Staff Reporter

Only Rs 50 cr of estimated Rs 1,000 cr spent on Guwahati Smart City Project in five years

GUWAHATI, Feb 24: Notwithstanding the tall claims of the ruling party regarding its achievement in developing the city, the Guwahati Smart City Project has proved itself to be the worst performing scheme in the last five years.

The project is running under the aegis of the Guwahati Development Department headed by Minister Siddhartha Bhattacharya.

According to sources, the State government is repeatedly facing questions from the Central government on the slow progress of fund utilisation. The Centre has even threatened to take back the fund which is lying unutilised for the last five years. The Centre does not take any drastic punitive step regarding the project only because the BJP is holding power in Assam.

The Guwahati Smart City Project was started in 2016 with an aim to turn Guwahati into a smart city by spending an estimated Rs 1,000 crore with 50 per cent share each from the State and Central governments. As per rule, in 2016, both the Central and State governments released Rs 198 crore each as the first instalment to start the project.

Unfortunately, the Guwahati Smart City Ltd (GSCL), which was formed by the government as a special purpose vehicle (SPV) to implement the scheme, could spend only Rs 50 crore till date since inception of the project.

Sources informed that the expenses included Rs 6 crore in setting up 27 bio-toilets, Rs 2 crore in setting up 20 water ATMs, Rs 3 crore in refurbishment of the Gandhi Mandap and Rs 13 crore in installation of 10,000 electric poles under the Project Jyoti in some parts of the city.

On the other hand, in the last five years, the GSCL has spent a large amount of fund only in preparation of detailed project reports (DPRs) for its proposed projects and most of those projects were dropped later due to various reasons.

The spending of hefty sums in preparing the DPRs and later cancellation of projects strongly indicate blatant misuse of public fund.

According to sources, the GSCL has already decided not to implement the projects that include development of the Borsola Beel, development of the Mora Bharalu river, development of the Bharalu river and development of the Deepor Beel. All the projects were cancelled after preparation of DPRs.

On the other hand, for the Brahmaputra riverfront development project, the GSCL has till date prepared two DPRs through its project management consultant (PMC) Tata Consulting Engineers. Sources said the first DPR proposed to spend Rs 1,100 crore to develop the riverfront of Brahmaputra. It was cancelled as the proposed amount exceeded the sanctioned fund for the entire Guwahati Smart City Project. Later, the same PMC prepared another DPR of Rs 500 crore and it was sent to the Assam Engineering College for examination. Sources said there is very little chance of implementation of the project.

In another initiative, a fund of Rs 70 crore had been allocated by the GSCL to the Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) to install smart streetlights in the city. But due to some unknown reasons, the GMC failed to implement the project and later the GSCL took back the fund. Now the GSCL has decided to implement the project itself and a proposal is under consideration of the State finance department.

On the other hand, the Master System Integrator (MSI) project as proposed by the GSCL is also facing uncertainty. Sources said that although the necessary work on the project is under way, it will take a long time to implement the same.

Similarly, uncertainty looms large over implementation of the project for installation of smart poles with city optical fibre network and system integrator. Only construction of the City Operation Centre is going to start soon.

Of late, the GSCL has proposed to carry out development work at the Aswaklanta Temple, Umananda Temple and on the Dakshin Pat Satra premises. Sources said a fund of Rs 10 crore has been earmarked for the Aswaklanta Temple and Rs 12 crore for the Umananda Temple. But the GSCL is yet to finalise the fund for the Dakshin Pat Satra.