Saturday, June 30, 2012

Light Rail Transit for Salt Lake / New Town

We had a meeting today at Writers' Buildings that was co-chaired by Mr Sudhir Krishna, Secretary, UD, Govt of India and Mr Samar Ghosh, Chief Secretary. The Institute of Urban Transport (IUT) gave a presentation based on their study on the Kolkata Tram System. I learnt that historically, Mumbai, Delhi, Patna, Kanpur, Chennai and Nasik have run tram services but it is only in Kolkata that the trams still operate. We were also told that around the world, 343 Tramway / Light Rail Transport systems are operating in the World.
We discussed the pros and cons.
I felt that the elevated Light Rail System (LRT) could be a possibility in Salt Lake / New Town Rajarhat:
LRT is the modern version of Tram
Study for Salt Lake & New Town Rajarhat to be done
It was suggested by IUT that instead of a pure Govt or pure PPP project, a quick model is to have the construction work by the Govt and a BOT Operator could manage the Rolling Stock and Operations/ Maintenance. I informed that in Rajarhat New Town we have already commissioned a study and that Monorail is also an option. In fact, few days ago, EIL (Engineers India Ltd) approached me at Hidco and stated that they would make a specific proposal for Monorail in New Town). UD Department will also consider doing that for Salt Lake.
* * *
We got our first application yesterday for legal transfer of Salt Lake land. The application said that they were an elderly couple whose son stayed in Delhi and daughter in USA and they would like to stay with their son after disposing of their property. I sent my officer to talk to them to expalin the procedures. Here is a picture of the house that took on my mobile phone camera:
 I had a meeting yesterday with Inspector General of Registration, Mr Biswajit Ganguly, my old colleague, and ADSR. I am trying to tone up my own deprtment so that we can offer a good service delivery to those who wish to transfer property in Salt Lake legally.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Landscape Design for New Town

Some time ago, Hidco had sought applications for engagement of a Landscape Architect on contract. But the expert panel did not find any suitable candidate. Today a notice has been published in newspapers for engagement of Landscape Architecture firms for four zones in New Town.

Incidentally, we have engaged several architects in the last few months through Expression of Interest and competition judged by an expert panel. Some of these are (i) Nazrul Bhavan (ii) Bhagat Singh Bhavan (iii) NKDA Building (iv) Markets in New Town (v) Digha Gate (vi) New Digha Gate (vii) State Government Office Complex, Salt Lake and (viii) Special Renovation of UD Guest House in Salt Lake. For the last two, the last date of application is still away.
* * *
   Talking about Digha, we held a review meeting earlier this month and listed few initiatives that we have been taking. Some are (i) Digha By Pass Road- advancing fast (ii) Ayurvedic Health Centre - EOI closed; two responses received, being scrutinised  (iii) Mega Tourism Hub - EOI closed; six responses received (iv) Tajpur / Alampur centre - EOI called, last date open (v) Gates for Digha / New Digha - Designers engaged (vi) Aqua Hub in Amravati Park - Construction on (vii) Main road to Digha - National Highway Status received (viii) Total station survey of Digha - Mandarmani - TajpurSankarpur - Work on (ix) Road-side Plantations - preliminary action initiated (x) New LUDCP for Digha - process initiated (xi) Deer Park - Project Report being drawn up (x): Saikatabas renovation - ongoing (xi) Embankment protection works - proposal for assistance given to Planning Commission. Along with DSDA, many other departments are also involved in these activities. I have not mentioned about ICZM related actions being taken with World Bank assistance.
* * *
  To make projects happen faster, the Finance Department has recently modified the Financial Rules regarding tenders, procurement etc. I feel it is a very good step and will help administration move faster. For example, DGS&D rates have been recognised as also certain govt agencies who may be engaged on nomination - and this includes the Development Authorities of UD Department. See Rule 47D in the following link:

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Monsoon \preparations : Flood Drainage

