Chennai: Textile city Coimbatore, which is trying to reposition itself as the next preferred destination (after Chennai) for software and back-office companies looking to set up operations in Tamil Nadu, lacks basic civic infrastructure such as drainage and sewage systems.
The city’s underground drainage network has the capacity to handle only 11% of the sewage generated, and parts of Coimbatore do not have a drainage system at all.
In an attempt to improve infrastructure, a key factor in attracting investments, the Coimbatore City Municipal Corporation (CCMC) has now signed a memorandum of understanding with the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) to lay a modern underground drainage system for the whole city. JNNURM is a government of India initiative with a corpus of Rs50,000 crore.
It funds some part of specific projects in several cities across the country.
The Coimbatore drainage project, work on which is expected to start by March, will be completed in three years at a cost of Rs377 crore.
It envisages building an underground drainage system covering 1,300km across 42 wards or local areas and overhauling the existing drainage system, which covers 162km across 30 wards, but some people are worried that by the time it is completed, it will be inadequate to meet the growing city’s needs. “I do not know if CCMC has done a detailed underground drainage study.
The project would be useful only if they take into account the next 25 years, instead of the next five years,” said Jayakumar Ramadass, managing director of Mahendra Submersible Pumps Pvt. Ltd.
“Coimbatore Corporation has not gone in for a discussion with the public on this issue, especially on issues like user charges,” said K. Subbarayan, a Communist Party of India member of Parliament who represents Coimbatore.
The drainage project has been in the works since 1998 but been delayed by a lack of consensus on the maintenance and connection charges that will be levied on users, both residential and commercial. One part of the town already has an underground drainage network and the councillors representing those wards are opposing the levy of user charges on them as well.
Although CCMC commissioner P. Muthu Veerran, is “hopeful” that the project will go ahead, meetings of the Coimbatore Corporation Council, the body that manages CCMC, have been beset with protests by parties such as the Communist Part of India (Marxist) and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam.
The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam that rules Tamil Nadu and the Congress are in favour of going ahead with the project. Veerran, however, declined to comment on the user charges fixed as of now.
“The user charges have been fixed such that they would cover operations and management of the project,” he added.
Shrinivas V. Kowligi, adviser to JNNURM, said that Coimbatore should have proper infrastructure in order to ensure a good quality of life, and to attract investment by technology firms.
Kowligi says the local corporation should take into account issues such as ensuring that people pay necessary charges, space for laying the drainage network and proper implementation of the project.
According to an executive at Perot Systems Corporation, a technology-based business solutions provider, which has a facility in Coimbatore, the city is “three-four years away from where it should have been, in terms of civic infrastructure.” “The lack of proper drainage system is a problem but if there is any delay in project implementation, it would lead to choking, causing serious problems,” said Anurag Jain, president of consulting, applications solutions group and BPO business, Perot Systems.
The drainage project is to be divided into six parts, three for laying the sewage lines and the rest for sewerage treatment, according to Veerran.
The local administrative body is expected to float tenders shortly to identify contractors to execute the jobs simultaneously. Half the total cost of the project will come from JNNURM and 20% will be provided by the state government as an interest-free loan. CCMC is expected to raise the rest.