Dr Guruprasad Mohapatra, Municipal Commissioner, Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation The 21st century avatar of the historic city of Amdavad Ahmedabad is writing a new chapter in its evolution. Consider the recent developments in Gujarat's former capital: the Metro-link Express for Gandhinagar & Ahmedabad (MEGA) receives financial closure; Rs 496.34 crore is cleared for the 26.8-km Phase 3 of the BRTS project; the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) approves the proposal for a 2.5-km flyover, the longest in the city, built over existing flyovers over 132 ft Ring Road and at Helmet Crossroads; and with every passing day, the Sabarmati Riverfront project adds to the city's urban transformation.
Helping to steer this developmental juggernaut is the AMC. Right from hospitals, roads, bridges, flyovers, underpasses, traffic signals, street lights and road engineering to water supply, drainage, recreational spaces and a host of special-purpose projects, the city's administration handles it all. Dr Guruprasad Mohapatra, Municipal Commissioner, Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, defines his role, saying, I head the executive side and ensure that all activities within the administration are carried out under the ambit of the law. This includes ensuring adequate budgetary provisions and timely completion of projects, and attending to people's grievances and complaints. He speaks further about the city's development to SHRIYAL SETHUMADHAVAN.
You have been in this position for two years now. What is your assessment of the city's performance over the past few years? Over the past 10 years, Ahmedabad has been performing very well. Way back in 1999, I was the municipal commissioner of Surat. At that time, Ahmedabad was doing very little in capital and special-purpose projects. But in the past 10 years, the city has spent a lot on infrastructure. For instance, in 2001-02, the total capital expenditure per year was as low as Rs 32-40 crore. But these days, our capital expenditure per year is over Rs 1,600 crore. The result has been a drastic improvement in the number of roads, bridges, flyovers, water supply schemes, storm water coverage, street light coverage, parks and gardens.
In 2011, the President awarded Ahmedabad for being the best performing city. What has been your value addition to this existing development? There has been progress in metro planning. We have tried to synergise this planning process with the multimodal transport scene, which includes the existing city bus service AMTS and BRTS and the metro when it is constructed. Further, we use the first fully computerised automated complaint handling system and handle close to around 40,000 complaints a month. We have contributed immensely to completing infrastructure projects. The city was 186 sq km in 2006 and eventually a lot of nearby areas have merged, making the current city 464.16 sq km. When these outskirts areas were merged, infrastructure planning became critical as they lacked water supply, sanitation, etc. We have been successful in fulfilling this requirement in the past two years. So the extension of critical infrastructure and better planning for multimodal transport have been some of the additions into the system and more complaint handling, better surveillance and cleanliness have all been our focus. We are now executing projects worth Rs 375 crore. This includes 23 towers of 20 floors each with public and municipal hospitals, which will be a teaching hospital for the NHL medical college.
Tell us about the progress of the Sabarmati Riverfront project. I am the managing director of Sabarmati Riverfront, a special project launched with great expectations. AMC has done the entire civil work and over 12,000 slums were relocated from the riverbed to alternate, good-quality housing. There are very few cities in the country where such a large number of slums have been dislocated owing to a major infrastructure project. So far, we have spent close to around Rs 1,100 crore in this project and all the civil work is over. Also, of the planned 21 km of the lower promenade, around 15 to 16 km on both the east bank and west bank are ready. The lighting and construction of three gardens are more or less complete. Further, we have reclaimed 2 hectare with a development plan in mind. Of this, 14 per cent land is saleable through which we hope to recover the AMC's investment in this project. Also, the first dhobi ghat is being developed in the area as the river was initially being used for washing clothes. A semantic market has also been developed for the people.
Apart from this, three major projects are currently underway. One is the state-of-the-art exhibition complex on the east bank, then a hanging over-bridge, which will take people from the west bank to the exhibition complex, and four-lane roads on both sides of the riverfront. We are also planning an event management ground, construction work for which will start shortly, for landmark events like the marathon, cyclathon and other cultural programmes. We are also constructing a flower garden. All these projects will be ready within two-and-a-half years incurring an investment of over Rs 130 crore.