Last year, at the peak of monsoons, there was widespread water logging in Chinar Park, Rajarhat Municipality area - just outside New Town area. This year, we have been making various advance preparations. We formed a Technical Committee headed by Executive Director (Engineering) of Hidco along with Engineers from  Irrigation, PHE, Municipality, Power and others. Drains were cleared, pumps installed and blockages in storm water discharge pipes removed.
Rows of pumps in Jatragachi installed to drain out water to Bagjola
 Yesterday, Shri Purnendu Basu, Labour Minister and I along with engineers of Hidco and Rajarhat-Gopalpur Municipality went to the area and decided to also clean up the pipes / drains on VIP road between Haj House and Haldiram.
However, to move towards a long term solution, we must (a) desilt and widen Bagjola Canal (a major long-term effort required by Irrigiation Department) and (b) prohibit use of plastics, as I saw myself during the pipe / drain cleaning operations as to how the polythene bags were jamming all water outlets.
* * *
here is a clipping from today's Times of India about the need to repair the PWD road from Lauhati to Bantala:

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Hidco Convention Centre

I had a detailed discussion with Mr. Dulal Mukherjee today. We went over the plans for the design of the Convention Centre to be built in New Town. A full presentation will be done by Mr Mukherjee on Friday afternoon at Hidco Bhavan. Here is a preliminary sketch of the plan:
The Hidco Convention Centre Plan
Will have the largest hall in the country
* * *
The gazette notification allowing transfer of Salt Lake residential land on payment of transfer fees of Rs 5 lakhs per kottah was obtained from the press today. The link is at
Times of India brought out this story today:
* * *
Here is a link to another ToI story published yesterday on sustainable urban development:

Monday, June 25, 2012

"Clean & Green New Town - A Joint Initiative"

We had a meeting today as planned with police, Hidco, NKDA, Residents and DLF/Unitech. The idea was to join hands to create a clean and green town. DC(Traffic), Addl SP(South 24 Paraganas), CEO DLF, Unitech and associations were there. There was a powerpoint presentation by Gopal Ghosh, CEO NKDA. We decided to (i) form block committees with representatives from police, NKDA, Hidco & residents (ii) enforce parking norms (iii) spread awareness in IT enclaves and elsewhere (iv) think of mobile vans (v) bring in traffic discipline (vi) ensure fire safety, trade licence norms etc.
Major decisions would be taken in the next NKDA board meet in early July.
Here is a picture of the meeting today afternoon:
At 1, MAR (NKDA Conference Hall) today afternoon
* * *
Telegraph Metro had carried a story on this. Here is the clipping:
* * *
Times of India carried a story today on the sale of plots in Hidco:

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Bonsai Garden

As on other Saturdays, I held a co-ordination meeting at site on Eco-Park. This was the 9th Saturday. After the meeting we all went to the 5 acre plot being developed by Debashis Roy of PHE. We took a group photograph of ourselves at the Bonsai Garden. It is already shaping up well and one can see it from the main road on way to airport. Here is the photo, taken on my Sony h55:
The Eco-Park Team at site of Bonsai Garden
* * *
The e-Auction advertisement is published today for  a 10+2 school:
* * *
The Times of India brought out a Booklet on Property Guide. An article based on my interview is published:
 * * *
Based on a report by Telegraph yesterday, I will hold a meeting at NKDA on Monday afternoon (5pm) with various stakeholders with the motto "Clean & Green New Town: A joint initiative"
Clipping from a story on encroachments in New Town in Telegraph
(22 June)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Eco Resort on PPP in New Town's Eco Park

As per the Master Plan, a 5 acre plot is reserved for setting up an Eco Resort in the Eco Park of New Town. Today the formal invitation was announced. Here is a clipping:

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Geriatric & Trauma: Date Extended

Seven plots in New Town with specified uses were put up for tender sale. Few fetched very good response: for one institutional plot, Rs 34 crore was the price quoted for a 2 acre plot ie Rs 17 crore per acre. For a mercantile retail plot of 20 kottahs the highest bid amount was Rs 7 crore (ie Rs 21 cr per acre), for a restaurant of 20 kottahs it was Rs 4.50 cr (Rs 13.5cr per acre), for two health sector plots of 30 cottahs each, Rs 7 & 6cr (Rs 12 & 14 cr per acre).
However, two plots meant for Trauma Care (1 acre) and Geriatric Health Care (2 acres) only one bid was received for each. As per tender clause, these bids have not been opened and the time for submission has been extended by 15 days. Yesterday, the Hidco board ratified this. Here is the advertisement:
* * *
The following clipping from today's Telegraph recognises my days in SINP (Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics). I did my Post-MSc Associateship course there.

