Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Wally Olins ... 2

Olins has sent me an email:

"Dear Debashis
I very much enjoyed meeting you the other evening during the event on the branding. I hope we will have an opportunity of keeping in touch.

Thanks, Wally.

(Seen at left is a photo in yesterday's Anandabazar. From Left to Right: Victor Banerjee, Harsh Neotia, Wally Olins and me)

Monday, June 28, 2010

Directorate of Urban Planning

Unplanned urban growth has always been a concern for all. The rate at which urbanisation is going on is quite faster than the rate at which infrastructure can expand.
It is therefore that the West Bengal Town and Country Plan Act was enacted in 1979. Under the Act, Planning Authorities can make LUDCP (Land Use Development and Control Plan) and developers and others must adhere to it. But the LUDCPs are often out of date and do not take into account newly urbanising areas. Consequently, investment on urban infrastructure is often ad hoc and chaotic.
To form a repository of data, knowledge and vision for the state as a whole, we have recently decided that a State Directorate of Urban Planning will be set up in due course.
A core group has been formed.
I hope a blueprint will be ready shortly.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Branding Bengal

Yesterday, I heard Wally Olins at City Centre (He was wearing the red cotton coat shown in the picture beside: the picture appeared in today's Metro Telegraph).
After his 40-minute presentation (great), I joined him as a panelist along with Ram Ray, Victor Banerjee and Rita Bhimani.
Most questions were about how to brand Bengal or Kolkata.
There was no direct answer from him, but he made many useful comments. Some are:
(a) There has to be a synergy, a demand, an enthusiasm - as happened in Spain
(b) The 'product'must be good too.
(c) Broad generalisations don't work (no 'land of contrast' , for example, as this could apply to many countries as well)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Chief Secretary Proposes for Energy Efficient Town Scheme

Yesterday, Chief Secretary wrote to the Government of India for considering taking up New Town Kolkata (Rajarhat) and Salt Lake (Bidhannagar) for a Pilot Scheme under which energy efficient measures such as geo-thermal heat sinks, solar arrays, green buildings, waste-to-energy, high density growth and efficient town planning designs can be implemented so as to make it as nearly self-sufficient in energy as possible.

I'd earlier commented on "ZEST"(Zero Energy Satellite Town) in this blog, explaining how interested I was.

There are many steps to go: but the first one has been traversed.

I also spoke to MD, WBREDA today and requested him to give me details of renewable energy projects undertaken in Salt Lake & New Town, so that I can justify our claim for the pilot project even further. Mr Gon Chowdhury has agreed to help.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Public Accountability

Yesterday we had a meeting of all nine Development Authorities including KMDA, ADDA, HDA, SJDA etc. We decided that all of them should bring out Annual Reports for 2009-2010 soon. The Annual Reports should contain a statement of accounts and application of funds for projects executed by them. Thereafter, the Reports would be presented to the public at large by organising a workshop at each Authority HQ and also giving copies to people's representatives.
It was learnt that SJDA (Siliguri Jalpaiguri Development Authority) had already done so in a public ceremony earlier this month and it drew very positive response.
We set ourselves a target of October 2010 for this.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Meeting of Kolkata Metro Railway Corporation at Delhi.

After the meeting with Election Commission in Delhi, I rushed (..had to skip lunch !..) to attend the Board meeting of KMRC. I joined as the new Director of the Board. Mr Ardhendu Sen, Chief Secretary, also joined the KMRC Board today.
We saw few presentations on progress. We discussed few problems that needed attention. I was put in two-three Directors' Committee.
It was a great feeling being a part of the Team that will present Kokata its East West Metro by 2014.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Going to Election Commission of India for a Meeting

I was quite interested to get an invitation by the Election Commission of India to attend a meeting at Nirvachan Sadan at Delhi tomorrow. I'm in Kolkata airport now, waiting to board IT-604 which is 10 minutes late and will leave by 9.05 pm.
The meeting will be on controlling expenditure in elections. I had, when I was Chief Electoral Officer, in March this year submitted a paper to the Commission analysing the problem and outlining the way forward - both in the short term and in the medium term.I think the invitation to attend has something to do with that but the Election Commission officer who reminded me on telephone to attend and tell me that the full Commission would address the meeting didn't mention anything about it.
I am indeed quite curious to see how the meeting unfolds tomorrow at 11 am.
(At Kolkata Airport, using HP Mini & Tata Photon)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Automatic Mail Sorter in Kolkata before Pujas?

