities project in the state? Please elaborate.
Himachal Pradesh has two smart cities- Shimla and Dharamshala. Timely and fruitful execution of the smart city projects would be the best strategy. Various projects being executed under smart city mission in Dharamshala and Shimla are at Annexure-A.
How are you ensuring to keep up the ecological balance of the region? What measures are taken by the authorities for ensuring Swachcha Bharat initiatives in the state?
Himachal Pradesh is endowed with rich natural beauty and pristine environment which necessarli entails that it has to be preserved. Most of the laws related to Air, Water pollution are being enforced with sheer strictness. The ecologically sensitive areas which fall under specific conventions like Ramsar Convention are preserved with highest sanctity. Pollution and SWM remains areas of concern for which specific steps are taken. The State Govt. has adopted following techniques/strategy for management of solid waste being generated in the cities/towns of H.P.
Segregation at source and D2D collection is enforced in all ULBs.
Aerobic microbial composting technique for management of biodegradable waste. At present 41 ULBs have adopted this technique for wet waste processing.
Material Recovery Facility (MRF) to be established for non-biodegradable/dry waste. Recyclable waste to be channelized to recycling industry. Non-recyclable waste having calorific value to be sent to cement plants for co-processing. At present 48ULBs have developed MRFs.
Collection of domestic hazardous waste through collection kiosks. So far, 3ULBs have developed domestic hazardous waste collection kiosks.
Besides above efforts, following actions also have been taken by the State government to manage solid waste in a scientific manner:
State level SWM policy notified.
MoU signed with cement companies in the State for usage of non-recyclable segregated combustible fraction of waste in their cement kilns.
Rate contract for procurement of microbes for accelerating composting process, being done at State level for all ULBs
Composting guidelines prepared for all ULBs.
10 Trommel machines being installed at ULBs for composting screening/refining (at present installed at 5 ULBs).
47 baling machines being installed in different ULBs for compressing dry waste for further transportation (15 baling machines installed at present).
Non-recyclable plastic waste buyback policy introduced to prevent any littering of plastic through adding monetary value to it. Under the policy, non-recyclable plastic waste is being purchased @Rs. 75/- per Kg in the State from households/rag-pickers etc. for further utilization of same in road construction or cement kilns.
What are the challenges that you face while working for urban development aspect in the state? How do you plan to mitigate it?
Managing the solid waste and catering to the urban transportation requirements of the growing population in its towns and cities remains a challenge across the country. HP is no exception to it. Indeed these two issues are more enlarged in its scope and impact in HP. Improper management of Solid waste threatens to challenge our existence as a beautiful Himalayan state. The limitation on account of size of our ULBs both in terms of size and population makes devising a solution more difficult. Economy of scale does matter when it comes to issues like transportation and solid waste management. Cross subsidizing also has its limitations. Taxation does not have infinite elasticity. In nutshell, the problems posed are plenty. Plans for Solid waste have been elaborated in the previous answer already.
Lack of space for expansion of the existing roads to cater to the increased transportation demand of the public has led to focus on alternative means of transport like Ropeways. Himachal Pradesh has set up a Ropeway & Rapid Transport Systems Development Corporation to exclusively devise solutions for the touristic and urban populace demands. The capital city will get 30.8 km ropeway catering primarily to urban transportation demands. Similarily, 23 km of ropeway in Manali and 26 km ropeway in Dharamshala is proposed to be set up in next 5 years. Also Ropeways are proposed to be set up in important tourist places like Narkanda, Palampur, Kullu, Rohtang Pass, Naina Devi, etc
What plans do you have in mind for enabling better inter-state transportation system?
Increasing the reliance of the people on public transport system by pumping in additional resources to create a better, economical, reliable and faster mode of transportation. Going by the size of the state, the state owned Public transport corporation owns the largest fleet of buses. These buses reach almost every village so that people prefer to use public transport instead of private cars. Maintaining a big fleet and having one of the lowest operation cost is a real challenge which the state has been able to do for years now. When compared to states of similar size or terrain where the presence of public transport is minimal or even absent, HP has on the contrary strengthened it. This shows the commitment of the state towards public transportation. Shifting the entire fleet of public transport to cleaner fuel like electric or non-motorized is what the state aims to achieve in coming few years. Himachal Pradesh has taken a lead in converting its public transport to electric mode in a short span of time. Such a system coupled with a robust ropeway network in place would emerge as a model worth emulating. HP might emerge as a place equivalent to La Paz in terms of clean fuel.
Being a tourist place, how are you planning to improve the urban development of the region to attract more people?
Natural landscapes, hills and peaks, fresh rivers, rivulets, snow clad peaks, diverse flora & fauna and heritage is the strength of the state. Urban development may not as such impact tourism in the state because it is not sine qua non for higher foot fall or bigger brand as a tourism destination. There are places like Popeye Village (Malta), Hallstatt (Austria), Simiane La Rotonde (France), Oia (Greece), etc which despite being rural attract millions of tourist every year. However, creation of basic urban amenities and touristic infrastructure is certainly the priority of the state. The urban governance is focusing on a cleaner and planned development so that the cities and towns remain sustainable. SWM has been the focus of the state. Also, the authority of the urban local bodies has been enlarged so that they lead to planned development in urban areas of the state. Construction regulations have been made strict and are being enforced without fail. Transport system in areas having massive tourist footfall is being shifted to electrical mode so that minimal pollution is caused. The focus of the state is to improve the overall experience of the tourists so as to create a better brand recall.