Glitches stop Kochi’s surge to turn smarter like Pune and Nagpur

Delay in project take-off mainly attributed to uncertainty over selection of a project management consultant for Cochin Smart Mission

February 25, 2017 06:37 pm | Updated February 26, 2017 08:02 am IST

KOCHI: The Kochi Smart City project is looking for a head start, as the initial euphoria over winning the nomination has fizzled out.

While cities like Pune and Nagpur that found place on the list of the first 20 cities, along with Kochi, have surged ahead and started implementing projects, Kochi could not make much headway.

The delay in picking up a project management consultant (PMC) to offer technical advisory and project management support to Cochin Smart Mission Limited (CSML) for implementing projects has, in turn, delayed the take-off. Smart City projects were designed in such a way that PMC decide on the pace and manner in which projects are implemented, according to a senior CSML functionary.

The Kochi Smart City project was conceived as a project “to transform Kochi into an inclusive, vibrant city of opportunities with efficient urban services, sustainable growth, and ease of living.”

A “holistic replicable retrofit transformation of the 7-sq-km Fort Kochi-Mattancherry-Central City linked by waterway,” seamless multi-modal transport covering waterway, pedestrians and metro rail, linkages to metro, mobility hubs, and other waterways were also proposed.

The “renewal of open spaces through rejuvenation of four city canals and adjoining open spaces in their vicinity,” and “inclusive essential services delivery to over 1 lakh citizens, including 24x7 water supply, energy, sewerage, housing, sanitation, and solid waste management” facilities have also been conceived as part of the programme.

The “restoration of Fort Kochi as a ‘heritage area’ and re-configuring the city centre as a commercial hub” were also components of the project.

When contacted, a CSML official, who admitted that there had been some delay in the implementation of projects in Kochi, said cities like Pune had moved ahead by retrofitting their earlier projects into the mission projects. Those cities have already completed the groundwork and now have to integrate them into the Smart City projects, he explained.

Delayed PMC

Even as the Kochi project has been delayed, the transport components of the Kochi mission are all set to be implemented, he added.

The water metro project, which will be integrated with the metro rail project, will now enter the execution stage. So is the Hospital Road beautification project. These are also part of the Kochi Smart City and could dispel doubts that the projects are lagging behind, he said.

Though the selection of PMC started much earlier, it was at a later stage that the authorities came across a technical glitch. An earlier Government Order had insisted that any business involving over ₹5 lakh needed to be e-tendered, which was not followed in the selection of PMC.

Now, the authorities, including the Local Self Government Department, are campaigning to obtain exclusion for PMC selection from the e-tender clause. If the attempt fails, it will prove disastrous for the Kochi project, and the whole exercise has to be repeated, sources said.

However, those at the helm of affairs, who preferred not be quoted were hopeful of obtaining exemption for picking up PMC. It is expected that PMC will be selected by March, and the Kochi project will take off in a big way, they said.

Meanwhile, the clearance for PMC selection is likely to come in another 10 days, and once the PMC is in place, the projects can be expected to move at the required pace, the officials added.

“Scarcity of talent” has also affected the Kochi project, as competent candidates are yet to turn up. Incidentally, the selection process for the post of Town Planner has not borne fruit, as the candidates who turned up did not match expectations. However, a General Manager will soon join the team, the officials said.

Govt. to be approached

Confronted with complaints of tardy progress, the Kochi Corporation, to which the Smart City project was awarded, is planning to approach the State government.

Deputy Mayor T.J. Vinod said the government had to speed up the implementation of the projects. The Mayor will soon meet Ministers with a request to clear all hurdles, he said.

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