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'Smartening' Guwahati

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  6 Sep 2016 12:00 AM GMT

Gateway to the Northeast, Guwahati aspires to be a smart city. It has got into the first list of the PM’s Smart City Mission. This mission aims to promote cities that provide core infrastructure, a decent quality of life to citizens and a clean and sustaible environment — by applying ‘smart’ solutions. By using new concepts and technology, a smart city will tackle waste, meet water and energy needs, mage traffic flows, provide housing for the poor, build up IT connectivity, bring about e-governce and trade facilitation, while ensuring the safety, health, education and skilling of citizens. For Guwahati though, all these objectives will remain pies in the sky until its administration does something tangible in dealing with its water-logging problem. Over the years, this problem has grown so intractable that it threatens to do undo any good work done in other sectors. The problem hit headlines in June, 2014 when in the course of 24 hours of heavy downpour, as many as eight persons perished in the city due to landslide and electrocution. Facing an election year, the then Congress government carried out a demolition drive to clear city waterways for draining out storm water. Things margilly improved in 2015, but this year the city has gone back to square one. Recurring floods have been playing havoc, the latest instance being last Saturday’s chaos on city roads after a sharp shower. Smartening up Guwahati will require Rs 2,400 crore, but the Centre will provide only Rs 400 crore. Admitting this in the assembly last month, State Fince minister bravely spoke about raising the remaining amount through Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) mode. In the smart city proposal put up for Guwahati, the authority identified two weaknesses in its SWOT alysis, mely flash floods and landslides, and traffic congestions and road accidents. It admitted that floods in the city became a problem after the Eighties, thanks to ‘changes in land use pattern and unplanned urbanization’. Encroachment on city hills, felling trees and leaving hill slopes exposed has been causing ‘phenomelly high’ soil loss, says the alysis. Those who made money from such law-breaking in over three decades have gone scot free. But at the very least, the system should have been tightened up to prevent such illegal building activities — which is yet to happen. Proposing altertive channels for storm water draige and using IT solutions to monitor flood prevention sounds very impressive, but Dispur will struggle to raise money from the market if it shows no will to clean up the Guwahati development and municipal bodies.

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