Smart City Nashik Part 1, by Mr Praveen Gedam, Municipal Commisioner of Nashik

This is the transcript of the talk delivered by Mr. Praveen Gedam (Municipal Commissioner, Nashik) on 29 June 2016 in the Nashik city Workshop

PLEASE NOTE: [The facts and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and have not been verified or endorsed by the project team in any way]

In 80s-90s, Nashik witnessed phenomenal growth in manufacturing sector. But we were not fortunate enough to grow in service sector. Other cities, they have gone far higher in service sector. So one thing which we should be taking care of is the service industry. If we see world over the service sector contributes to 75% of the economy, 24% comes from secondary sector, and 1% from agriculture. Considering this growth factor all over the world, we are slightly lacking behind despite of having all the advantages of the typically located city. And this would be a really important criteria when we decide the future of Nashik city. We have to ensure that high paid jobs are created. The other issue in which Nashik is not very good…in fact most of the Indian cities are not very good is transportation. We at corporation are not running city bus service as of now. But we have thought of having a joint venture with MSRTC and can share some burden in the future growth of city bus service. Obviously some people talk about metro and all, but as of now, despite the size of the city the traffic density studies they do not show a single route on which metro can become feasible. But this option we have considered while formulating our development plan and development control regulations also. And deliberately provisions are also made, so that whenever such need arise we do not have to make drastic changes in the DP and DPCR. Then it will be easy to accommodate MRT or metro.

Then very crucial part of any city is water supply and fortunately Nashik again has very good water supply compared to any other city of this size. We almost pump 190-200 litres per capita per day during our normal seasons. And this is very high even from the Indian National Standards. Despite this, considering the future growth we have also increased our pumping capacity by 137 MLD and plus having a facility to take it up to 400 MLD, if needed. So from the source point of view, we will be very self-sufficient by 2045 atleast. The problem is slightly in distribution and for this exercise of almost one year, of what we call water and energy solving is underway. The pilot sampling is also underway and by the middle of 2017 we will be having some concrete action plan of how to go ahead about water distribution part of it. I think we are pretty good and about 95% of the area is covered. But the problem areas are, for example which particular ward requires separate distribution centre and all that.

Housing will also be a crucial part if the city grows and we have to ensure affordable housing. So far Nashik has slum population of almost 20%, which is slightly less than Indian standards for the city of this size. But still we have to ensure very low-cost housing and especially affordable housing. Not only the slum rehabilitation is the issue, but there is lot of working class population in the city. We have two big MIDCs in the city and couple of them very close to the city. And dwelling units of affordable costs is the area of concern and corporation is starting survey very soon to find out the demands so that the action plan can be prepared.

In solid waste also, we are not the best but the better ones. And for this we are in the process of entering into a long term contract for collection and transportation from each and every household. And for its processing for 30 years. I am just talking about basic-basic civic amenities and infrastructural issues. We have lot to achieve as far as city is concerned. Other thing which I would like to talk about is our tax base. Our tax base is low because we are not like other cities and no city except Mumbai has shifted to capital-value based property taxation and Nashik is no exception. That is one area where the reforms are not happening in the field. Even if the Government of India and State Governments are suggesting this, but this is something which has to come from top and it cannot happen because there are many issues at the local levels. And unpleasant decisions are to be taken in the election year and it is bit difficult. And unfortunately for Nashik, as I told we are a manufacturing city, we are getting grants in lieu of LBT, but once GSD comes into picture I don’t know how things will unfold. And that should be one area of concern for Nashik and we should be developing alternative sources of revenue. As far as the implementation is concerned, a simple SPV kind of scheme in short will be a good idea for the implementation of projects. Because it brings all the implementing agencies under one umbrella and allows fast and professional decision making. But we have to think long term. We should go by the 74th amendment and what it envisages is that a very powerful corporation or a powerful Mayor may be to which all departments report. This is the case all over the world and we have to see that we cannot take decisions of development, forget policy decisions, we have to take decisions of implementation and we cannot implementation decisions for xyz city sitting in the state capital. Because where to construct underpass and which road is to be made one-way or two-way or where the park is to be developed or how the city bus routes starts right from the platform of intercity railway station, these are absolutely local issues and nothing to do with policies and absolutely issues of implementation which are possible only if there is an unitary authority at the city level. The world has adopted this since long and we are yet to adopt it for whatever reasons. If that model was already there then probably we would not have gone for this SPV kind of thing. I see SPV as a transition before shifting to this model where all decisions in the city, for example, we are now thinking of having a single agency and a single platform for parking. The parking revenue are with corporation, if there is illegal parking then the fine goes to police department. And it is absolutely impossible for us to work together because of so many administrative issues, ideally I was thinking these two works should come to a single agency so as to ensure that there is no illegal parking and which also ensures proper regulated parking. But this cannot happen because there is common unifying factor on the top. This is just one example, examples are in hundreds if you talk about these issues. For development of riverside, irrigation comes into picture, corporations comes into picture, if the land is of state government then the district collector comes into picture. So ultimately the problem with growth of Indian cities, Nashik is no exception, is lack of strong decision making body at city level which I think is the most important paradigm shift in our administrative set up. With this I close my opening remarks.

