BHUBANESWAR/MUMBAI, India (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Once known as Temple City for its ancient Hindu temples, Bhubaneswar in the eastern Indian state of Odisha aims to reposition itself as a hub for technology and healthcare with funding from a government program to modernize cities.
It is one of 100 Smart Cities Prime Minister Narendra Modi has vowed to create by 2022 that will have internet connectivity, uninterrupted power and water supply, efficient public transport and living standards comparable to Europe.
But India’s drive to overhaul its cities to accommodate a growing population of migrants will force tens of thousands of people from their slum homes as city planners spruce up central business districts and build metro train lines, activists say.
“We have no choice. If we stay, the government will forcefully evict us,” said Ananda Chandra Parida, who has lived since 2007 in Bhubaneswar’s Kargil slum, home to 2,000 families.
“The houses they are building for us are small, and many of us cannot afford them,” said Parida, 40, who lives in a two-room brick house with his wife and two children.
Government officials say India’s cities – 13 of which are among the 20 most polluted in the world – desperately need the $7.5 billion makeover.
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