Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Massive Asian Development Bank (ADB) Funded Project in Kashmir

Mr. Azhar describes the first project funded by the ADB in Kashmir through his agency tasked to improve State's basic infrastucture

(Mr. Muhammad Azhar, 30, was born and raised in Srinagar. He is the Public Relations Officer of the Jammu and Kashmir Economic Reconstruction Agency, Srinagar.)

The Era of Reconstruction

In the recent past some news stories and articles have been published in which some apprehensions were expressed about the progress of works being executed by the Economic Reconstruction Agency (ERA) and capacity of ERA to handle the ADB project. Here is an attempt to dispel some misconceptions and to inform the general public about the utility of this project.

Basic Infrastructure is the key to socio-economic development and vital to human happiness and prosperity in today’s globalised world. Investment in Infrastructure is necessary to have an increased economic growth in order to bring about a sea change in human development- a fact realized by all democracies world over. Many international / multilateral agencies like World Bank, Asian Development Bank, U.N.D.P are playing a leading role in helping out the Governments world over in providing their citizens with the requisite financial and technical assistance to rehabilitate, upgrade and expand the basic infrastructure which need huge investments and most of the developing nations are finding it difficult to finance these projects on their own. The existence of quality infrastructure is a stepping stone towards alleviating the poverty and improving the quality of life of people. Thus investment in infrastructure development is considered one of the potent weapons to fight poverty, hunger and backwardness.

To meet the infrastructure needs of people living in urban and rural areas of the country many flagship programmes have been launched by the National Government like JNNURM, PMGSY, NRHM to name a few. The main objective of these flagship programmes is to provide citizens with improved basic infrastructure viz all weather dependable roads and bridges for better connectivity, water treatment plants and quality water supply lines to provide people with safe drinking water in a sustained manner, storm water drainage systems for safe disposal of waste water, scientific disposal of solid waste etc.

In order to provide the necessary public infrastructure to people and to ensure sustained delivery of these services, infrastructure projects need to be planned & executed in a scientific and coordinated manner. To meet this objective nodal agencies are being established as special purpose vehicle to execute the projects in a planned and focused manner. The Government of J&K accordingly established an agency namely Jammu & Kashmir Economic Reconstruction Agency (J&K ERA) in the year 2005 to execute all externally funded projects in the state.

The Jammu & Kashmir Economic Reconstruction Agency (J&K ERA) under its ongoing Asian Development Bank (ADB) funded Multisector infrastructure Rehabilitation project which is in its third year of existence has already taken up the Herculean task of the rehabilitation of basic infrastructure in the state which was in bad shape since last 2-3 decades and in dire need of revamp to meet the immediate infrastructure needs of the burgeoning population in both urban and rural areas of the state. This rehabilitation project has been divided in the two vital sectors of Urban & Transport respectively.

Urban infrastructure needs and J&K ERA’s intervention

According to the studies conducted by various research organizations and professionals working in the sphere of urban studies, nearly half of GDP in most of the developed countries is generated in urban areas. This state of affairs underlines the importance of quality urban infrastructure in achieving the national growth targets. It is estimated that urban population in most developing south asian countries would increase from 28% in 2001 to nearly 40-50% by the year 2020. With increasing population, demand for urban infrastructure would increase manifold. According to India’s Ministry of Urban Development (MUD) 20% of country’s urban households are denied access to safe drinking water, only 58% have safe sanitation facilities and more than 40% of garbage generated is left uncollected for want of proper waste management. The figures are no better in our own state.

Urban centres are strongly emerging as the growth engines of the economies world over due to the rapid expansion of the service and manufacturing sectors of economy which develop mainly in urban centres. With urban areas increasingly becoming the generators of national wealth the future is undoubtedly urban. In recent years, urban population especially in the capital cities of Srinagar and Jammu have shown an unprecedented increase and new residential colonies developed along the outer fringes of these capital cities which are mostly unplanned and devoid of basic urban civic amenities. J&KERA will through its rehabilitation package attempt to meet the immediate and future urban infrastructure needs of Srinagar city.

To cater these needs of urban infrastructure in the Srinagar city J&KERA identified some key sub-projects under the urban sector of its MIRP in the year 2005-06 which include construction of National highway byepass storm water drainage scheme to provide people living in the low lying areas of both sides of NH Byepass with the provision of safe disposal of waste water. Rs.100.00 Crores NH Bypass storm water drainage is divided into three sub-projects/sections namely Pohru Chowk to Chanapora Bridge, Rawalpora Chowk to Tengpora Bridge and Fruitmandi to Bemina Chowk. The work on all the three sub-project is underway and projects have a completion time of 18-24.Further Srinagar Municipal Corporation (S.M.C) has been provided with latest drain cleaning equipments like sewer suction cum jetting machines, front end loaders and trolly mounted sewer rodding machines to enhance its capacity to undertake the health & sanitation responsibilities within Srinagar city in a better way..

