Perspective – Whose city is it anyway

Mr Raj Cherubal, Director-Projects of Chennai City Connect is writing a weekly column on city infrastructure in Times Property.

Read on Times Property site

WHOSE CITY IS IT ANYWAY

RAJ CHERUBAL gives us a glimpse of how successful Corporations from across the world – Cape Town and Singapore, for instance, function…

Monsoon in Singapore offers double the joy – an opportunity to get wet in the warm tropical downpour and watch every drop of it flow into the storm water drain, accurately, as engineered. While the road is barely wet, rainwater flows into nearby drains like the mighty Kaveri. This seemingly simple feat obviously requires co-ordination across myriad agencies of footpath, medians, carriage way, trees, utilities, drains, ponds and parks. Not obvious are the roles of prudent investments, robust municipal accounting, management of revenues and human resource, training, standards and processes, accurate data collection and analysis in coaxing each raindrop into those drains.

In this context, the McKinsey report on urbanisation contrasts India’s urban capital spending of $17 per person per year with China ($116) and New York ($292). Chennai will have to invest billions – $134 per capita per year – to ensure quality of life or to cajole our raindrops from submerging our city, so to speak. Further, is there capacity in the system to effectively utilise such large amounts?

The metropolitan city of Cape Town was formed in 2000 from merging seven municipalities that in turn were 1996 mergers of numerous other cities. With foresight, the City Government initiated the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) – IT project to integrate all aspects of finance, human resource, urban amenities, land and material and customer interaction in 2001. Philip Van Ryneveld, first Chief Financial Officer of post-apartheid Cape Town Government, says “ERP implementation served as a key enabler at the administrative level, permitting strategic management and integration of processes – these are not available in more fragmented systems.” Since then, the city has saved hundreds of millions of dollars while delivering equitable service at lower costs, he adds.

The Corporation of Chennai is set to expand by absorbing neighbouring Panchayats and Municipalities. Presumably, soon Chennai – with Tambaram, Avadi and others made Corporations by a political and participatory process – will constitute Metropolitan Chennai as mandated by the 74th Amendment of our Constitution. Chennai is one of the Silicon Valleys of the world. It is only appropriate that our Corporations are empowered with modern systems to tackle these additional challenges and deliver equitable services. To hasten this process, the city’s IT community should step forward. Your city needs you.

The writer is Director – Projects, Chennai City Connect, an infrastructure platform for urban stakeholders

1 Comment

  • ramnath / March 21, 2011 at 10:52 am

    One watches with trepidation the process of relatively well-off municipalities like Alandur coming under the purview of the city Corporation.

    Even if in a small, token way there is segregation of garbage at source.

    And municipalities of Tambaram, Pallavaram and Alandur are coming up with a processing facility at Venkatamangalam.

    In contrast, the city Corporation is still illegally occupying the reserved forest at Pallikaranai and abusing the fresh water marshland as a dumping ground.

    As journalist and activist Nityanand Jayaraman put it, ‘Only extremely backward cultures are capable of dumping dirt in a fresh water resource in a water starved, hot, tropical human settlement.

    In terms of IT industry, even as one looks at the money it brings in to Chennai, one can see that many IT industry buildings have encroached the marshlands west of OMR.

    Geographically the land zone adjoining OMR is a low-lying basin – below mean sea level – and a flood-plain, stretching from Sholinganallur to Tidel park in Taramani.

    – Ramnath

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