New Delhi, September 14: Minister of Urban Development and Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation M.Venkaiah Naidu on Wednesday said that the political class of the country is now more sensitized than ever before to the challenges in urban sector and the need to fix them at the earliest in the interest of rapid economic growth besides enabling a decent quality of life. He said so while inaugurating the three day conference on ‘Urban Transition in BRICS’ at Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh.
Naidu stated that this much desired awareness is a result of the initiatives taken by the central government to enable urban revival during the last two years. He said that after detailed consultations with all stakeholders including citizens, urban local bodies, State Governments and others, the central government has set in motion a 10-point strategy for urban renaissance and this paradigm shift has begun to yield results.
Stating that resources are key to addressing huge infrastructure deficit in urban areas, Naidu said that the central government is taking measures to enable increased flow of resources to urban local bodies and States which includes enhanced central assistance. He informed that under Smart City Mission, Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) and Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban), central government has committed to provide an assistance of Rs.1.13 lakh crores to improve basic urban infrastructure, till 2018-19. “This is a quantum jump from central assistance of Rs.33,902 cr committed during 2004-14 under JNNURM for basic infrastructure” said Naidu.
The Minister further said “The pace and scale of project and investment approvals have increased manifold since 2015 with the central government approving an assistance of Rs.1.84 lakh crore. This includes Rs.78,292 cr under smart city plans of 33 mission cities, Rs.45,293 cr under Atal Mission and another Rs.56,231 cr for building affordable houses for urban poor. These are the early gains of urban renaissance in the country”.
Naidu stated that the central government led by Narendra Modi has ended the ambiguity in government’s approach to urban development since Independence as planned and well guided urbanisation is central to economic growth. He said that urban revival is being sought to be realised based on citizens’ participation, autonomy to urban local bodies and States in project formulation and their appraisal and approval, promotion of a healthy spirit of competition among urban local bodies, area based development, capacity building and enhanced resource flows to urban local bodies and States.
Giving an illustration of increased investments and scale of central assistance, Venkaiah Naidu informed that an investment of Rs.15,827 cr has been approved over the last one year with central assistance of Rs.4,571 cr for Andhra Pradesh. This includes Rs.10,579 cr for constructing affordable houses for urban poor, Rs.3,595 cr for developing Visakhapatnam and Kakinada as smart cities and another Rs.1,540 cr for improving water supply and sewerage systems in AMRUT cities.
Stating that Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS), with a population of over 3 billion account for over 53% of world’s population and about one fourth of global GDP, Naidu urged them to step up cooperation in addressing the challenges associated with urban transition based on sharing of experiences and knowledge. He further said that given the size of the economies of BRICS countries and the potential still to be realised, member countries need to collectively address urban challenges so that they could drive global economic recovery. Ministers from BRICS, experts, members of academia and representatives of industry are attending the three day conference.