Kalyan Dombivali Municipal Corporation (KDMC) is among the civic bodies selected for the Union government’s smart city project in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region. Municipal Commissioner P Velrasu talks about how the twin towns are on their way to getting smarter and how the corporation is looking for ways to tackle the “mammoth task” of cracking down on illegal constructions. Excerpts from an interview to Vishwas Waghmode.
Kalyan Dombivali has been selected under Union government’s smart city project. What has been the progress so far?
There are two components. One is Kalyan station area improvement programme. For that, we have appointed a consultant who has prepared the detailed project report. Now, we need a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the Railways and the state transport department. Other projects include installation of CCTV cameras, solar energy project, riverfront development project and parking with others. For that, we are about to appoint an overall project management consultant, who will prepare an overall detailed project report. Then the tenders will be floated and work orders will be given. For Dombivali railway station, we are in the process of appointing a consultant and want to decongest the Dombivali station area. The consultant will prepare a detailed project report. The total work is worth about Rs 1,000 crore.
The civic body has decided to build a structured township on around 250 hectare land in Dombivali. What’s the idea behind it?
This township is being developed in Public Private Partnership (PPP) model and will take 3-4 years to complete. It will come up on the western side of Dombivali. In this project, the common infrastructure will be developed first and then the buildings will come. We will demarcate the area and then we will publish it in the gazette. Suggestions and objections will be taken from people. First, the common infrastructure will be developed such as roads, water supply, drainage and street lights. Our project is for low and medium income groups. The civic body will not spend any funds on it. While the funds will come from the private players, the private people, who are the original land owners, will get some portion of developed land and they are free to use it the way they want it. The people, who will invest, will also get some portion of developed land as a return for their investment.
The civic body has also proposed to develop a stretch of Kalyan and Dombivali creek on the lines of the Sabarmati riverfront in Gujarat. What are the features of the project? Is it an attempt to develop these creeks as tourist attractions?
Riverfront development is one of the components of the smart city project. The scale can’t be compared to Sabarmati, which is a very large scale project. Here, we are selecting a 2-km stretch near the Durgadi fort of the Kalyan creek for development at first. It will have all the facilities such as children’s play area, garden, walkpaths, cycling tracks with others. It will cost Rs 60 crore approximately. Besides, we are carrying out a feasibility study for the 4-km stretch of the Dombivali creek and it will be developed based on the report. Our idea is to develop 8 km of a stretch in different sections in Kalyan and Dombivali near the creek.
Urban local bodies appear incapable of monitoring or regulating illegal construction and alterations. What steps KDMC is taking towards this?
To tackle the illegal buildings, the corporation is trying to demolish these structures in every possible way. But it is a mammoth task. There were more than 60,000 illegal buildings in 2004 and our estimate now is that there are more than 1.5 lakh illegal buildings. A large number of these buildings can’t be regularised as there is not adequate space for fire brigade movement, road widths are not adequate and the number of floors are much higher than what is to be permissible. At the same time, these buildings have been in existence for quite some time and most of them are occupied. So, it is a tricky problem.
We are planning to write to the state government on three counts. One is by not providing electricity to the illegal buildings. Secondly, the illegal construction is happening in connivance with land owner, local politicians and junior-level officers. Under the existing process, we are able to file FIRs against them under the Maharashtra Regional and Town Planning Act. Now, we will request government to impose the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) for the construction of illegal buildings at least in our area. Thirdly, after these things happen, we will also take a policy decision of not providing water supply to such buildings. Besides, we will also write to the government requesting to stop the registration of such buildings. Then, it will be difficult to make the official transaction.
So, this is a systematic way to prevent this issue and there will be some solution to the issue. Besides, we are increasing the provision from Rs 1.5 crore to Rs 10 crore in the coming budget to get high power machinery for demolition. It will help in limiting the issue.
What are the measures taken to address traffic and parking issues in the Kalyan and Dombivali?
There is haphazard parking everywhere. There was no parking policy in place until now. So, we have done a systematic study with the help of town planners. We have devised a new parking policy on the lines of the Mumbai civic body and the residents will be charged for parking their vehicles on the streets outside the buildings. The monthly passes will be introduced and the rates will be reasonable. The policy will come into effect in one month.
Do you think the civic body’s recent decision to appoint an agency would help in curbing water thefts, to recover outstanding dues of water bills and disconnecting the illegal connection?
It was observed during the review that the collection did not match the metering system. Then, we decided to go for privatisation of the collection of water bills. The system is politicised. At the ground level, the collection is done by our staff. So, it will be easier to get a third party to collect the water bills without getting politicised. Our annual collection is about Rs 60 crore. If the agency collects over and above that, it will get incentive on it. So, we think the agency will be able to do extra work which we are unable to do now. We hope that it will help to curb water thefts and to increase the recovery.