Green City Mission: Rs 50 lakh each for all 125 municipalities in West Bengal

Kolkata: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee addresses a press conference in Kolkata on Thursday. PTI Photo (PTI12_1_2016_000344A)

UNDER ITS Green City Mission, the West Bengal government is set to handover an initial funding of Rs 50 lakh each to all the 125 municipalities of the state. This is part of the project under which New Town near Kolkata will reportedly be built as the country’s first ever ‘green city’.

Previously, the state government had created a corpus of Rs 400 crore for the entire project after it opted out of the Centre’s Smart City project, stating that it wasn’t feasible. New Town — a suburb of Kolkata — had earlier qualified for the Smart City project. “We have constraints on resources. In the Smart City project, the state will have to fund Rs 1,000 crore upfront and then the Centre will release Rs 500 crore in five years,” said state Urban Development Minister Firhad Hakim said on Tuesday on the sidelines of a CII conference.

According to government officials, the reasons behind the move are two-fold. The first, and primary reason, said officials was the skewed nature of investment from the state and the Centre. The second reason is the compulsory imposition of water tax in smart cities.

Earlier, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had also flayed the Smart City project.

In her first public appearance after winning the 2016 state elections, Mamata had said that the smart city “idea” and “theory” were “wrong”.

She had said: “Under the Smart City mission, funds… will be spent for setting up a building with all facilities. But not the entire area or the city. What about other areas or cities? Basically, this means that there will be one building with lots of facilities – WiFi etc. But the rest won’t be developed along the same lines.” According to Mamata, a city like Kolkata can’t be compared to New Delhi. While New Delhi was built as a planned city, Kolkata has developed organically. However, officials said that 10 cities in the state are being developed in a planned, sustainable manner – Rajarhat, Durgapur, Bolpur, Kalyani, Baruipur, Gangasagar, Debanandapur, Raghunathpur, Phulbari and Jaigaon.

The state government had first decided to develop Rajarhat as a green city in 2015. At that time, the idea was for Rajarhat to be a ‘Smart, Green City’. Since then, the state urban development department has been planning the project with inputs from the Indian Green Building Council, Kolkata Municipal Corporation, IIT-Kharagpur and CREDAI.

An official said: “The idea of the green city is a new one globally. Like the smart city, the focus is on the creation of sufficient eco-space, a sustainable water reservoir system and modern transport with low emission.” In the next five years, a number of ‘green cities’ will come up in the state, said officials.

Key to the project, officials said, is that the buildings will be constructed as ‘green buildings’, as per the norms outlined by the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC). The vision of the IGBC is to “to enable a sustainable built environment for all and facilitate India to be one of the global leaders in the sustainable built environment by 2025”.

“A green building is basically one which uses less resources – power, energy while generating less waste and thus the space is also healthier for its occupants. A smart city’s focus is one ease of access for the residents, a green city takes it a step further and tries to provide equal focus on sustainability,” said an official.

An urban development department official said only 20 municipalities out of the 125 have submitted the filled-in questionnaire given to them in November to understand their requirement under the mission. Hakim on Tuesday also said the benefit of extra 10 per cent Floor Area Ratio will be extended to all municipalities. He emphasised that there was a need to reframe planning principles to bear the mounting pressure of urbanisation.