- Dr K Vijaykarthikeyan, Municipal Commissioner, Coimbatore City Municipal Corporation
The third largest city in Tamil Nadu, Coimbatore is a major hub for textiles, industries, commerce, education, IT, healthcare and manufacturing. What´s more, this ´Manchester of South India´ is also referred to as the ´Pump City´ as it supplies nearly half of India's requirements of motors and pumps. An investor and industry-friendly city, Coimbatore has now made it to the list of the top 20 selected cities under the smart cities mission. Dr K Vijaykarthikeyan, Municipal Commissioner, Coimbatore City Municipal Corporation, shares more on the city´s plans in conversation with SERAPHINA D´SOUZA.
What is the vision document to make the city smarter?
The vision document is holistic and inclusive of sustainable growth in terms of environment-friendly and futuristic development, lake connectivity and development, transport, energy-efficiency, e-governance and so on. It is a combination of interlinked futuristic solutions. We are currently finalising the features. The city´s master plan revision work will be ready in a few months. One smart feature we are focusing on is smart energy-efficient smart pole with energy-efficient lighting and traffic controlling system, including monitoring, Wi-Fi and air quality. Further, Coimbatore has eight symmetrically placed lakes across the city. We want to promote, redevelop and connect these.
Tell us about the recently formed SPV and the funding scenario?
The SPV is called Coimbatore Smart City Ltd. The chairman will be the commissioner Municipal Administration, with commissioner Coimbatore Corporation as managing director; there is also a full-time CEO who will be appointed as well as other board members, who will decide the course of action on projects for which tenders are to be floated. The minimum allocation of funds for the formation of the SPV has been transferred; subsequently, funds will follow. We have adequate sustainable and financially viable projects under the smart cities plan. We also have several revenue generation models. There are plenty of opportunities for private players. We will also work with the board to come up with a specific policy regarding procurement strategy.
What are the developments and upcoming projects for the city´s infrastructure for which tenders are to be floated?
Tenders are currently on for the 24 + 7 water supply project for the city. We are in the request for proposal (RFP) stage and will finalise it in about two months, after which work will commence. Once this project takes off, Coimbatore will be set to become the largest 24 + 7 water supplied city.
We are considering this project for 60 wards in four areas. There are also larger projects for water supply in other areas, which come under the AMRUT scheme. Also, we will soon commence work on our construction and demolition (C&D) waste plant. Besides, there are many other infrastructure plans in the pipeline. We also have a multilevel car parking tender for three places in the city; this will be in the next two to three months. We are looking at all options for funding: Government, private, other investments and grants. We want to involve the public as much as possible; the crowd-funding platform is a good option. We used it successfully for our project ´Toilet First´; similarly, we are looking at it on a larger scale for smart city projects as well.
Any major plans in waterways and other transportation projects?
The crux of our smart city proposal is lake redevelopment. Once this happens, water bodies will definitely improve. Also, we have our competency mobility plan (CMP) under consideration and are hopeful of getting substantial transport projects in the city. Once the government decides, we can value-add to our transportation system. We had proposed a BRTS project to the government for consideration under the JNNURM scheme. This project is a part of our CMP. Also, the corporation had proposed three monorail roads to the government. We have put forward our requirement to the decision-makers with all the options available for better transport (metro, BRTS, etc) and are awaiting decision. Being a growing city, we definitely require mass transportation system and are looking at boosting it in the best possible way.
In January this year, the Union Government had sanctioned a Rs.395-crore water supply improvement project under AMRUT, which is expected to meet the water requirement of the city till 2048. But what about immediate measures?
Coimbatore has 100 wards; among these, 60 form the core wards of the city. The Rs 395-crore grant sanctioned is for the arid areas for the peripheral wards of the city. Besides that, for the 60 wards as I mentioned, tender is on for 24 + 7 water supply scheme. So, these two major projects will help cover the city´s water needs. Fortunately, the city has good water supply faucets like Tillur 1 and 2, which ensure that the minimum LPCD (litres per capita per day) to be delivered is taken care of. But since the distribution lines have been laid long ago, the diameter is unable to support the current population pressure. We have the force but the problem lies in distribution. So, 24+7 water supply will essentially mean changing the entire distribution network and brining-in larger distribution lines. These two large water projects will help make the dream of 24 + 7 water supply in Coimbatore a reality.
What is the city´s contribution to the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan?
Under ´Toilet First´, we have built about 1,200 toilets in the past five months; our target is to build around 2,300 individual toilets. ´Toilet First´ has been successful in getting people to log in, contribute and help in its work. This has been a revolution for us. Further, we have a successfully running, bio-organic vermi-compost plant, which has been treating about 100 tonne of vermi-compost from organic waste. We also have crematoriums and canteens running on bio-waste.
A large part of the Coimbatore urban agglomeration falls outside the municipal corporation limits. Is this a challenge?
Yes. Currently, there is a challenge in setting up pace for urbanisation faster. But, we are looking to bridge the gap soon. Besides the newly arid areas or the peripheral part of the city, I don´t see any other major challenge.
What is the budget allotted for the city? Also, the budget allotted under the smart cities mission?
In general, our budget is around Rs 1,200- 1,300 crore. We have our own revenue generation modalities such as property tax, water tax, etc. The corporation generated about Rs 464 crore this year. Besides, we have the state government grant and the central commission grant. For the smart cities mission, the proposal was roughly around Rs 2,600 crore, for which we will receive assistance from the Central and state governments. The rest will be borne by local bodies in terms of our own revenue, loans, etc.
Coimbatore was ranked the best emerging city in India in 2014 in an Indian city survey. How can the city continue to keep up this standard? What makes the corporation proud?
One is the engagement of citizens in the decision-making process. Also, we have developed a lake-way in the city on barren land, where the lake was full of encroachments. We built a driveway along this. What´s interesting is that it was done through Tech Revetment, a US-based solution, where dewatering of the lake is not required. This driveway is now becoming a landmark of Coimbatore, which we are proud of.
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Year of establishment: 1981
Total city area: 257.04 sq km
Population: 15,84,719 (2011 census)
Density: 6165.2 per sq km
Decadal growth rate: 7.02
Administration zones: 5
Ward offices: 5
Civic centres: 29
Municipal councillors: 100
Annual budget: Rs.1,178 crore
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