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Most observers concur that Karnataka has regressed in its industrial rankings as a result of political instability and inadequate attention to infrastructure. Vandita Sharma, the recently appointed Principal Secretary in charge of Infrastructure Development, Government of Karnataka, answers some direct questions from Shashidhar Nanjundaiah to help understand where the state is headed while being repeatedly marred by hurdles to infrastructure growth.
What is the status of some major infrastructure projects in Karnataka?
Proposed Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS):technical studies were conducted in Bangalore and Mysore. However, due to feasibility concerns, it has not progressed.
Cold chain infrastructure: Karnataka State Agricultural Produce Processing and Export Corporation Limited (KAPPEC) is currently in the process of undertaking a study to understand interventions required to improve the infrastructure.
Hydro-electric projects in Western Ghats: As there is a court order restricting development of these projects in the Western Ghats areas, no further development is being allowed.
What are the new focus areas in infrastructure development for the government?
The government is in the process of drafting a new infrastructure policy and an infrastructure bill. Some of the focus areas for the state are logistics infrastructure (including agri-logistics), water supply and road development.
Karnataka State Highways Improvement Project (KSHIP) has received an in-principle approval from Department of Economic Affairs (DEA) to develop a Core Road Network (CRN) on PPP model using second loan from ADB to the extent of $350 million. Nine road corridors are envisaged.
How much emphasis is the government laying on PPP?
Karnataka has been the pioneer and leader in the country with regards to development of infrastructure through the PPP route. The Karnataka Infrastructure Transformation-1 (KIT-1) programme has generated 120 projects spread over seven sectors and 12 entities. Subject to the final PFR, the total project value of these projects is Rs 101,206 crore.
In addition to the projects generated under KIT-1, there are 69 additional, earlier projects of Rs 99,451 crore which are at various stages of development. The development of PPP projects in Karnataka started eight years ago. In the last 3-4 years alone, 36 of these have gone into implementation and operation.
In the national environment of concern when private players have pulled out of major PPP projects, states have a proactive role to play. What specific measures is Karnataka taking in this regard?
In association with FICCI, we have initiated consultations with the private sector to understand bottlenecks in the process as they see it. These consultations would also involve financial institutions to understand their perspective of risks in the state so that these could be adequately addressed in PPP projects going forward.
With the recent pullout by Posco and smaller airports taking a back seat, the new government seems to have hit some early turbulence. Rs 7 lakh crore worth of projects are facing delays. What are some of the steps you have taken to improve the situation?
Some steps proposed by the government aim at delinking certain processes from each other-for example, environmental clearance from forest clearance-whereby these clearances can be sought simultaneously rather than sequentially.
In addition to this, the Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram is holding several meetings at state levels (the third such meeting was held in Bangalore) to interact with developers and bankers to address their concerns. In addition to this, policy level interventions are made-or underway-to attract private investments.
Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh seem to have moved aggressively towards port development. With a navigable coastline, why isn't Karnataka in the same league?
Karwar port, considered one of the best natural harbours, is being upgraded under our Port Development Project. The state government has decided to start container handling facility at the port.
Karnataka is blessed with a coastline of around 300 km. There are 10 minor ports between Karwar and Mangalore. However, for development of ports, hinterland connectivity is an integral part.
A major portion of coastal Karnataka borders the eco-sensitive Western Ghats, so obtaining clearance for transport infrastructure from the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) is difficult.
The government will constantly engage with MoEF to resolve all the issues at the earliest.
Urban infrastructure has taken a particularly bad beating in Karnataka. Once the showpiece of India, Bangalore is now embarrassingly termed a "garbage cityö. This raises questions about inclusive growth as well as about both development and control. What are some of the concrete steps you're taking to see a better Bangalore in the next five years?
It is the collective effort of government and the citizens which would make the city garbage-free. Citizens' cooperation and participation is as important as the efforts of the government in keeping the city garbage-free. Along with door-to-door awareness campaigns for public, training programmes were held for 250 pourakarmikas (civic workers) of the 22 wards at IPP and Town Hall for three days, in the last year.
Our Hon'ble Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and Bruhat Bangalore Municipal Corporation (BBMP) Commissioner M Lakshminarayana had launched a drive in July 2013 called kasa muktha ("garbage-freeö) ward. There are around 250 trained pourakarmikas and garbage contractors who are willing to make this programme a success. The BBMP office can also provide details on their plans for Bangalore.
Road-to-land ratio in Bangalore is one of the lowest among the larger cities in India, but the space for pedestrian walkways is even smaller. Should special infrastructure be developed for foot traffic? Are you taking any steps in this regard?
Bangalore Metropolitan Land Transport Authority (BMLTA) has formulated draft pedestrian and parking policy. The government is looking into the same wherein importance will be given for pedestrians' infrastructure such as footpaths and crossings.