INTERVIEW | ‘We will speed up pending projects’ 

TNIE catches up with the helmsman of the city corporation on his plans for 2023.

Published: 20th January 2023 08:04 AM  |   Last Updated: 20th January 2023 08:04 AM   |  A+A-

Kochi Mayor M Anilkumar

Express News Service

M Anilkumar is a man in a hurry. He concedes that there is quite a load of promises to keep – a slew of pending projects that remained on paper over the past two pandemic-marred years.

Excerpts from interview

What would you count as successes over the past two years?
We have at least completed seven projects amid the pandemic. They are: Samruddhi Hotel – meals at Rs 10, She Lodge, labs in educational institutions, health centre at Thevara, renovation work at Subhash Park, and the launch of electrical autos within the city limits. Furthermore, Kochi Corporation is the only local body in the state that has had an animal birth control (ABC) programme for dogs for seven years.

Could you please give us an overview of the corporation’s key projects for this year?
It has been two years since the new council has come into power. In between, Covid happened and our primary focus shifted to ensuring that people are safe in their homes, receiving three meals a day, and having proper medical assistance. Several proposed projects mentioned in our election manifesto had to take the backseat; the majority of the funds were used for covid-related projects.
However, this year, we intend to implement some of the key projects, such as 100% e-governance, completion of the new corporation office, the HEAL (Health, Environment, Agriculture and Livelihood) project, Operation Breakthrough, and smart roads. It’s a long list.

Starting with e-governance, building tax payments will be shifted online completely. Almost 90 per cent of the data-entry work has been completed, and updating the database of death, birth, and marriage certificates up to 2022 is going on.

We are also in talks with the Information Kerala Mission to develop a mobile application through which citizens can pay taxes, avail birth/death certificates, and also raise complaints about anything that comes under the corporation’s jurisdiction, such as street lights, canal cleaning, and waste management.  
Also, taking note of the new year celebration going awry at Fort Kochi, we have decided to host similar events in various parts of the city.

The construction of the new corporation office has been going on for 17 years…
Almost 70 per cent of the work on the new office building has been completed. As per the estimate, Rs 40 crore more is needed to complete the pending work. The corporation secretary has been asked to explore the possibility of raising funds through a bank loan. The delay in obtaining funds halted work and resulted in cost escalation. We, however, will complete the work this year.
What about other ongoing projects?
There are many. Of them, the renovation of the Ernakulam market is an important one. Work is progressing well; piling has been completed. Things are looking bright, as per the reports from Cochin Smart City Mission Limited, the implementing agency. The new market will have state-of-the-art facilities spread across 2,15,000 sq.ft.

What is the progress on the P&T colony? The project has been missing deadlines for four years.
We are keen on implementing the rehabilitation of P&T colony residents in their new houses constructed under the Life Mission project at Mundamveli. The delay has been due to issues on the contractor’s end. The tendered contractor, Thrissur District Labour Contract Cooperative Society, had difficulty raising funds to move forward with the project. At this point, we cannot re-tender the project, as the cost will escalate. Also, the process of re-tendering will result in more delays. So we have planned to move ahead with the same contractor, and complete the project before the monsoon season.
What is the status of Operation Breakthrough?
There is nothing more to say about the Operation Breakthrough project. We are addressing all the issues related to it, and meetings and discussions are going on to solve them as soon as possible. Also, we will be introducing a Bandicoot robot for sewage cleaning in the city.
The plan also includes regular cleaning of the drainages and procuring machines to clean canals. We will adopt the Chennai model to address the waterlogging issues in the city. We are also moving ahead with the detailed project report on the master plan for the Mullassery canal.
Could you give us a gist about the corporation’s breakfast scheme for school children?
As per the health survey reports, it was found that many students skipped breakfast while attending school. Hence, the corporation decided to provide breakfast to needy students. Under the pilot project, we will provide breakfast to 150 needy students in Classes 8, 9, and 10 of Government Girls’ High School.

From the next academic year, we plan to cover all 48 public schools in the city under the programme. The breakfast project is expected to cost the corporation about Rs 1 lakh a month. We have set aside Rs 4 lakh from the People’s Plan Programme (2022–2023 fiscal) for the project.

The waste treatment plant at Brahmapuram has been a topic of debate for long. What is the status now?
We have decided that the contractor will have to remove the refuse-derived fuel (RDF; obtained from waste) piled up on the Brahmapuram campus, after biomining legacy waste at the site before June 30. Biomining work is progressing currently, and we expect the work to be completed soon. We have to pay the contractor Rs 8 crore, which will be cleared once the RDF is removed. Apart from this, the council has also decided to approach Clean Kerala Company for plastic waste collection.
What about the city master plan?
We are moving ahead with the final master plan. Work is in progress.
Any updates on the Thammanam Pullepady Road?
All efforts are being made to complete the 3.68km corridor. The four-lane stretch will connect MG Road and the NH Bypass, providing easy east-west connectivity in the city. The paperwork for changing road ownership (from corporation to PWD) has been completed.

Besides these, the Kochi Corporation will also change the streetlights in all divisions to LEDs this year. Similarly, smart roads will be developed. We will also procure a third roll-on-roll-off vessel; we will yet again take the matter up with the finance minister ahead of the Budget.


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