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New Delhi : Housing and Urban Affairs and Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Hardeep Singh Puri on September 13, 2021, said that an Atmanirbhar India will only be possible if our cities become productive.

The Minister while addressing the inaugural session of ‘Connect Karo 2021 – Towards Equitable, Sustainable Indian Cities’ event here said that there can be no doubt that India’s cities—enabled by citizen-centric infrastructure and transformational technology—will be the key to achieving the nation’s development objectives. The five day (September 13-17, 2021) event has been organised by the World Resources Institute (WRI) through video conferencing.

Puri said that by 2030, almost 70% of the national GDP will come from our cities as rapid urbanisation facilitates efficiencies of agglomerations. The best-performing cities globally contribute five times more to national GDP than comparable Indian cities. We need to generate a similar density of economic activity from our cities to answer the calls of our Prime Minister in becoming a five-trillion-dollar economy, he said, according to a PIB release.

He said that even as cities become the engines of our country’s economy, it is equally important to address the infrastructure deficits that will arise from rapid urbanisation and complex migrant flows. By 2030, the urban population in India will almost double to 630 million. If we are to facilitate this level of growth, we will need to upgrade our urban infrastructure considerably and horrific impact of Covid-19 on our cities has made this even more significant, he said.

Speaking on the adverse impact of growth of urbanisation, Puri said that realising the potential of our cities is not just an economic imperative; it is also an environmental reality. Our cities will be the battlegrounds for the fight against climate change. As the recent IPCC report suggests, cities are the major contributors as well as worst affected from climate change and this has led to the Indian Government successfully executing the most comprehensive and planned urbanisation programme anywhere in the world.

The Minister said that there is eight-fold increase in the total expenditure on urban development as over the past six years (2015-2021), this figure is about Rs 11.83 lakh crore against the Rs. 1.57 lakh crore from 2004 to 2014.

On the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY), the Minister said that it has seen unprecedented success as nearly 1.13 crore houses have been sanctioned and beneficiaries have already moved into more than 50 lakh housing units and we are on track to meet the targets set for 2022. An overwhelming majority of the housing has been developed by utilising sustainable and energy-efficient methods incorporating advanced practices of land-use planning.

On the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT Mission) Puri said that it has addressed requirements of basic social infrastructure. Under AMRUT, 1,831 parks over 3,700 acre have been developed, and 85 lakh street lights have been replaced resulting in energy savings of 185.33 crore units (kWh).

Mentioning about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) achieved by the Government in implementing these Missions, he said that these Missions focused on achieving economic growth, social justice, and environmental sustainability. We believe that improved urban ecosystems will have quantifiable positive impacts on not just the targets of SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities) but also on other national priorities such as poverty, health, education, sanitation, energy, and climate action, the Minister added.

Puri said that we are also creating a long-term policy framework to move towards sustainable means of living. For instance, through the Climate Smart Cities Assessment Framework, we have harmonised climate change policy enabling our cities to map a way forward to reduce their dependence on non-renewable energy.

He said that here has been a paradigm shift in reframing India’s mobility agenda under the Modi government specially the urban mobility. Under the Urban Transport scheme, public bus transport services will be augmented by deploying public-private partnerships to finance over 20,000 buses. He said that we are supporting Public transport and Non-Motorised Transport (NMT) options across the country. Currently, 721 km of metro line are operational in 18 cities and a network of 1,058 km of metro network is under construction in 27 cities.

The Minister informed that Government will be launching the Jal Jeevan Mission (Urban), with an outlay of Rs. 2.8 lakh crore to ensure universal water supply in all 4,378 urban local bodies in India and enable liquid waste management in 500 cities under the AMRUT scheme.

Puri said that the Government also be launching the Swachh Bharat Mission 2.0, with an outlay of Rs. 1.41 lakh crore to focus on sludge management, waste water treatment, source segregation of garbage, and reduction in single-use plastics and control of air pollution by waste management in construction and demolition, and bio-remediation dump sites