Rs.89.00 Crores are being spent in the water supply component of urban sector which includes augmentation of water supply system by extension of piped water to areas facing shortage of safe drinking water. Under water supply component the sub-projects already under execution are (i) Laying of 10 MGD Rangil Water Supply Transmission line (ii) Extension of Nishat Dal Bund via Zindshah Masjid (iii) Extension of Doodhganga supply line and (iv) Nishat supply line via Taley Manzil (v) Revamping of all Water Treatment Plants in Srinagar city to enhance the treatment capacity of these plants. (vi) Besides, some water tankers have been already provided to PHE Department to enhance their capacity to provide safe drinking water to people so far not catered by piped water supply.

Transport Infrastructure needs and J&K ERA’s intervention

Since majority of the in the state of J&K still lives in rural areas (75.12 %, census 2001) and are engaged in livelihoods related to agriculture. The availability of good quality all-weather roads and dependable bridges are critical to bringing about a socio-economic prosperity in rural areas of the state The availability of good quality roads and bridges becomes more so important in order to provide rural communities the better accessibility to markets to ensure that their produce reaches the market on time without any loss during transportation. Besides, dependable roads play a vital role in improving the quality of life of rural populace especially vulnerable sections of society i.e. women & children.

With an eye on these infrastructure needs in rural areas, J&KERA under its ongoing MIRP has taken up rehabilitation of 25 road sub-projects costing Rs 359.10 crores spread over ten districts of valley. Similarly, 18 bridge sub-projects in seven districts of valley estimated to cost Rs.46.44 crores have been taken up for construction. Work on all the sub-projects under Transport Sector is in full swing. It is worth mentioning that one of the bridges namely Kannikadal Bridge has already been completed and traffic is plying normally on the bridge since last five months.

It is pertinent to mention here that MIRP started in year 2006 and projects undertaken under MIRP had design/procurement period of 12-18 months which comprises of the planning stage, preparation of summary appraisal reports (SARs), feasibility & other surveys. Execution of sub-projects on ground started in late 2007 and most of the sub-projects have been allotted in year late 2007 and early 2008 and the scheduled completion time frame of most of the sub-projects ranges from one and half to two years and if all goes well as per the plan, most of the projects will be completed within the stipulated time period. However, there are some expected delays due to land acquisition, shifting of utilities, provision of encumbrance’s free sites etc. Actually in any project these pre-requisites should be tackled first, which naturally will eat into the project execution time. In the year 2008 considerable physical & financial progress was achieved till July 2008 when situation in the state changed dramatically and lead to the mass exodus of skilled and unskilled labour most of whom hail from outside states like Bihar, East UP, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, etc. and specialize in such kinds of infrastructure projects, thus bringing works to a temporary halt. The best of working season (July-Sept.2008) was thus lost to the abnormal situation. However, all out efforts have been made by J&KERA at all levels, i.e., administrative, engineering, contractors and consultants and efforts are afoot to resume work with same vigor as previously. Noteworthy to mention here that in the first six months of 2008, agency has registered an average monthly expenditure of Rs 22 crores which peaked to Rs 33 crores in July 2008. Once again the progress has picked up again and in September-2008, financial progress achieved is Rs 31 crores. It is expected that during 2008, J&K ERA will exceed the target set forth by ADB.

Challenges in Execution of MIRP and Role of Line Departments:

Like any other massive rehabilitation project of the magnitude of MIRP, the bottlenecks are encountered during the execution of work on ground. These include shifting of utilities (like water supply lines, electric poles/lines, BSNL cables) from the working corridor on which actual physical work is to be undertaken to ensure that supply of essential services is not interrupted during the execution of work. The shifting of utilities is to be done by the concerned line departments and funds for shifting of these utilities are advanced by J&KERA to these departments beforehand. Similarly, there are other necessary procedures/formalities viz details of Right of Way (ROW), permission for road cuts, forest clearance, land acquisition issues, authentication of land records etc. which require timely action and facilitation from the concerned authorized line departments. The time taken in sorting out these issues by each line department impacts upon the progress of work on the project besides lengthening the period of inconvenience for the people to be benefited from the project. Multisector Infrastructure Rehabilitation project the first initiative of ADB in J&K is a people’s project and people’s cooperation during the construction stage is necessary in the project to give them long term benefit and relief.

No comments: