By its very definition, the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM), launched seven years ago, vowed to rejuvenate our cities. In the process, funds were allocated segment-wise-water supply, transport augmentation, facilities for the poor, etc. There is little doubt that transport and water infrastructure were the most visible of the changes we witnessed in the funded 65 cities-these were projects that cities had the best expertise to complete. And yet, of 2,815 projects approved in the first phase, a precious 253 were completed-small wonder, then, that the deadline was extended from March 2012 to March 2014.
Notwithstanding the now-familiar incomplete missions, time and cost overruns (the first phase had an allocation of Rs 1 lakh crore for 65 cities; the second phase aims to allocate 1.5 times that figure for an unspecified number of cities and towns), cities saw a leap in environment-friendly and international technology. ULBs also experienced the fringe benefit of having picked up better project management skills.
While the first phase included cities of population of 10 lakh and above, the targeted cities in phase 2 will be half that size. We can now only hope that the flagship project will serve as both a guiding light and a learning process for the next set of cities. One of the critical processes that JNNURM should both follow and mandate to states is that these lessons be encapsulated as training sessions for the new cities. While the Asian Development Bank has developed toolkits for implementation under PPP, it is now essential for JNNURM-which should be seen as a programme rather than a one-off project-to take this training seriously. Lack of proper project implementation skills among cities has proven to be a major reason many of the projects are still stuck. One of the biggest of those lessons that the Mission itself seems to have learned (unless in the unlikely possibility that it is by design) is that the piecemeal approach to cities will only result in lopsided development. Although there is much merit in the approach as an initial, gap-filling step, it is commendable that the next phase pays more attention to integrated city development by galvanising internal strengths and adding governance and management skills: CDPs and DPRs have given way to a Development Plan (DP)-a 10-year vision document-encompassing project sequence, timelines, intended outcomes, monitor-able milestones based on the service level benchmarks.
A large part of this integration needs to be in understanding how transport infrastructure (not transport alone), land use, housing, tourism, waste management, embellishments such as lighting and display, etc, are interlinked and segue into each other. If the first phase dealt in repairing existing urban problems, the second needs to focus on building a new ecosystem for the tier 2 and 3 cities. Unfortunately, infrastructure has only followed growth in most of our cities, leading to unplanned expansion (not to be mistaken for development) and chaos. If our cities must be self-sustaining, evolving and liveable, the involvement of international agencies, consultants, project managers and technology should be a part of building our newly defined, integrated urban infrastructure.
Most of our cities are radial in shape, so infrastructure planners need to realise and stem the centripetal affinity of cities to grow the most around the centre. The idea, therefore, should be not to expand existing cities but construct new, more manageable townships-even if simply as satellite to the larger cities. Navi Mumbai, Noida and Hosur are examples of cities that were built with good intentions. While Noida's development has been dubious, the other two-and Navi Mumbai in particular-have been fairly successful projects.
This means that JNNURM projects-somewhat on the lines of what PURA has attempted to do-would require better monitoring because application of an integrated formula (as opposed to merging of disparate schemes) needs the deftness of urban planning, not merely a contractor's skills to construct. Building special teams that work together would be critical to JNNURM II.