Kochi Corporation pulls up CSML for going slow on projects

Work has begun only on 18 of the 42 projects being executed by agency

The Kochi Corporation council on Monday pulled up Cochin Smart Mission Limited (CSML) officials for their lackadaisical performance in implementing Smart City projects. Funds worth crores of rupees allotted to the city under the scheme could lapse if work was not accelerated, councillors pointed out.

With just a little over 70 days remaining for projects under the scheme to be tendered and awarded as per Central government guidelines, work has begun only on 18 of the 42 projects being executed by CSML. Of the ₹970 crore set aside for the projects, only work worth ₹592.11 crore had been tendered. If contracts for the remaining projects were not awarded by March 31, the funds allotted for them could lapse.

While the mission has already received funds worth ₹401.77 crore since its inception in 2016, only a meagre 7.8%, amounting to ₹84 crore, has been utilised.

“A utilisation certificate for the received amount will have to be presented before additional funds are released,” said councillor V.P. Chandran at the special council meeting convened to discuss Smart City projects.

Work has begun on projects including smart roads, a public bicycle sharing project, a cancer ward at the Ernakulam General Hospital, new blocks at the Kochi taluk hospital and the Mattancherry Women and Children’s Hospital, Intelligent Traffic Management System and beautification of the area around the Dutch Palace, Mattancherry.

Significant projects

Councillors expressed concern over the lack of progress on significant projects like the ₹16-crore-worth slum redevelopment project.

According to CSML officials, the Corporation council would have to present a list of slums where land ownership rights were clear to the Special Purpose Vehicle before any work could be undertaken. P.M. Harris, chairperson of the Works Standing Committee, pointed out that there was no clarity on the renovation of the Ernakulam market either, though ₹100 crore was set aside for the ambitious project. Shop owners were to be shifted to a nearby disputed property during the period of renovation, but no conclusive agreement could be signed with them till the dispute was settled, he said.

CSML has listed five projects, including market renovation and CCTV installation, which are likely to be tendered this month. A tender will also be called this month for construction of the second tower under the Rajiv Awas Yojana for landless families at Kalvathy.

As many as nine projects have remained stalled at the tender stage, with tenders being invited multiple times to no responses. Work worth ₹7 crore on the Marine Drive walkway beautification project has not been taken up yet though tenders were invited four times.

Sewerage project

Though the contract has been awarded for the ₹166-crore sewerage project for West Kochi, the anxieties of residents at Kalvathy over the presence of a sewage treatment plant in their neighbourhood have not been allayed. “Since the project cannot proceed without the cooperation of the residents, CSML might consider alternative land to set up the plant,” said Mayor Soumini Jain.

Residents had earlier suggested that the plant could be set up on an acre of land belonging to the Cochin Port Trust near the customs jetty at Kalvathy, said Zeenath Rasheed, councillor representing Kalvathy.

CSML officials pointed out that though the land was ideal, a slew of permissions would have to be obtained from the Central government since the site was located beside the customs jetty, and the Customs Department could raise objections, further delaying the process. Considering that the area was a heritage zone, finding alternative land was a tough ask, they said.

Discussions would be held with the Port Trust to consider use of its land and a stakeholder meeting along with the residents in the area would be held soon, Ms. Jain announced.

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Printable version | Feb 27, 2020 1:33:40 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/kochi-corporation-pulls-up-csml-for-going-slow-on-projects/article30612652.ece

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