(There are some minor variations from what I told though)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Schools of Architecture and Planning in States

The Associated Town Planner of UD Department Late PKBiswas passed away in service almost a year ago. We moved Public Service Commission for a new incumbent, but despite their efforts, they were unable to get a suitable candidate. A second attempt will be made through advertisement by PSC again this month.We wait.
Yesterday, I received a DO Letter dated 7th June from Dr Ashok Singhvi, Joint Secretary , Govt of India. He has written that there are hardly 16 recognised institutions in the country that produce about 600 qualified town and country planners annually. He argues that the number is quite inadequate and there is today an acute shortage of qualified Town and Country Planners.
GoI has requested the states to consider setting up Schools of Architecture and Planning.
Let us see if we can take this forward. I will talk to Dr Singhvi soon.
* * *
Here is a clipping from today's Times of India about the Parking Plaza to come up in New Town, Kolkata on PPP basis. The expression of interest is available in Hidco website:

Monday, June 18, 2012

National Commission on Sustainable Urban Development

The Govt of India is setting up a second National Commission of Sustainable Urban Development. It has proposed Terms of Reference as follows (in brief):
 (1) To analyse the emerging patterns of urbanisation (2) To assess the economic scenario and the role of cities (3)  To develop an Action Plan and (4) any other.

We have suggested that assessing technology to be used for smart cities should also be a part of the deliberations. I believe that cities of the future will be able to handle the monumental social, environmental and economic pressure only if technological options for smart cities are adopted. 

Accordingly, we have proposed that the following may also be included in the Terms of Reference:
“3(a):To assess and develop an action plan for adoption of technology that will lead to smart cities”.
 * * *
Here is a clipping from today's Sakalbela:

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Road Connection, again

Most letters that we receive from the public usually relate to some problem or grievance. The other day I was pleasantly surprised to receive a letter from Cognizant's Bantala unit thanking Hidco for making the connection of the East-West Major Arterial Road (passing through the sites of Infosys, Wipro, IIT, St Xaviers' etc) with the PWD Road to Bhojerhat that leads to Bantala. The Vice President of Cognizant explained, when I phoned him after getting his letter, that investors often talked of the necessity of having a second route that could be used in emergencies. This connection had solved this problem. Here is the letter and the map showing the junction:

* * *
Sakalbela has published today an article on the new Fire Station in New Town that is being planned:

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Survey by UMTC begins

A team led by Ms Ishita of UMTC has been in New Town since the last couple of days. Yesterday morning I met them and told that we were looking for transport solutions that were always ahead of the development. Infrastructure ahead of Development - is a concept that I'd learnt during my World Bank sponsored visit to Singapore a year or so earlier. Here is a report that appeared in today's Anandabazar based on a brief discussion that I'd had few days ago with Arja Bhatta Khan:
A PRT is like a horizontal lift
* * *
The new Deputy High Commissioner of Bangladesh met me yesterday at Hidco. We talked of few things of common interest. I informed them her that we were ready to allot land to the Bangladesh DHC but we'd need NOC from Ministry of External Affairs, GoI for this.
(L to R): Me, HE Ms Abida Islam, DyHighCommissioner of Bangladesh
and Mr Abu Nasar, Counsellor, Bangladesh DHC
* * *
We invited Shri Jogen Chowdhury to advise us on Rabindra Tirtha. He spent a considerable time with us, advising us on many aspects including the way we could set up the exhibition rooms. Here is a photo at Hidco conference room, soon after we returned from the field inspection:
Jogen Chowdhury in Hidco Confrerence Room on Friday

