Urban revamp to start with five cities

IANS New Delhi March 17:
Five cities – Ahmedabad, Rajkot, Hyderabad, Nagpur and Bhopal – will soon undergo a facelift with world-class infrastructure and civic amenities as part of the government’s flagship urban renewal programme.
“These will be the first set of cities taken up under the Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission for the financial year 2006-07,” a senior urban development ministry official told IANS.
The cities have been selected on the basis of early proposals submitted by the respective state governments – Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.
The urban renewal scheme, announced by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in December 2005, has a provision for disbursing funds to upgrade the infrastructure of 63 selected cities in the country. A total of Rs 550 billion ($12.43 billion) has been earmarked for the project and will be disbursed over seven years.
Of the 63 cities, 35 are those with a million-plus population, including state capitals, and the remaining are places of historical, religious or tourist importance.
Under the scheme, the cities will be provided grants to improve infrastructure and other civic services.
The ministry’s central sanctioning and monitoring committee will meet here on March 21 to take a final decision on proposals forwarded by the state governments of the five earmarked cities,
said the official, declining to be named.
“All the cities have submitted details of their development plans and of the projects they plan to undertake,” the official added.
While the central government will provide upto 50 per cent of the total project cost, the remaining will be raised by the states and local city administrations. The committee will consider 15 to 20 projects from the five cities at the upcoming meeting.
The urban renewal scheme focuses on upgrading urban infrastructure, civic services, community participation and accountability of local governments as part of the decentralisation of urban governance.
The cities will have improved water supply, sanitation, sewerage, solid waste management, urban transport and road networks.
The cities will also draw up schemes to provide a better lifestyle for the urban poor in terms of slum improvement and rehabilitation, sites and services, night shelters, community toilets and housing.
To avail of assistance under the scheme, the cities were asked to submit details of public-private partnership models that would execute the development, management and financing of the infrastructure.
They were also asked to rationalise the stamp duty to no more than five per cent within five years and to repeal the Urban Land Ceiling and Regulation Act.
Reforms in rent control laws to stimulate private investment and a revision of byelaws governing building construction are essential pre-requisites for qualifying for the programme.
While the scheme encourages privatisation of various city services, it also calls for simplifying conversion of agricultural land for non-agricultural use.

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