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- Chandramauli Shukla, CEO, Bhopal Smart City
How is Bhopal Smart City progressing in its initiative to become smart?
We have already started working on most of the projects that were conceived under the smart city proposal, whether it is area-based development (ABD) or pan city development. We may be the first city in the country where the state government has allotted 342 acre of the proposed Central Business District (CBD) land to the smart city special purpose vehicle (SPV). Due to this, presently, our SPV may be the richest in terms of valuation. Also, we have taken up most of the initiatives that we reconsidered in pan city. One of the key projects I would like to mention is the smart pole and intelligent street lighting project. Through this project, we have attracted an investment of Rs 6.90 billion. Our ambitious public bike sharing project has become the benchmark for other cities to follow. As we speak, more than 38,000 users have been registered and are using this scheme on a day-to-day basis. That said, we have implemented an integrated command and control centre (ICCC) in Bhopal which not only integrates services in the city on a single platform but also of the seven cities selected under Smart Cities Mission. This is the first cloud-based ICCC that will be coming up. And I am proud to mention that most of the cities are following our footsteps. We are also working on incubation and innovation centre, which will commence in May 2018. Overall, Bhopal is progressing well as far as smart city project implementation is concerned.
Tell us about the number of projects that have been awarded so far by Bhopal Smart City?
In total, we have identified more than 64 projects of which more than 22 have been completed so far and around 18û19 are underway for pan city.
For ABD, since the government has allotted the necessary land, we are now in the process of commencing work on infrastructure-led projects. We have completed the detailed project report (DPR) and are in the process of awarding them soon. Among these, a sizeable number of projects have been taken up on public-private partnership (PPP) basis. With 342 acre of land under ABD, our smart city offers huge opportunities for stakeholders, in the field of construction, infrastructure, technology and water.
One of the major challenges for any smart city is raising funds. What funding options other than that of the centre and state contributions can be explored?
It all depends on how the smart city SPV has conceived the project. I do not see funding as an issue in Bhopal, but spending is. In the last two years, Bhopal has received Rs 2 billion each from the Government of India and the state government. I mentioned spending as a problem because the SPV needs to identify bankable projects to attract private investment. The challenge is to mitigate funding as well as keep it self-sufficient to generate revenue from various available sources for sustainability. In our case, we have been lucky that the state government has handed over a big parcel of land which, if developed and marketed properly, can monetise around Rs 60û70 billion. Recently, I witnessed many municipal corporations opting for municipal bonds and financial instruments. We do not see any reason for a SPV with sound financials to raise funds from the market and pay interest to the investors.