We had a meeting with the Chief Post Master General, West Bengal and Dy Director General NIC yesterday. They wanted access to our server having 1:1,000 map of Kolkata. This would be required to correlate PIN codes with street names using GIS. Then, through an automatic mail sorter programme, whenever there would be a mismatch between the PIN and address, a correction would be made. The idea is speedier post delivery. This is already launched in Delhi. In Kolkata I think it should be in operation before the Pujas.

We were, of course, happy to help.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Social Aspects of Solid Waste Management

I had a discussion yesterday on municipal solid waste management strategy.
I was moved by stories of daily plight of ragpickers in the chain of waste disposal system in the city that we live in. The ragpickers, who serve as human sorting agents of our garbage, are mostly children. We rob them of their childhood, of a human existence. They have no education, no health back-up. Disease, dog-bites, stinking filth, crumbling heaps of garbage on top are daily occurrences. But most devastating is that they are not free: they are virtually bonded labourers of middlemen-contractors. Reminded me somehow of 'Slumdog Millionaire'.
A Waste Disposal Strategy must take rehabilitation of ragpickers into account.
(Picture from 'Slumdog Millionaire')

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Meeting of Development Authorities on 22nd June

There will be a meeting of all nine Development Authorities on 22nd June 2010 at 12 noon. We issued the formal notice yesterday. In the meeting, NIC will make a presentation on e-Procurement software used now by another department. Thereafter we'll formally request them to tailor the software to the requirements of all authorities.

The beauty of the software is that not only tender notices are available on the web and forms can be downloaded, but bids can also be submitted online from anywhere. Issues like last time/date of bid submission, secure and transparent opening of bids etc are all taken care of through digital signatures and PKI.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

100 years of KIT

Kolkata Improvement Trust was born on 2nd January 1912. So its 100th year will start from 2nd January 2011. I went to KIT's office at Poddar Court yesterday and held a meeting there. I advised that a core committee be formed within KIT to lay down a roadmap. The events during KIT's 75 year celebrations could be a starting point.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Institute of Construction and Project Management....2

I've asked Shri  Debatosh Biswas, Executive Enginner, KMWSA to make an engineering estimate.
I've asked DM, Murshidabad to send me some background material from his district.
I met Erajul yesterday....(photo at right)
Erajul is a construction worker from a remote village in Murshidabad. He is illiterate. He began his life as a labourer and slowly picked up work of a mason. His family lost all its land in the Ganga river bank erosion All his four brothers are in the same trade. . He is idle 4-5 months of the year. Many of his co-villagers are in the same trade and several of them have to go out to distant places outside the state in search of work.
Being illiterate, he has to pay Rs 1,500 to a fellow literate who draws up informal bills on the basis of work done by him. He laments that cost of helper-labourer is rising by the day. He doesn't know how to use mechanical equipment. He depends on an informal community based network for getting new works. He is a freelancer expert mason.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Water Efficient Appliances ?

At a seminar on "Cost Effective Waste Water Management" organised yesterday on the occasion of the World Environment Day by the Institution of Engineers, I talked about our dying rivers* and the need for adopting water sensitive designs in our city planning.
If we have 'star rating' in electrical appliances, we can have ratings based on water use efficiency in appliances like Washing Machines, jacuzzi showers too.
But most important would be to usher in a mind-set that water must not be wasted or misused
- DS
*cf: my earlier blogpost of 17th May 2010

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Transparency in Procurement

I moved a file yesterday for officially initiating an e-procurement methodology for tenders. I also made out a proposal for inducting an external expert in the Tender Committees of each Development Autority.