Relaxation of CRZ rules soon : Collector
The Visakhapatnam District Collector Mr K Pravin Kumar, IAS, has a smart personality, tall, with a fair-complexion and taut physique—he never misses his early morning jog and rigorous gym work-out. No wonder then that Visakhapatnam was one of the first cities to be selected for the Narendra Modi’s Smart City programme, which will doubtless change the complexion of the City of Destiny.
Indeed, Vizag’s selection for the Smart City scheme was achieved in the face of stiff competition from cities across the country.
As the Commissioner of GVMC then, Mr Kumar, with his sound knowledge of the smart city concept, had literally burnt the midnight oil to prepare a comprehensive blueprint and vision for the city, keeping in mind the constraints and aspirations of the people. And it was this groundwork that eventually led to Vizag getting selected for the prestigious project.
“The momentum has been built up in the last couple of years. In the next two to three years you will see a tangible transformation of the city into a smart city,” he says.
The relentless groundwork he did to prepare the smart city blueprint earned him prestigious awards from the 2nd Smart Cities Council, Mumbai. He also received awards from the Government of India under Swachh Bharat for Vizag getting selected as the fifth cleanest city in India.
It was his post-Hudhud reconstruction efforts, again as the Municipal Commissioner, to bring back a battered Vizag on its feet that noticeably endeared him to the people of the city. The grim tales of destruction that Hudhud cyclone wrought on Visakhapatnam in October 2014 have tattooed a ghoulish legend in the minds of the people of the city.
If the ferocity of Hudhud is still recalled by Vizagittes, in equal measure they still recount the relentless efforts unleashed by Mr Kumar, as the Vizag Municipal Commissioner, to undo the damage that the cyclone had done.
Mr Pravin Kumar, indeed, had pioneered the reconstruction of the city after the Hudhud devastation—a city which has been close to his heart.
For his meritorious service as Commissioner GVMC and Joint Collector, he was the obvious choice for the Collector of Visakhapatnam district, considered a rare opportunity. Being the Municipal Commissioner, then Joint Collector and finally the District Collector, he doubtless knows the city and the district like the back of his hand and with it the problems, prospects and challenges that it faces.
Belonging to the 2006-IAS batch, Mr Kumar had earlier been the Assistant Collector, Warangal, Sub-Collector of Penukoda and ITDA Project Officer, Bhadrachalam.
Mr Pravin Kumar talks exclusively to A.K.Sabharwal and Amit Mitra, speaking about the love for the city and his vision to make it a Smart City.
Mr Pravin Kumar, congratulations on taking over as the Collector of Vizag and having worked as Joint Collector and Commissioner GVMC. You know the District like the back of your hand…
Thanks – it has been a great experience for me.
Can you run us through the process of Vizag being selected as one of the 20 cities for the Smart City programme?
We have got selected for the Smart City project in the face of stiff competition from cities across the country. The chief criterion for the selection was that each city will have its own vision in tune with the aspirations of the people. It is on the basis of this that the 20 cities were selected. We did a thorough exercise in preparing this vision document, which led to Vizag being selected as one of the earliest cities to be brought under this programme.
What is the current status of the project?
The smart city programme is being implemented for Vizag at a cost of Rs 1700 crore over a three-to-four year period. You will know that we cannot take up the whole of the city for the programme. So we are taking up the project for a major part of the city, from Kurpam junction to KGH on one side and areas covering the Andhra University, Siripuram junction, Jagadamba to coastal battery. The entire area is spread of 1600 acres. Another reason we have identified this area is that it has a mixed land use—there are slums on one side and beach front on the other. The project will bring smart street lights, new roads, integrated bus stops, beach front development, smart schools, smart hospitals and solar based power, to name a few. I will say in the last few months, we have done the groundwork and the momentum has been built. We will soon start work on the ground and you will see tangible results in the next couple of years.
What has been the progress so far?