Q: What is your perception of SPV?

R: I am not here to critically analyse the policy decision taken by the Government of India. SPV is there in the guidelines and we have to follow it. What I perceive of SPV is basically that, it is an instrument which ensures the horizontal linkages which is missing as I said earlier. Of course in long term, it may not be very soon but probably it will take couple of decades or more than that depending on how decisions are taken at the centre. In long term, unless and until these horizontal linkages take place we cannot have cities growing. For example in Mumbai, even western railway and central railway don’t talk to each other. They have to reach upto the level of Railway Minister to make common decisions. So unless you have one authority to which everybody reports, SPV is basically. It is an authority to which everybody reports including the Corporations with Corporation having the highest takes. What I am thinking is that, this may be a transitory phase. Probably in long term we may be having stronger city governments which will probably dilute the need of having a SPV.

Q: I am curious about what specifically in the policy or in the discussions at the state level makes you optimistic, that the SPV will lead to later decentralization? Because there is nothing in the policy that says this. As per the policy, SPV is a separate system under the control of state government.

R: This was not there in any official platform. This coming from not only me but so many bureaucrats of my kind. I know, I will be Municipal Commissioner for may be 1 or 2 years at the most. We won’t be involved in urban development for life long. Basically we feel, that model is the best one. That’s my personal opinion and also of many bureaucrats, that to have a strong city government like we have a strong state government. We have fair distribution of power between the state and central government. Same thing is actually there in the constitution. In fact the Maharashtra has the highest evolution of power as far as the city government is considered. Most of the states, except Maharashtra and Gujarat, they are still weaker. In long run, this is the way to go ahead there is no other way because you can imagine a situation where you want to implement proper public transport system for the city of Mumbai and everything from forest, air force, army, navy, MSRTC, State Government, etc. there are atleast 20-30 agencies which comes into picture. It becomes impossible for any professional to implement this kinds of things.

Q: What will be the role local People’s Representative if SPV becomes a reality, will it increase or become challenging? And as Nashikkar one question raises which is what percentage of local People’s Representative in Nashik has a quality understanding of the functioning of the SPV?

R: As I said, SPV cannot be alternative to Corporation. SPV is an implementing agency and right now Corporation body does not implement any thing. Corporation body decides and commissioner, city engineer, medical officer, etc. these are the instruments of implementation. The Corporation body only takes decisions of administrative affairs, they are still with Corporation body and it will be implemented by SPV. The difference will be, the implementation includes floating of tender, acceptance of tender, work order and subsequent project management. So this will go, may be out commissioner. These are with commissioner and standing committee and not with corporation. So these will go from commissioner and standing committee to SPV on which Mayor, Deputy Mayor, Commissioner and may be standing committee chairman himself will be there. So the person XYZ will still be represented, like me Praveen Gedam will still be there. But I will not be issuing work order, it will be issued by CEO of SPV. One thing which makes it convenient for us, is that it is company. And if you compare the works of company and the government, it is easier to work as a company because there is lot of flexibility in companies. For example, there are many SPVs carved out of the original parent corporation. Like Konkan railway was one such, which was implemented by Indian Railways but the Konkan railway created and implemented that particular railway track from Panvel to whatever. Similarly, you have dedicated corridors for bullet trains, etc. These requires day-to-day supervision and decision-making which gets lost in the hustle-bustle of corporation, this is one. And secondly, there is an apprehension in the Indian scenario, may true at Nashik, but definitely in Indian scenario when a private partner comes into picture it is not insulated or properly taken care off from the political uncertainties. And with the changes of regimes or with the change of party in the power, it becomes vulnerable and projects often delay. So that is one mechanism to ensure. And definitely, the corporation’s role whichever is given by law cannot be taken away. Taxation, what will be the rates of taxation, etc. these are within the ambit of corporation and they shall remain within the ambit of corporation.

Q: The tax revenues that come in the city, will the SPV control that or the corporation will?

