Sunday, July 23, 2006

Sharing the burden

Sharing the burden
THE ROAD AHEAD
Many believe that public-private partnerships (PPPs) are the way forward to creating and maintaining the infrastructure Bangalore so desperately needs. But experts say private resources and citizen-participation potential are not being effectively exploited. Sujit John and Swati Anand look at some PPP projects to unravel the roadblocks
The Times of India


If you drive down Airport Road towards Whitefield at peak hour, you would have a tough time on the Marathahalli stretch. But go a little further down, cross Kundalahalli junction and towards the Sai Baba Ashram road, and you hit a lovely road, broad with no pothole (at least not yet) and nice lamp-posts on the median. And it’s a lengthy stretch of more than 8 kms.

You rarely see such good roads on the outskirts of Bangalore. And it is the result of one of the city’s early efforts at publicprivate partnership in road building.

In October 2003, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between the public works department and a consortium of builders, including Prestige, Adarsh, Sigma, Chaithanya and Vaswani, under which both parties were to equally share the total cost of Rs 16 crore to build the road. Quality specifications were laid out and third-party quality inspections done. The whole arrangement was facilitated by a not-for-profit organisation called Sahyog, an organisation that now does the cleaning and greening of the road.

Since this initiative, there have been several other PPP attempts at infrastructure building, but with varying degrees of success. The JP Nagar 24th Main is in the process of being upgraded. In this case, the Brigade Group is providing the entire funds of about Rs 3.5 crore to do the 1.5 km stretch. The government is providing support through permissions and governmental bodies like Bescom, BWSSB and BSNL are providing necessary support for shifting of service lines.

Brigade’s deputy general manager K S Balasubramanya says the road is being built as per national highway specifications and even the drain system is of a high quality — an RCC drain that is more stable and durable, and occupying less space, compared to the stone masonry work normally done by the PWD.

But there’s one point where encroachments have made the path so narrow that it has become difficult to build a proper roadplus-drain. Brigade is still struggling with that stretch.

There was another serious attempt on a 5-km stretch of Bannerghatta Road, under which the PWD was to do the road widening and asphalting, while the private parties were to do the median, kerbstone, footpath, lighting and bus-shelters. The private parties completed their part of the work, but last year’s rains washed away the initial asphalting done by the PWD. Efforts are on to get the PWD to complete its task properly.

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