Like I said, we have completed the ground work, which is a time taking process for a project of this nature and size. And this, I will say, is the most important part of the implementation process. We have appointed US based multi-national US firm AECOM as the Project Management Consultant. Then, we will be finalising the RFP bid for the command and Control Centre within a month. Further, we will be soon floating another RFP for the smart street segment, which will transform the street in the Smart City area with separate land for cyclists, broad footpaths and carriageways. Also, the RFP is out for development of a world class beach front, with beautified roads and adventure sports facilities such as para gliding and surfing.
To set the pace for the beachfront project, we are organising a preliminary meeting with top tourism operators of the country on the 24thof this month, where we will discuss tourism development projects.
Coming to industrial development, how much of the investments committed during the first CII Partnership Summit have actually been grounded?
I must say that the first summit was a very positive development for the city. A slew of MoUs were signed envisaging a combined investment of Rs 54,000 crore for Vizag. Of all the MoUs signed during the event, only the MoU with Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Ltd (RINL) envisaging an investment of Rs 20,000 crore did not move ahead—apparently, the sullen market conditions made RINL defer the expansion plan. About 43 per cent of the remaining Rs 34,000 crore investment has been grounded, with many of the projects, especially pharma related, ready for operations and other under various stages of implementation. Within a year, there will be visibility on this front. The second CII summit saw MoUs worth Rs 75,000 crore of investments for Vizag.
With so many projects in the pipeline, do we have adequate land bank ?
We do have adequate land bank, though not within the city limits. Take the Atchutapuram and Nakkapalli region, where we have 5,000 acres of land bank for industrial development. Apart from the District Administration, the tourism department, APIIC and other departments have land banks of their own. If there is a pressure on land in the future, we can also bank on the assigned land parcel, which we can put to use for industrial growth.
What about water supply?
Today, our requirement is 4-5 tmc of water for both industrial and domestic consumption, which we are being able to meet more or less. We are having high hopes on the Purushothapuram lift irrigation project, which was launched last month and is expected to be readywithin 11 months. This will give us as much as 10 tmc of water. Then when the Polavaram- Yeleswaram canal and reservoir is ready within three years, there will be absolutely no problem as regards water supply.
Do you think industries should go in for de-salination plants?
See, de-salination is a very capital intensive affair. RINL had plans to set up a unit, but did not do so for this reason. But, I am more for waste water reuse projects. Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation has lined up some projects on this score.
Do you think the CRZ regulations are posing an obstacle?
(Smiles) We are following the CRZ regulations. What we are now trying to do is to re-notify certain CRZ areas. NIO has been asked to prepare a report on the de-notification. As per the existing norms, the CRZ is divided into three zone—we are allowed to set up facilities only within CRZ 2. What we are now doing is to de-notify certain areas within CRZ 3 and bring them within CRZ 2, which will allow us to set up facilities there. This covers the entire coast up to Srikakulam.
Any special schemes for the MSME sector?
Yes, MSME sector is high on our priority list. We have constituted a special committee with three retired chairmen of RINL, Hindustan Shipyard and BHPV. This committee will be studying the requirement of the PSUs in Vizag from the MSME sector. It will then advise this sector as to how to change its product mix and add value to suit the requirements of the PSUs. Today even RINL is having to buy certain products from Kolkata and other areas, as these are not produced by the local MSME units. Also, we plan to have one MSME park in every constituency, for which land is being identified.
What is the progress on the convention centre?
Yes, it is progressing well. Our Chief Minister is also particular on this. He is keen on holding the next CII summit next year at the convention centre, which is coming up at the venue where the summit was held. It will be a world class facility with a hotel and mall.
There have been complaints that such buildings pose parking problems, as many of the new buildings do not have proper parking facilities…
(Smiles) yes we do have strict guidelines for parking facilities. I am for multi-level parking facilities to be set up in the private sector, as we see in developed cities.
Sir, your message to our readers.
I must congratulate you and your team for bringing out a highly useful and informative publication. It is totally focused on development and has become an important stakeholder in Vizag’s development. I want to convey to your readers that in the next two to three years, they will see a different Vizag, a smarter Vizag, a greener Vizag and a more vibrant Vizag.