Shillong's Elusive Dream of Becoming a Smart City: A Half-Decade of Unfinished Projects

SHILLONG: 18 September 2023 (PTI Source)

For over five long years, Shillong, the picturesque abode of clouds, chosen by the Central government for transformation into a Smart City, continues to falter in realizing this dream. The vision of Shillong as a Smart City remains distant, marred by the glaring fact that not a single Smart City project has reached completion.

This protracted delay underscores the arduous journey Shillong is enduring to achieve Smart City status. The Shillong Smart City Ltd, since its inception, has sanctioned 11 projects within the city, amounting to a substantial sum of Rs 670.95 crore, as of the financial year concluding in 2021-2022.

These projects encompass various aspects of urban development, including enhancing traffic awareness, erecting a commercial complex at Polo, revitalizing the Laitumkhrah Municipal Market, constructing 6 kilometers of Smart Roads (Phase -1) within Shillong under the Smart City Mission, designing, building, operating, maintaining, and transferring a Mechanised Multi-Level Car Park at Mothphran, implementing wastewater treatment through in-situ Nallah Treatment Technology at diverse locations in Shillong, setting up rainwater harvesting systems at multiple points in the city, erecting the Shillong Business-cum-Tourism and Cultural Center at Police Bazar, Shillong, renovating and upgrading three Multi-Level Parking facilities at different locales in Shillong, and establishing the Integrated Command and Control Center along with Smart Elements in Shillong.

The Smart City initiative operates across two specific areas within the city — Area Based Development (ABD) and Pan City development. Area-based development aims to revamp existing areas, including slums, into well-structured spaces, ultimately enhancing the overall livability of the entire city. A total of 10 wards and a block have been earmarked for ABD project implementation, covering an estimated area of approximately 1.63 square kilometers (402 acres). As per the 2011 census, the population residing in the identified ABD region stands at around 17,500.

In contrast, the Pan City development strategy revolves around employing smart solutions to harness technology, information, and data to enhance urban infrastructure and services. This comprehensive approach seeks to elevate the quality of life, generate employment opportunities, and boost incomes, with a particular focus on uplifting the marginalized and underprivileged sections of society, thereby fostering inclusive urban spaces.

The Pan City project is slated for execution throughout the Shillong Municipal Board and 10 census towns collectively referred to as the Shillong Urban Agglomeration. The expansive coverage encompasses an estimated area of about 58.84 square kilometers (14,538 acres), with the potential to benefit a population of approximately 3.5 lakhs, based on the 2011 census.