R: SPV is supposed to have a clear-cut mandate. They will be implementing projects A, B, C, D, and whatever income these A, B, C or D is shown in the original smart city proposal a part of that may be from tax revenue and if that is shown as a revenue source from the implementation of A to D, then they will be generation by those particular revenue sources for example taxation department of corporation and they will go into purview of SPV and then the SPV will spend it. So it depends on how income sources or income source of SPV as company are shown. In almost all cases of India, huge part of revenue income of SPV is shown from the income of corporation. So the income generator will be corporation and the expenses will be done by SPV. For example, if father tells the son that we have to construct a house and you look after it, he keeps giving the few lakhs rupees monthly to son. So the son becomes SPV and the father becomes corporation. So that kind of structure is there.

Q: And the design of the house will be by the corporation or the SPV?

R: Corporation is going to lay out a broad framework like we want this, we want that, etc. and the minute nitty-gritty will be taken care by SPV.

Q: Since you gave an analogy of father, son and the house, here it is okay till the house gets built. Would SPV be there for the duration of the project or again it would be time bound thing?

R: It depends on how we conceptualize the plan. In our case, we think that once that infrastructure is in place it should go back to corporation.

Q: I personally feel that, SPV will give more power to ULBs because it would have power to co-ordinate with the various government departments. What do you feel?

R: That is the only major reason why we are having SPVs. We are absolutely helpless as a corporation to take any decisions as per to MSEDC, for example. We have no control, so we are going to lay down the roles and they say we want to take it further. We have zero control as per Police Department is concerned, absolutely zero control on irrigation. So these are the departments in the SPV, represented and their projects, for example, that huge power project of IPSD or something. So it is a very ambitious project, if it is not coordinated properly with corporation, we will end up having again a haphazard…like first the roads being laid and then they are being dug up. That is the most important thing, apart from that, private players probably will have more confidence in SPV model then the corporation model.

Q: About the water infrastructure, do we have any study suggesting that if we have less rainfall for that do we have infrastructure or catchment area? Or the inclusion of 26,000 acres in the corporation in that do we have provisions for rain-water harvesting or groundwater recharge?

R: 450 MLD is our daily intake capacity. In the Mukane Dam project, will add another 137 MLD to 450 MLD. The civil works and the pipelines of the Mukane Dam are expandable from 137 to 400 MLD. If we have to make it 400, then we only have install pumps and remaining pipeline work upto WTP is available. So we will be comfortable for the source of upto 850 MLD, by excluding 20% losses, huge population of may be upto 50 lakhs can be served. This does not mean that we should not do rain-water harvesting. For that we have made such provisions in which new structures compulsorily have such provisions. Problem is that the monthly maintenance of rain-water harvesting structure is necessary, this is the major issue. There are rain-water harvesting structures, but the problem lies with the maintenance. This leading no recharge of groundwater.

Q: Suppose there are aquifers in that 26,000 acres, shouldn’t they kept for ground water recharging?

R: Unless and until we do aquifer mapping, we cannot identify the boundaries of aquifers. There is no technology except aquifer mapping and it is extremely painful technology. It has been done only in three-four pockets of Maharashtra. That too in the rural areas and in urban areas there are hundreds of obstacles for doing that. Because there are tar roads, cement-concrete structures are there. Thus doing a geophysical study is a complicated procedure and there is no way of knowing of how the boundaries of aquifers are below cities. If we do an input-output study, then zone wise recharge is not necessary. Aquifers are interconnected and recharge done here can connect to other places as well. That is why identification of recharge zones are not necessary.

Q: Nowadays Nashik district is facing water woes. There are many historical step wells, etc. which are natural water sources. Such structures are being destroyed due to various activities. Is there any provision within the Smart City proposal for the conservation and rehabilitation of such water sources?

R: Our smart city proposal is of representative in character. There is no argument on that, which all aspects of city development should come within its purview. Even if we have not included that in the smart city but they are there within the purview of urban management. Few days back only, we created a database of such natural sources. We had made provisions of extracting water from such sources as well. Such study has been done, but that is not included within the smart city proposal because there is a word limit, page limit, etc. so we cannot write each and everything. Whatever you are saying, is definitely a part of urban management and it is definitely included within the broader conceptualization of smart city. But it is not included in the governmental concept of ‘smart city’.

Q: Can you briefly explain Nashik’s smart city proposal?

R: I will just touch bullet points of the proposal. The whole proposal in on our website, not only ours but we also kept proposal of 20 selected cities also. So that citizens can compare, they are on smartnashik.in. Broadly, pan-city there are two proposals. Firstly, electronic metering of all water meters. Because our NRW is very high 52-54% and once we have electronic meters, and incidentally the water audit is going on, that we will be able to take care of water supply. The issue is of not even distribution but of unaccountable water. Second is traffic and parking management. For area development, we have kept river as our center and Nashikkars still identify with the river Godavari. So the river development and the development of areas on the either sides. If it is an old area, then in a retrofitting fashion and if it is a new area then in a greenfield fashion.

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