'Major projects delayed by absence of expert planners'

Written By Unknown on Minggu, 24 November 2013 | 22.23

MUMBAI: Flawed planning, poor execution and the overwhelming task of rehabilitating the project-affected people have delayed several infrastructure projects in Mumbai, resulting in subsequent cost over-runs.

Many people feel that the time-overrun in projects can be prevented by scientific planning with the involvement of the citizen groups. Consumer activist A V Shenoy said, "There are basically two reasons for the delay in the relocation of project-affected persons (PAPs) and lack of approval before the commissioning of the project. All relevant permissions need to be in place much in advance so that lack of approvals do not hinder the progress of the project."

A flawed model is also reason for non-execution of the project. RTI activist Anil Galgali said, "We have the example of the Trans-harbour corridor, where the state government failed to attract bids. The other is the case of the underground tunnel at Kalanagar. MMRDA now feels it may not get bidders as the imported technology will make the project unviable. Such factors need to be taken into consideration before planning a project."

A senior bureaucrat also cited the lack of specialists in urban bodies like the MMRDA, CIDCO and BMC for the poor planning. The official said, "We have either engineers who have risen through the ranks, or appointees from the civil services, who may not have the insight of an expert." He suggested that these bodies should have a sufficient number of urban planners who can realistically design a project so that it can be executed in the least possible time. He cited the example of the Santa Cruz-Chembur Link Road (SCLR), which has faced several issues related to PAPS, as well as faulty design as the Railways refused to approve the plan. He said all these could have been avoided if a specialist were handling the project.

A reputed consultant associated with many infrastructure projects said, "I feel that land is precious in Mumbai and people like to hold on to it by approaching the courts to prevent acquisition. This is one of the biggest reasons for delayed projects as unless right of way is given, the project can't move ahead."

He further said a project should only be executed if there is right of way. An MMRDA official said, "This is one of the reasons that the MMRDA is thinking of an underground Metro. It will prevent litigation arising out land acquisition and thus speed up the project."

Times View

The delays are symptomatic of the way the public sector functions in India; the approach is casual, the planning is tardy and accountability is zero. One way of solving the problem is to levy prohibitive financial penalty on agencies and officials for the delay, which should be several times the cost overrun.

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