Corporation effort to make drainage scheme affordable

COIMBATORE, AUG. 21. To make its long-pending underground drainage scheme affordable, the Coimbatore Corporation has cut its cost by Rs. 102.28 crores. By bringing down the cost, the civic body is said to have put itself in a position where it does not have to look for too many sources of funding.

It had already negotiated a loan with the World Bank. But, the earlier estimate of Rs. 271 crores had led to fears of heavy repayment.

Opposition warning

Stating that the Corporation did not have the funds to pay high interest, the Opposition in the Council warned the civic body against any ambitious move that was fraught with any financial risk.

They also opposed the user charges on the grounds that they were an avoidable burden on the people. This upset the Corporation's plans of meeting loan repayment with the user charges.

The scheme was mooted in late 1998 for zone four, five and six of the city. The sewers had already been provided in the first three zones.

The project was placed before the Council a number of times and a series of all-party meetings were also held to convince the Opposition leaders on the need for the scheme.

However, the talks made no headway until the Corporation agreed to rework the estimate and introduce cross-subsidy to make user charges affordable to the low-income group.

In 1998, the cost was put at Rs. 208 crores. With the delay in implementation, the cost rose to Rs. 250 crores. Besides, improvements to existing underground sewers in zone three were to be carried out at an additional Rs. 21 crores.

After the estimate was re-worked, the Councillors who made a persistent demand for it were surprised at the steep reduction. Recently, the Corporation brought the details of the reduction and presented copies of these to the Councillors.

Among the various components of the scheme in which the cost has been cut, the notable reductions are in the method of sewage treatment and improvements to the existing sewers in zone three. Under the head "contingencies", the cost has been brought down from Rs. 33.48 crores to Rs. 13.56 crores.

Official sources said cost cut had been made wherever an alternative in the form of low-cost technology was available.

Cost of infrastructure up

But, the cost of the infrastructure (laying of the lines and other related works) for sewage collection had gone up from Rs. 112.28 crores to Rs. 123.14 crores.

Opting for sewage lagoons for treatment of wastewater had made a substantial cut. The original plan was to go in for the Upward Anaerobic Slush Blanket at Rs. 55.19 crores. By going in for the lagoon option, the Corporation had brought the cost by Rs. 43.52 crores.The improvements in zone three would now cost Rs. 19.91 crores. Stating that these were some of the reductions made, sources said efforts would be made to implement the scheme soon, now that the Government had cleared it.