Smart cities, housing for all flavour of 2015 in urban sector

A slew of mega projects worth over Rs 4 lakh crore, in the next seven years, besides proposed amendments in real estate rules marked 2015 for the urban development sector

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NEW DELHI, December 13: A slew of mega projects worth over Rs 4 lakh crore for developing smart cities and towns and providing housing for all in the next seven years besides proposed amendments in real estate rules marked 2015 for the urban development sector. The government approved various amendments to the contentious Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Bill, 2015, introducing provisions for depositing 70 per cent of the project cost by builders into an escrow account and punishment for violations of the proposed law. The amendments are aimed at protecting the interest of the buyers and promoting investments in the sector while ensuring transparency. Another major reform introduced was allocation of central assistance to states and Union Territories based on total urban population and number of statutory urban local bodies besides number of urban poor and slum dwellers in each state. Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT), Smart City Mission and Prime Minister's Awas Yojana (PMAY) on June 25 with a call to promote 'bottom up' planning in the country, setting off a new beginning in urban areas, which are being looked at key drivers of high rate economic growth. While 500 cities will be developed under AMRUT scheme, there will be 100 smart cities over five years and housing- for-all scheme under PMAY aims at construction of two crore houses in urban areas in the next seven years. "The year 2015 is very significant in the sense that we have set urban planning in the country on a new course. Consequent to the provisions under AMRUT, Smart City Mission and Housing Mission, there is a new churning resulting in a new conscience on the part of urban local bodies, which are the Achilles tendon for effective planning and execution," Naidu told PTI while summing up the new initiatives. Introduction of competition for selection of cities under Smart Cities Mission is a first of its kind in the country for allocation of resources. Citizen consultation for planning and prioritisation of projects at city level has been made mandatory under the new urban initiatives launched this year. Terming the initiatives as a "new beginning" in the urban sector, Naidu said, "I am happy to see urban local bodies rediscover themselves, identifying gaps and coming out with strategies for correction. Smart City Mission has caught the imagination of harassed urban people. A new beginning has been made. Now the task is to collectively succeed on the execution front to make urban areas more livable and conducive to business and economic activity." Under the new urban missions launched, the union government will extend an assistance of about Rs 4 lakh crore to states and urban local bodies during the next 7 years as against central assistance of only Rs 38,000 crore released under the 10-year-long JNNURM. After holding extensive stakeholder consultations last year to conceptualise new urban initiatives, AMRUT, Smart City Mission and PMAY (Urban) took off the ground this year. States and UTs have nominated 98 cities for developing as smart cities after the first round of intra-state competition under 'City Challenge' and Smart City Plans for 86 have been approved by respective states and UTs. UD Ministry gave its nod to state annual action plans for 16 states and union territories under which Service Level Improvement Plans (SLIPs) for 358 of the 500 mission cities have been approved with a total investment of Rs 14,524 crore in basic urban infrastructure relating to water supply, sewerage network services, storm water drains, urban transport and provision of green spaces and parks. Central assistance under AMRUT is to the extent of about 50 percent of total approved expenditure. Under PMAY (Urban), almost all the states have signed Memorandum of Agreement with the Ministry of HUPA to implement six mandatory reforms required for successful implementation of the mission. The Mission has sanctioned 2.54 lakh houses for economically weaker sections in 98 cities in Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Telangana. The ministry organised several rounds of inter-ministerial consultation with the participation of ministers and senior officials concerned of eight ministries to streamline approvals for construction projects in urban areas. Fund release and implementation of Swachh Bharat Mission that was launched last year began in January. So far, construction of 19 lakh individual household toilets and over one lakh community and public toilet seats have been taken up. Door-to-door collection of solid waste has been reported in 42 percent of the 78,000 urban wards in the country. UD Ministry also took up several Delhi specific initiatives. These include sanctioning Rs 3,250 crore from out of Urban Development Fund to Delhi government, DDA and North Municipal Corporation of Delhi for decongestion of roads, announcing Transit Oriented Development policy and approving Land Pooling Policy of DDA for promoting vertical construction to meet the growing demand for housing stock.