Another special project is the BRTS. How has it served to improving traffic conditions within the city? Two years ago when I joined, the BRTS was around 30 km; I have taken it to 71 km. It is still growing and we have plans to make it 85 km by the end of 2014. In some cities world over, the percentage of public transport is more than 60-70 per cent of the total transport movement. In Ahmedabad, it is only 20 per cent. So, the only solution to traffic congestion is to reduce personal transport and introduce multimodal quality public transport. BRTS has been planned with this approach. Also, if you study the city's road design, it is on the lines of the ring and radial road system. Hence, there are many ways to move within the city to reach the ring road unlike the other cities. Today, with the 71-km BRTS network, we are commuting more than 125,000 people. Like other European cities, we want the core of Ahmedabad to be densely populated and when you move away from the core population, the density decreases. To encourage the same, we are permitting FSI up to 4 for people living 200 m on either side of the BRTS corridor or the metro corridor. So the idea is to give them a public transport every 200 m to 400 m of walking from their place of stay or work.
With Sanjay Gupta resigning, who is next in line for the Ahmedabad metro project? The government recently appointed Dr Manjula Subramaniam, former chief secretary as the chairman of the Metro Company, in charge of MEGA; IP Gautam, AMC's municipal commissioner earlier and principal secretary for urban development prior to his retirement, as vice chairman; and Vijay Nehra as the CEO. I am also on the metro project board along with this new team. So a huge part of the metro will pass through Ahmedabad and hence a lot of planning and coordination will be required. But I am certain that with the new team, the project will pick up. The detailed project report has been prepared for the 76 km and is at a very advanced stage of completion. The cost involved in this project is about Rs 250 crore per km.
What are the existing challenges in the city? The existing challenges are to complete the network of critical infrastructure with water supply, drainage, storm water drainage and roads in the newly merged area. Ahmedabad is only 186 sq m; with around six newly emerged administrative zones on the northern, western, eastern and southern sides, the city is now around 466 sq m. These areas lack municipal infrastructure. So, the first requirement is a town planning scheme. Apart from this, we want to take the BRTS Phase III from 85 km to 125 km and then start and successfully complete the metro. With the metro, the public transport percentage can improve from 20 per cent to more than 60 per cent. Then we want to improve operation and maintenance (O&M) activities as this is area that needs to be addressed in all Indian cities. So, we are now increasing the outlay of the budget available for O&M activities like maintenance of roads and building every year.
What is the budgeted support you get from the government or other agencies? A budgeted support of 35 per cent comes from JNNURM. Fifteen to 20 per cent comes from the state and the municipal corporation puts in the remaining 50 per cent. Then we have a Swarnim Jayanti Mukhya Mantri Shaheri Vikas Yojana, under which we get close to around Rs 600-700 crore every year for undertaking infrastructure projects.
What is the current opportunity for a contractor/developer/engineer in Ahmedabad? Housing is the major sector for investment opportunity here. An affordable housing zone has been created in the development plan. The plan also majorly focuses on improving affordable housing for the urban poor and the lower middle class, which allows higher FSI for the private sector to come in and construct low-cost housing, which would mean anything from 23 sq m net flat size up to 60 sq m net flat size. Along with housing will come related amenities like entertainment, schools and hospitals.
The new 10-year development plan by Ahmedabad Urban Development Authority (AUDA) is still awaiting an approval from the Gujarat Government.
The government has given the permission to implement the building control regulations and the development plan as per the draft only. So, all the new buildings are being approved as per the new development plan. The new development plan lays stress on higher FSI, BRTS, the metro corridor and preservation of heritage. Also, Ahmedabad is now on UNESCO's shortlist of heritage cities. Hence, transferable FSI has been introduced for people with heritage buildings. So we are basically looking at properties between Rs 10 lakh and Rs 50 lakh. AMC recently declared that it will construct 10,000 affordable houses starting this year. Of this, 3,000 will be LIG and 7,000 will be for the economically weaker section. In addition, through the urban local bodies, municipal commissioners and the government, 1 lakh houses of this nature will be started this fiscal. Although we hear of recessionary trends in housing in all Indian cities, there is still great demand for low-cost housing. We are executing the AMC plan for affordable housing in a self-sustainable manner and our net contribution to this plan will be land and supervision.
With Gujarat being one of India's most industrialised states with rankings even higher than many developed nations, how does it serve as an advantage to the capital city? It is an advantage in terms of it bringing more population into the city. This calls for more infrastructure development, housing and sales of goods. But at the same time, it is a tremendous challenge to the urban local bodies as we need to completely upgrade and expand existing infrastructure.
Ahmedabad Municipal Coporation Year of establishment1950 Area464.16 sq km Current populationAround 6 million Municipal councillors192 AMC sloganLiveable and lovable
Major functions of AMCWater supply, sewerage and storm water drainage, construction and maintenance of roads, street lighting, primary education, medical services, conservancy, fire services, public transport, and parks and gardens.