Monday, May 31, 2010

Cowabungaa! Surf's Up at Kovalam

Surf? Kovalam? Good question...and here is the answer! Be amazed and spread the word! Kerala's best beach gets even better!!!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Technocity Inauguration on June 4

Kerala's biggest IT infrastructure project, the Rs 6000 Crores ($ 1.5 Billion), is set to get its official inauguration on June 4th. This marks the completion of the land acquisition stage of the project and the commencement of actual development, which will see the creation of basic infrastructure such as power and water supply, along with moves to tie up with leading infrastructure developers to kick-start actual work on the 450 acre IT/ITES-based integrated township.

From The Hindu

"Technocity, Kerala's biggest IT/ITES project, will be launched by Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan on June 4. The 450-acre facility will come up at Pallippuram, near here, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Technopark Mervin Alexander has said.
On completion, the latest IT Park would generate one lakh direct and four lakh indirect employment opportunities. Technocity will be developed as an integrated township encompassing IT/ITES infrastructure, residential apartments, shopping malls, hospitals, hotels, educational institutions and other support facilities.
Acquisition of land for the project was completed earlier this year at a cost of Rs.340 crore. "An investment of over Rs.6,000 crore is expected in the mega-project which will be developed on public private partnership (PPP) basis,” Mr. Alexander said. ‘‘Considering the vast area, the project will be developed in a phased manner over a period of seven years of which the first major phase will be completed in a period of three years, to enable the parks to commence functioning by July 2012. 
Kerala State IT Infrastructure Ltd. (KSITIL) is the developer of the project. The master plan for Technocity has identified the most suitable way—to break down the entire area into smaller land parcels and develop through PPP basis—to develop the IT city at the maximum possible speed."

It's understood that several major developers are interested in this mammoth project which is expected to result in the creation of between 10 to 15 million sq.ft. of business space! Together with the announcement that HCL Technologies is setting up operations in Technopark while IBM is also on the verge of setting up shop at Kerala's IT hub, this week has seen a slew of positive news for Trivandrum.

This also sets up the stage for my next article on Kerala's IT strategy which will be up in the next few days. Stay tuned for some pragmatic discussion!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

A Detour Ahead for Kerala?

About a week ago, I had the occasion to attend, on behalf of TDF, a briefing with Mr R.P.N. Singh - the Union Minister of State for Road Transport and Highways about the ongoing debate about highway width in Kerala. The young (by Indian political standards, of course!) and suave Minister waxed eloquent to the assembled team of industry captains (and one development activist) about how the Union Government would try and evolve a formula (a face saving one, for all concerned) to find a solution to the blocked development of the State's Highways. He appeared perplexed by the successive demands to reduce the width of the Highway, especially in view of the fact that other densely populated States like Goa and West Bengal had agreed to develop their highway stretches along the standard 60 m Right of Way (RoW). Mr Singh seemed even more disappointed that his own Congress party colleagues were on the war path as well.
The Ministry of Highways has made it clear that they are not willing to compromise on the 45 m RoW. Instead, their offer is to ensure that a fair Compensation & Rehabilitation package is provided to everyone affected by the project. About Rs 1100 Crores has already been set apart for this purpose for the 600-plus Km of roads to be widened. However, it is up to the State Government to facilitate the implementation of the package.

This view of the Union Government, protests among industry organisations - who have realized what kind of damage the hiatus in highway development can cause to the economic growth of the State - and perhaps a belated realization that the vast majority of the State's population don't want to spend the rest of their lives using narrow, congested and downright dangerous National Highways, seem to have persuaded the political leadership of the various parties in the State to have a change of heart. It started with Ministers Jose Thettayil, Elamaram Kareem and Paloli Mohammedkutty and then spread to the Opposition starting with the KPCC President as well. However, the official stand continues to be pretty obstinate with gems of wisdom such as denying widening to 45 m even in areas where the land is already available (for example, along the IT Corridor, between Kazhakkoottam and Vizhinjam) just because 30 m is the "official all-party" position and also to withdraw from an agreement to facilitate NH development.

However, all things considered, my guess is that there will be a soft detour back to the 45 m RoW, possibly with a few concessions in the most densely developed areas such as providing flyovers. The State's political leadership would claim any such changes and increases in the compensation package as a resounding victory. We will have to wait till the LSG elections are complete in September to be sure how soon the work on the Rs 10,000 Crore project can restart. A few dozen lakh pairs of fingers and toes will be crossed till then, mine included!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Twitter Mania

Twitter has proved to be a key aspect of this blog, helping to let many of you know when a new post is up.  So in a sense, it's come full circle when I got invited to be part of a panel discussion on Twitter, including its pros and cons. The show is being telecast on Asianet's avant garde channel, Rosebowl, today at 7 PM. Stay tuned!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

An Awesome Peek inside T3 - The Future is Here!

