With over $1.5 billion on the line, the Indian government urging the country’s top 20 smart cities to quickly apply for funding from such international bodies as the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the BRICS Development Bank. This comes as India continues to prove one of the world’s biggest supporters of smart city initiatives as a driver of economic development.

According to Voice & Data, the Ministry of Urban Development is pushing the 20 cities that were chosen in a first round of competition to waste no time in firming up bankable smart city projects that could get loan assistance. This comes as global financial institutions earmark increasing amounts of money for smart city initiatives. ADB has agreed in principle to $1 billion in smart city project loans, while the World Bank has said India’s smart city mission could access up to $500 million.

Ministry Secretary Rajiv Gauba discussed the pursuit of funding in relation to smart city plans of eight cities: Udaipur, Jaipur, Ludhiana, Ahmedabad, Jabalpur, Surat, Pune and Bhubaneswar.

World Bank will be looking at cities’ credit

Specifically, he urged India’s smart cities to quickly work to establish credit ratings from agencies that were approved by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) in order to more easily access international funding. 85 cities had already initiated the move to establish credit ratings and he said that within a year all 500 cities under the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) would get credit ratings.

Gauba stressed the importance of Indian cities enhancing their smart city initiatives by embracing resource mobilization through municipal bonds. During this discussion, it was revealed that the U.S. Treasury said it was willing to act as Transaction Advisor for a bond issue by Pune Municipality, which has a credit rating is ‘AA Stable’.

A smart city project that proved quite popular in Gauba’s discussions was the conversion of gas-powered three-wheeled rickshaw taxis into electricity-powered e-rickshaws. He said he had requested senior Ministry officials to prepare a policy paper on rickshaw conversion. The request for a policy framework comes after Ludhiana’s smart city plan to convert 30,000 vehicles into e-rickshaws, a which many other Indian cities were keen to emulate.

Also discussed at the smart city meeting were projects that could be launched by June of this year. They covered such areas as waste management and water supply, transportation, lighting, e-governance, public Wi-Fi and common payment cards.