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Sweden, Russia eye cooperation with India on Smart City Mission

New Delhi : Sweden has agreed to further deepen its cooperation with India in the Smart Cities initiative and is looking to exchange knowledge and explore cooperation in sectors like waste management and wastewater treatment even as Russia has signaled that its evolving partnership in the area of information technology could beyond traditional areas and can support India’s smart cities and infrastructure development programmes.

Sweden has already committed $1.5 billion in the past three years and has proposed a fresh $1.1 billion investment in India. The additional investment will be lined up for the next two years. Sweden is investing in India more than it did in the “last few decades”, said Swedish Trade Commissioner to India Carsten Gronblad recently.

"India is seen as a strategic market for future. It is not just the quantum of investment, but the quality of investment in R&D and innovation which is going to reap great benefits in years to come. Sweden can partner India on several projects like the Smart Cities and accelerated development of e-mobility solutions for future," said Gronblad.

At the same time, Russia’s Russoft Association of software is looking to cooperate with India on smart cities and mega infrastructure initiatives.

The increased foreign interest comes at a time when the smart cities mission in India has reached the implementation stage. Already eight cities - Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat, Pune, Nagpur, Rajkot, Visakhapatnam, and Kakinada - have made operational smart centres or integrated command and control systems.

Meanwhile, Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu has said the Smart Cities Mission is the beginning of India’s urban renaissance and the Government has a Constitutional mandate to devolve funds, functionaries and functions on local bodies.

But, the progress has been slow. The urban agenda prepared by the Government aims to address this gap by integrating several types of plans at the city level. People's participation in any programme is crucial for its success, Naidu added.

Naidu's views on the slow pace of work were echoed by Joint Secretary (Infrastructure, policy and finance), Union Finance Ministry, Dr Kumar V Pratap, who felt that urban development schemes like Smart City Mission, Amrut Mission and Swachh Bharat were moving at a slow place in various cities of India that are facing “large infrastructure deficit” and “poor quality of urban services”.

At a recent seminar in Ahmedabad, Pratap said, "One third of India that lives in urban areas contributes two-third of the GDP. If India needs to retain its position as the fastest growing economy in the world, then the contribution of the urban areas has to increase. Given the condition of our urban areas, status quo would mean it will become the binding constraint of our Indian economy".

“The Central Government has launched the smart city mission, the Amrut mission for rejuvenation of urban transformation and the Swachh Bharat mission as part of the holistic strategy of urban development. However, work in these missions is moving at a slow pace. It has been reported that only about two per cent of the Rs 9,943 crore released for the Smart City mission have been utilised so far. Similarly, 24 water supply projects worth about Rs 9 crore have been completed so far under Amrut while 494 contracts worth Rs 19,000 crore have been awarded", he said.

According to Pratap, as many as 10-12 million people are being added to India's urban population every year and by 2030, it is expected that 40 per cent of India’s population or 600 million people will be living in urban areas that contribute 75 per cent to the national GDP.

“Urban India has a large infrastructure deficit and this is manifested in poor quality of urban services to the population. The challenge is to provide minimum urban services to the rapidly growing urban population in India while the present population is being underserved,” he added.

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