Friday, June 15, 2012

(1) New Road in New Town (2) Parking Plaza EOI

As you proceed towards Airport through New Town, soon after City Centre-2, you face the Chinar-Park-Rajarhat Road crossing. This is a very busy traffic junction and long jams are not uncommon. There are plans to construct a fly-over there but with the Metro line coming in between, the design cannot be frozen.
In the meanwhile, a new road - called Road 676 in Hidco - from the 7th Intersection was connected to the Rajarhat Road yesterday. This will reduce the traffic load on the Chinar Park crossing as Kolkata-bound traffic from North 24-Paraganas will be diverted ahead of the crossing. There was a frequent pressure from many quarters to open up the connection quickly. Yesterday, Minister Firhad Hakim inaugurated the new road. Here is a picture:
Road 676 connecting Rajarhat PWD Road with New Town inaugurated
 * * *
Few weeks ago, there was a decision in a meeting by CM that there should be more multi-tiered parking plaza in Kolkata to reduce on-road parking and reduce traffic congestion. We prepared the tender document, consulted experts and finally an EOI has been floated today asking for proposals. Here is a clipping from today's papers:
* * *
Telegraph, Salt Lake, brings out today a front page on its weekly tabloid on Rabindra Tirtha and Najrul Tirtha in New Town. Here is it:
The design of Nazrul Bhavan, however will change completely.
The facade will also be conventionalised.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Committee for mechanised construction works

In the Tuesday weekly meeting yesterday, I advised that a technical group may be formed to devise ways and means to adopt mechanised modes of construction so that projects can be completed quickly. The difficulty often is that (a) the conventional PWD schedule of rates may or may not be suitable for high-speed activities and so there is a need to "pay more for speedy work" and (b) safety, reliability and standardisation norms may not exist in some cases and there is a risk in going beyond norms (what if the bridge collapses? kind of queries).
Hidco has a long tradition of using mechanical equipment. In fact the rate for earth filling jobs using mechanical means was incorporated in the PWD schedule by Hidco engineers. In WBPDCL too, when I was there, I'd observed innovative use of technology. Let's see if we can come up with really reliable solutions -as distinct from few hare-brained schemes of fancy foreign innovators.
* * *
Debashis Gharai of Sakalbela met me yesterday at Hidco. We talked about Solar City Project, Bhagat Singh Bhavan and renewable energy. This is what he wrote in today's Sakalbela:

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Heat Shield by Hidco

Several bus stops are being constructed simultaneously by NKDA at New Town. I held a review yesterday. As a fast emergency step, Hidco has installed few garden umbrellas at certain locations where people congregate for buses etc. These are an instant hit. A photo taken yesterday:
"Hidco Cares for You" umbrellas to shield passengers from sun
 (near Rabindra Tirtha) 
* * *
I'd applied earlier for post of Chairman Kolkata Port Trust. I was told that my name figured at the top of the panel made by the Ministry of Shipping. But somehow, M L Meena was appointed. Even this time, it seems, I am not destined for it, going by this report from Anandabazar today:
* * *
The shuttle bus services in New Town have also started their runs. Here is a clipping from today's Telegraph:
 * * *
In yesterday's Cabinet Sub Committee, a Committee headed by Chief Secretary was formed to recommend ways in which the area adjoining New Town can best be used. Here is a clipping from today's Bartaman:

Monday, June 11, 2012

Flood-lit Football

New Town Flood-Lit Football Final
Durgapuja is one occasion when community feeling is at its height at New Town, Kolkata, as in rest of Bengal. But while other areas have other social events, there isn't much activity in the new township. To help create a community kinship, therefore,I have been trying, through  NKDA/HIDCO, to host events. We had the Residents' Meet in April, Rabindra Week with sit-and-draw competitions etc in May, and now, the Vodafone sponsored football tournament. Yesterday was the finals. There was great enthusiasm in the breezy Sunday evening. I was there too.

And here is a glimpse of the entrance to the football ground in AA-I where the play was held:

* * *
Bengal Post carries a story on Digha today. Here is the clipping:

Here is a clipping from today's Times of India on food kiosks:

 And finally, a cutting from Sakalbela about Raghunathpur planning:

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Bhagat Singh Bhavan

The Expert Panel recently selected the concept of the Bhagat Singh Bhavan to be built in Action Area II. I quite liked the concept as well as the environment friendly devices such as rain harvesting, shades and natural cooling and, mostly direct Solar-to-AC (without batteries) technology proposed. On this, I will meet Polaris next week on this. Polaris won the selection. Here is a glimpse :
Bhagat Singh Bhavan (proposed): Award winning entry
* * *
Here is a small cutting from yesterday's Telegraph:

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Saurav Ganguly cuts ribbon in New Town

Today afternoon, Saurav Ganguly came to Hidco to meet Firhad Hakim, Minister. After the meeting, both of them and me went to the first rotary site. A tribal statue has recently been erected near the first rotary. Today, Minister asked Saurav Ganguly to cut the ribbon to inaugurate it. Here is a photo that I took few days ago:
Just across the road, a bus stop erected by NKDA was also similarly inaugurated by Saurav Ganguly. Minister and myself were also there. We sat in the bench of the bus stop for few minutes. Saurav commented that he'd not been in a bus stand bench for a while!

