Interview with N. Srikant, Municipal Commissioner, Visakhapatnam.
From a fishing village a couple of centuries ago, Visakhapatnam has developed into a metropolis. Vizagapatam, as it was known earlier, was the largest district in the country with Vizianagaram, Srikakulam, Ganjam and Koraput, which are now separate districts, forming a part of it. Gajuwaka, now a municipality, was part of the city until recently. A municipal association was formed in 1858 and the Vizagapatam Municipality was established in 1866. The municipality was upgraded to a corporation in 1979.
The establishment of major industries such as Hindustan Shipyard Limited, the Visakhapatnam Port, Bharat Heavy Plate and Vessels Limited, Hindustan Zinc Limited and the Visakhapatnam Steel Plant contributed to a phenomenal growth in population. The city's population, according to the 2001 Census, is 1.35 million.
From the mid-1980s, the scarcity of land led to the proliferation of high-rise buildings and satellite townships developed. The rapid population growth has brought with it several problems like over-exploitation of groundwater, growth of slums, encroachment of major drains leading to finundation of low-lying areas. The Godavari Water Supply Project, which will be operative by the year-end, comes as a ray of hope for the city, which has experienced severe drinking water crises.
N. Srikant, Municipal Commissioner, spoke to B. Madhu Gopal about his plans to develop Visakhapatnam into a top class city. Excerpts:What are your plans to beautify the beach?
The beach is the major centre of tourist attraction. We have appointed 80 sanitary workers to clean the beach between the Naval Coast Battery and The Park Hotel. The release of sewage into the sea has also been stopped by diverting it into the underground drainage pipeline.
Proposals have been invited from architects and consultants at the national level to submit plans for the proper development of existing parks along the beach road. About 15 proposals have been received from reputed consultants from around the country.
What are the measures being taken to make the city green?
The lack of assured water supply is a reason for the sorry state of affairs in the parks. The sewage water, treated at the 25 MLD (million litres a day) plant, will be reused for watering plants on Beach Road and at Shivaji Park. A tank will be constructed atop Kailasagiri to store the recycled water. A Rs.2.5-crore-worth proposal has been formulated to take up this work.
What are the long-term plans to prevent frequent water crises?
Once the Polavaram left canal project, for which `bhoomi puja' was done by Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, is complete, the city will not face any water shortage for the next 100 years. The project envisages the supply of 25 tmcft of water exclusively to the city.
In the meantime, work on the Godavari Water Supply Project will be completed. It will provide an additional 37 mgd [million gallons a day] to meet the drinking water and industrial needs of Visakhapatnam. Pipelines and individual tap connections will be provided to the holders of white ration cards [below the poverty line families] at the rate of Rs.1,200 a connection. The beneficiaries can pay the amount in instalments. Families with pink cards [middle and higher income groups] will be charged normal rates. After the streamlining of water supply, the AP Water, Air, Land and Tree Act will be implemented to prevent the indiscriminate exploitation of groundwater. An additional Rs.30 crores will be spent on the augmentation of existing pipelines and reservoirs.
The public parks in the city are in a bad shape. How do you plan to put them to better use?
The parks operating under `public-private' partnership are doing very well. Of the 110 open spaces available in the city, 53 have been handed over to residents' welfare associations [RWAs] for development and maintenance of parks. Of these, while 43 have already been developed and are being efficiently managed by the RWAs, the remaining 10 are in the process of development. The parks on either side of the national highway and some other areas have been handed over to private parties for maintenance.
What steps are being taken to reduce delays in civic administrative procedures?
The Saukaryam and "e-seva" facilities have made possible the computerisation of all services. Visakhapatnam has now become the first city in Andhra Pradesh and perhaps the second in the country after Ahmedabad to go in for granting approval for building plans across the counter. Applicants can download building plan applications online at the "e-seva" centres. Approvals for the construction of buildings below 300 square metres will be cleared immediately. This would save citizens the trouble of running from pillar to post for approval and eliminate middlemen who try to make a quick buck by offering to get the plans sanctioned.
How do you plan to improve the sanitary system?
Cement bins will be soon replaced by 550 huge metal containers. At present, 100 tippers are making two or three trips a day to the dumping yard at Kapulaupadda, about 20 km from the city. It is a colossal waste of precious fuel. We have plans to set up about three `transfer stations' for the collection of garbage, which would be loaded into huge trailers to be moved to the dumping yard. This will reduce the number of trips to be made to the yard.Any plans to improve and widen the roads?
Under the road upgradation project, widening of a total of 60 km of roads will be taken up by the end of the current fiscal.In the first phase, work on the widening of 20 km of road and the construction of flyovers will be taken up. The encroachment of geddas (major naturally formed drains) is resulting in flash floods and the inundation of low-lying areas and roads in Railway New Colony and Gnanapuram. Proposals are being formulated, as per the directions of the Directorate of Municipal Administration, for the provision of concrete lining for the geddas at an estimated cost of Rs.60 crores. The road going around the old jail complex will be widened and made into a six-lane one in view of the development activities proposed by the State government.