Friday, November 20, 2009

CREATING A MAXIMUM CITY

CREATING A MAXIMUM CITY
Minister for IT-BT and BWSSB Katta Subramanya Naidu and transport minister R Ashoka share their grand plans to make Bangalore a world-class city, during an interaction with senior staff at The Times of India on Thursday
TEAM TOI

INFRASTRUCTURE Mantra is development
Infrastructure projects will continue to stride, squeezing through the space crunches and new modes of ‘pre-qualification bidding’. It is part of the ‘comprehensive city development plan’ worth Rs 22,000 crore, to be implemented in the next three years. A majority of it will be spent on roads, storm water drains and building a road over the drains. This apart, Rs 500 crore for 200 skywalks with escalators! The nine pedestrian underpasses apart, the city is expected to be fitted out with another 200.
The renovation of old markets and 200 new markets are just among the others on the long list of proposals in the blueprint. The two Bangalore ministers also enlisted those completed so far. Nearly 1,800 km of the city roads have been asphalted so far, with a budget of Rs 452 crore. Work on the pending 1,400 km will also be taken up shortly. This apart, work on underpasses at 11 of the 22 identified locations will also start in full swing, they said.
“We do agree, we have had some problems with projects like the underpasses at Puttenahalli and Kadirenahalli. Much of it due to contractors and land acquisition. This apart, even the tendering process takes time in a few projects. However, we will now ensure that work is on time. In extreme cases, we will also blacklist the ‘problem-creating’ contractors — be it in road works, infrastructure projects or even garbage collection,’’ they said.
ON PRR
Survey work has begun on the long-awaited Peripheral Ring Road project taken up by BDA, Ashoka said. Land acquisition is also on and the land will be handed over for development in the next two or three months. “Nearly Rs 40 crore is being invested on the bus service when the road is ready. So we are also waiting for it,’’ he said.
Survey work is also on for the satellite towns ring road. Once done, work here will be taken up on a BOOT (Build Own Operate Transfer) basis.
NEW DEADLINES
Hosur Road expressway: Dec-end
Puttenahalli, Kadirenahalli underpasses: Jan 15, 2010 AKRAMA-SAKRAMA The babu trap
Babus, beware! The state government is planning to bring out some stringent laws against errant officials who collude in building violations in future. The new recommendations submitted by the cabinet sub-committee includes a ‘special’ punishment clause, introduced for such offences.
All government properties, including educational and health institutions, have also been exempted from the regularisation fee. However, toeing a ‘pro-people Sakrama’ line, it will be a ‘onetime’ regularisation fee for all.
Alongside, the government also hopes to tap more revenue for the BBMP through the regularisation act. Once introduced, the estimates are that apart fromgenerating Rs 5,000 crore revenue for the BBMP, it’s likely to affect nearly 7 lakh properties in Bangalore alone.
“We have had a good start with a ‘revised SAS’ in property tax collection. We expect the same to continue with the Sakrama policy, when it comes into effect. Sakrama is most needed in Bangalore. Apart from bringing about regularisation, it will also boost revenue for the BBMP,’’ he said.
The recommendations submitted by the cabinet sub-committee, headed by Ashoka, will be tabled for discussion in the upcoming cabinet meet.
WATER, TREES Some hope
Naidu acknowledges the wide gap between demand and ever-decreasing water supply to the city. But he seems to have a plan in place to address it: 20 sewage treatment plants (STPs) will come up in various parts of the city to recycle sewage water from all storm water drains, and waste water, and generate about 1,000 MLD of recycled water, with 800-900 MLD of water for nondomestic purposes. “The sewage problem will also be addressed through this. Tenders have been floated for 24 packages, 16 packages have already been sent to the World Bank for funding. Bangalore will be zero-sewage soon,” said Naidu.
“Yes, it’s true that our supply capacity is limited. In 2002, there were 2 lakh connections, but now there are 5,85,000 connections. Supply is less. We are planning to get 13 tmcft from T K Halli that will give us an additional 500 MLD. We have invested around Rs 2,500 crore in the project that will start supply from 2012,” he added.
ON GROUNDWATER
Private borewells will finally see some restraint. Naidu confirmed that a regulation was being put in place, by which for every private borewell to be dug, BWSSB permission will be mandatory. BWSSB will inspect the borewell sites and assess the need for a borewell in that area.
“There will be no private borewells without BWSSB permission and they cannot supply contaminated water to people in tankers. The draft regulation is being given final touches and will become mandatory within a few days. There have been cases, like a company on Bannerghatta Road is liable to pay Rs 8 crore as fine for water theft. Earlier, the fine was Rs 10 per day, but now onwards we will be very strict,” he said.
ON TREES AND LAKES
Asked about the hundreds of trees being chopped for Metro construction, widening of roads and other development projects, “People make a big noise about it but their priorities are not greenery — 1,000 trees have been cut totally for Metro and road widening. However, we have planted one lakh trees in various places to replace those 1,000 trees. Another one lakh will be planted this year, and within three years, we will have two lakh trees. There will be a loss of 20-30%, but the rest will remain,” said Naidu.
As for dying lakes, an action plan worth Rs 750 crore for 127 lakes is ready. “Tenders have been called for 30 lakes and in three years, all 127 lakes will be rejuvenated. Walking, jogging tracks and playgrounds will be included,” he added. This plan is not along PPP lines but will be implemented by BDA, BWSSB and BBMP.