At Bus Stop Nazrul Tirtha, New Town
(LtoR: Saurav Ganguly, Firhad Hakim, me)

* * *
Here is a clipping from today's Sakalbela:

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Transfer of Leasehols Rights in Salt Lake Land Allowed with Fees

The State Cabinet yesterday approved the proposal for allowing transfer of leasehold rsghts in Salt Lake. Rs 5 lakhs per kottah has to be paid for this. Most papers have reported on this subject. I reproduce a clipping from today's Bartaman:
* * *
At Digha yesterday, after the 3km walk for a "Clean Digha" campaign on the occasion of the World Environment Day, I held a detailed review meeting with various officers and agencies. We decided on certain time targets. We also decided to try out building footpaths in Old Digha (near Bay Cafe) using coloured paver blocks

Sunday, June 3, 2012

NKN - National Knowledge Network

Last Friday I held an e-governance meeting at UD Department. NIC, WEBEL, IT Department and Hidco were there. I have been trying to set up a HD Video Conference Facility connecting UD Department (at Nagarayan, Salt Lake), Writers' Buildings, 9 Development Authorities (KMDA, ADDA, HDA, SJDA, SSDA, DSDA, JDA, BDA & MKDA), HIT, KIT, Kalyani Estate Office, HIDCO & NKDA. At our request, NIC had prepared a cost-estimate for the hardware but Finance Department had certain observations. The question was: who would provide the link / carrier?

It is in this context that Ms Anna Majumdar of NIC talked about NKN or National Knowledge Netwok. The NKN is a national initiative connecting educational institutes at Gigabyte speeds. It seems, the State IT Department's WEBSWAN network would be given few nodes in June that will increase its speed from the present 2 MBPS to 1GBPS+. So, at her suggestion, we decided that the entire Video-Conference system for UD Department would be developed and installed by WEBEL/ State IT Department.
* * *
Here is a clipping from today's Times of India on the planning for Raghunathpur (I held the meeting there on 30th May)
Incidentally, after coming back from Raghunathpur, I talked to DM Purulia and advised him to also make provision of a direct road link to Durgapur, instead of via Asansol.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Saturday Eco Park Review

Like the last several site review meetings on Saturdays, we had an open air on-site review today as well. KMDA and KMC consultants came as also others. We talked of a Desert Garden, a beach on the island, butterfly garden and Nature Interpretation Centre. We discussed about electrical master plan - it seems the initial estimate of 600 kva is going to be exceeded - and drainage master plan. We recognised that during peak monsoon, the park may have to be closed when the lake water would spill over.
I mentioned that we could concentrate on hedges that have colourful leaves. I thought of the following example from Kalpataru Garden in Burdwan that I visited recently:
(i don't know how to flip it right in this blog :
i'd done so in my image editor though)
* * *
Since I was away in Purulia, I'd missed the following story in Times of India (31st May) about use of radiation in waste water treatment; I learnt of it from my Goole Alerts:

Friday, June 1, 2012

New Digha Gate and Plots

I find from today's newspapers that Kolkata Municipal Corporation has auctioned a 2 acre plot for a very large price. I thought I should highlight that in New Town too, there are opportunities. Two live scopes are as follows:
(1) Auction of 7 plots in New Town, Kolkata (last date 15th June 2012)
(2) Auction of plots in Financial Hub in CBD area in New Town, Kolkata (last date 31st July 2012: see Advertisement in TODAY'S papers as follows):
Date of application for Fin Hub extended to 31st July 2012
* * *
Along with the Gate on Kolkata Digha Road at entrance of old Digha, a Gate will also be set up at New Digha, close to the Railway Station / Amravati Park. The following design was also selected by the panel. I plan to go to Digha on Teuesday 5th June and finalise the arrangements:
Gate design by award winning architect: for New Digha