Urban renewal: more talk, less infrastructure

on january 25, 2007, the Union government approved 22 more urban development projects in 11 cities across the country. The Union ministry of urban development (moud) approved Rs 795 crore under the Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission (jnnurm), a central government initiative for infrastructure development in cities.

Cities that received funds include Thane, Jaipur and Bangalore. Ahmedabad got the largest share of 20 per cent of the funds, followed by 12 per cent each to Jaipur, Vadodara and Faridabad. Sewage and river projects got 54 per cent funds, with roads and flyovers getting 36 per cent, and the remaining going to solid waste management.

So far, 157 projects worth Rs 10,709 crore have been sanctioned since jnnurm began in 2005. But even as more funds get approved, there are doubts about the usage of funds released earlier. The Union budget for 2006-2007 sanctioned Rs 2,500 crore for the project. With the current fiscal year ending in less than a month, till now only Rs 954 crore have been released. Reportedly, moud has demanded Rs 4,000 crore for 2007-2008.

Have the funds been utilised? The moud does not have any collated information on this. "The progress report submitted by cities are being compiled,' said N Venugopalan, deputy secretary, moud. The Vadodara Municipal Corporation (vmc) had received funds for a water supply project in June 2006. But months later, K B Jaiswal, additional city engineer, said, "The tender has been finalised. Work will soon begin.'

Hyderabad's case is no different. Out of the Rs 12.45 crore that was approved, Rs 3.87 crore was allocated for Musi revitalisation project. Even earlier funds received for the project, through other schemes, are said to be unutilised. "Since the earlier Save Musi project too was abandoned, there is less chance of jnnurm funds being put to proper use,' said J Rama Rao of the ngo Forum for better Hyderabad.

There are concerns that city municipalities have not prioritised projects under jnnurm. For example, Bangalore asked and received Rs 93 crore for upgradation of sidewalks. But Vinay Baindur, a Bangalore-based urban governance expert, said, "There is an urgent need for civic amenities like water supply and sanitation while most cities focus on mega-infrastructure.'

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