CIVIC POLLS ‘BBMP will be ours’
The wait for BBMP elections continues. The recent political turmoil is also increasing fears that it is unlikely to be held anytime in the early half of next year. But, the two Bangalore in-charge ministers are confident — “it will happen. Further, it will be a BJP mayor this time”.
Reiterating the government’s stand on elections, they said: “We are not against holding BBMP elections. It will happen as per the court and Election Commission directives. We will not offer any excuses. The exact dates have to be fixed by the EC. From our end, it’s only the reservation list that is to be announced, which is now under progress.’’
ON BANNING CRIMINAL ELEMENTS
Naidu: We will give tickets to the best of people, who are development-oriented.
Ashoka: We will avoid those with criminal antecedents. It is our party’s stand.
DELAY SO FAR?
The process had to be streamlined through procedural formalities. “The ward delimitation exercise had to be done. Further, if one court asked us to hold elections, there was also a stay on the same from another court,’’ they explained.
POLL PREDICTIONS Naidu: The mayor will be from our party. Ashoka: We have 17 MLAs and three MPs from Bangalore. We will surely get the majority in the BBMP. BETTER BUSES City on bigger wheels
Monthly passes on Vajra buses that ply within the city will be reduced from Rs 1,500 to Rs 1,250, said Ashoka.
The blueprint of Bangalore, which has been prepared, will include transportation. He admitted that the mass transportation system has to improve further. “The Metro, when it starts operating, will take away only 10-15% of the congestion on Bangalore roads. Traffic conditions will be pretty much the same a year later as well,” he said. One solution is to set out bus bays, wherever land is available.
Bangalore has around 500 Volvo buses plying on various routes. The Vajra buses still don’t make a profit and are subsidised by BMTC’s other services. Asked when Volvos would make a profit by themselves, Ashoka said they were profitable on the BIA route and those that ply to Electronic City and other IT Parks. BMTC had hoped for more funds through advertisements. Before recession hit, the rights were sold for Rs 24 lakh per bus for one year. But the economic slowdown affected the project and there weren’t many takers.
Ashoka elaborated on the Traffic and Transit Management Centres (TTMCs) coming up in 10 places around the city. Being constructed under the JN-NURM programme, a TTMC at Jayanagar was opened recently. The Shanthinagar TTMC will have parking space for up to 2,000 cars.
Rasa from kasa
There’s a blueprint exclusively for solid waste management. The target: ‘Rasa from kasa’ (earning from garbage).
In the next six months, steps will be taken towards turning ‘problematic’ garbage into means of revenue generation and even get additional power for the city through Bescom. “Very soon, we will have bio-mass power plants coming up in the city. ”
Might take at least another 5-6 years to see some significant change in the ‘stray dog menace’ in the city. Main problem lies in the new areas of BBMP which are home to more strays.
Little or no public consultation, and no coordination between multiple civic agencies. However, the ministers say: “Absolutely not. The civic agencies are meeting up every week to discuss projects and progress of work. We are also having public consultation meets, including ABIDe,’’ said Naidu.
BIZ TALK
All MSIL outlets by Jan 15
The excise department will meet its target of opening 453 liquor outlets run by Mysore Sales International Ltd before January 15.
In an effort to curb retail liquor shops selling products more than the maximum retail price, the state government announced it would open MSIL-owned outlets which would sell liquor at the Minimum Retail Price.
Naidu said so far only 26 shops have been opened. “The rest will be opened by January 15 and this would minimize illegal sale of liquor. These outlets will put an end to sale of liquor higher than the normal price,’’ Naidu said.
In the wake of the excise department striking down the proposal of auctioning liquor shops based on Andhra Pradesh model, the government came up with the MSIL model. According to a report submitted by the department, auctioning scheme, if implemented in Karnataka, would pave the way for high pricing of liquor, besides government promoting liquor lobbies. In AP, a wine store is auctioned at Rs 15 lakh for a two-year period. The cheapest Indian Made Liquor (IML) liquor available is at Rs 50, but is sold at Rs 70 due to this system. A person who has been awarded licence of liquor shop at Rs 15 lakh aims at reaching the break-even point in the shortest possible time.
To achieve targets, a shop owner tends to sell the liquor at a rate higher than the government price. People who cannot afford to buy at this price will resort to buying illicit liquor, the report said.
AP lifted the blanket ban on liquor in 2005. Unlike in Karnataka, AP was green field (open field) in terms of liquor, therefore it was easy for them to implement the auctioning scheme. Moreover, in AP only wine stores are auctioned while bars and other category of liquor shops are not.
Cos wary due to slowdown
Naidu: We have 3,000 acres of land near the international airport available to give to industry. But, because of the economic slowdown, we haven’t received much response from companies.
The 40 sqkm IT Investment Region (ITIR) we’re proposing about 14 km from the airport will go to the state cabinet for approval shortly. After that, we’ll send it for the Centre’s approval. In this ITIR, Infosys has asked for 500 acres, Wipro 200 acres, and a cluster of biotech companies 2,000 acres. (The infrastructure in ITIR will be built on a public-private partnership model).
NEW BIDADI TOWNSHIP
We don’t have any immediate plans to build a new township in Bidadi. But maybe in the future...

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