We have been following the development of the massive new International Terminal - T3 - at the Trivandrum International Airport with bated breath for over a year now. We have had to satisfy ourselves with exterior pictures till now but now my friend, Vivek, has gone and shot a stunning virtual tour of the interiors of T3. The terminal easily blows the pants off anything else in Kerala and probably outdoes the likes of BIAL and HIAL as well. Here are a few of his pictures, with his permission (more pics here and here):

Monday, May 10, 2010

Making Cities

My friend and neighbour, Gulzar, who happens to be the current Collector of Hyderabad, has put up an interesting post on the proposal to create a brand new city in China. It offers several interesting insights into what planners of the expanding metropolitan areas of Kerala and of new townships such as Technocity need to be prepared for. His blog, Urbanomics, is one of the most prolific that I have come across and makes for excellent reading if you are a keen follower of the ups and downs in the world of economics, finance as well as financial and public policy.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

YourSpeak on the Highway Widening issue

The development of the NH-47, or rather the lack of it, seems to have roused a lot of passion, if one is to go by the number of comments that the original post received - 34 till date!

I have been stuck with a few other things lately and have been traveling a bit over the last few days, so I have not been able to reply to your views. Apologies for that, folks. So here goes.

First of all, thanks for all your support, feedback and criticism. I will try and reply to as many comments as possible.

Anonymous said... There is no plan for 45m road. Road will be 30m, but they need land of 45m. Don't get mislead with politician like silver spoon baby. 

Nope, the main carriageway (4-lane) would be itself about 20 m wide with that going up to 28 m when we consider 6-lanes, which is urgently needed. Once we consider the service lanes (7 m on each side), footpaths and utility corridors (for pipelines and cables), we reach the 45 m mark.

Vinod said... Ajay, eviction required for 45m highway would be like this. Total affected would be 11283 persons. If we breakup, 5111 houses, 5643 business establishments, 187 tabernacles and 342 historic monuments. In this some are fully and some partly affected. Can’t the govt. do this for us and for future generations? 

Vinod - This list, probably sourced from the DPR, does not discriminate between those who will be displaced (total or near-total loss of built-up property and land) and those who will just be affected (minor demolition or partial loss of land). The former need to be compensated fairly while the latter may even benefit from getting better business or having their property appreciate, which is usually the case when a road is widened, as is evident from the TCRIP project in Trivandrum. Has a real social audit of how many of the affected folks actually oppose widening been taken? A lot of people affected by TCRIP voluntarily gave up their land, and that was in the heart of Trivandrum city, where land is most precious!

Robin said... The problem here is the cost Govt pays for Land, they pay only Rs 30 K/cent when the prevaling rates are Rs 3 L. This is the about people who lost land for NH in Thrissur region (60 M aquired) May the govt provide at least Half the Land, Pref on NH side for the people who surrender Land.

Robin, an effective Compensation & Rehabilitation policy has to be worked out by the State and Central Governments instead of forsaking highway development. Usually, the compensation package is worked out by a committee in consultation with the public. One also should not compare pre-widening land rates with those post-widening.

Unni said... My point is, of course we need better roads, but not just expanding the current one. Why not build a highway above our railway line from mangalore to Thiruvananthapuram. There are examples in the world where they built superfast highways on concrete pillars. 

Unni, an elevated highway is prohibitively expensive - five to eight times more than an ordinary one. Moreover, can you imagine constructing a highway above the rail line when even the construction of a few road overbridges has been hanging fire for over a decade. Imaginative but not practical, I am afraid.

Unni said... Also, some one quoted the numbers of evicted person doesn't make sense to me. I have traveled quite a bit from Payyanur to Calicut many many times. Let us do a rough calculation..The length of the high way is roughly around 130 km. On an average I assume that there are 2 buildings per 100 m. This is again average and this could be much more dense in town areas and little bit smaller in other areas. However it is really hard to find places where are there are no buildings within a span of 100m. Therefore I would assume at the very least there are 2 builds per 100 m on an average. Each building is connected to atleast ~ 5 person. I think this is roughly on the lower side. If you do the math, ~ 13000 people will be effected in 130km stretch. Assume the total highway is around 600 km, the total number of people affected is going to be roughly 6 lakhs.

Okay, let's do the math. 2 buildings per 100 m = 20 per Km = 100 people per Km = 13000 over 130 Km and about 60,000 for 600 Km of NH-47 and NH-17, NOT 600,000! A full order of magnitude less! And less than the population of most municipal towns in Kerala.

Let's also consider that of these buildings, many will not need to be demolished because they are set well back from the highway. In fact, there is a rule saying that any building can only be built at least 7.5 from the edge of the existing RoW.