Hyderabad: An ongoing tussle between the engineering and town planning wings within the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) has not only resulted in huge delay of all infrastructure projects in the city but these unending internecine squabble are threatening to subvert the biggest dream of urban transformation of former minister and TRS party working president K.T. Rama Rao.
Heavy traffic jams, which were previously limited to the dense traffic zone of the IT corridor, have now spread to all arterial roads of the city. The ongoing project, with its need to to create diversions and barricading, has further added to the woes of citizens.
According to highly placed sources, even though the finance wing was ready with compensation amount, the town planning wing has been delaying the process because of vested interests. On the flip side, officials claimed that the property owners in prime areas of the city have been not accepting the compensation granted according to the Land Acquisition Act, 2013. The unit cost was fixed decades ago and was pertaining to erstwhile MCH areas, which has now transformed in to GHMC, after merging 12 peripheral municipalities. The current market price has risen manifold.
Officials claimed that property owners were not only rejecting the compensation offered by the GHMC but also rejecting the newly conceived Transferable Development Rights (TDR). However, town planners were misrepresenting the situation to higher officials during review meetings, trying to showcase that everything was going according to plan within the scope of their work and the blame for delay lay only on the engineers, who were not executing the works.
This has lead to the confrontation between both departments. The fight reached a level where both departments were not talking to each other over land acquisition matters for over two years now. As per official records, the ‘delay’ has temporarily halted multiple infrastructure skyway projects like the SRDP, construction of Balanagar Flyover, Uppal-Ghatkesar elevated corridor and the long-pending skyway at Amberpet crossroads. The Corporation is yet to acquire as many as 1,457 properties to take these projects forward.
The SRDP alone, on which Mr Rama Rao had repeatedly laid great emphasis upon during his various public interactions starting with the 2015 Hyderabad municipal elections, requires 587 properties and 1,58,360.40 square yards of land. Due to this, on this project front alone, construction works worth a whopping Rs 1,500 crore have been temporarily put on hold.
Apart from this, the civic body has decided to take up 200 road widening projects at a cost of Rs 3,867 crore, which also requires land and property acquisition, and runs into the same basic problem.
The town planning wing officials have so far only managed to remove encroachments on 58 kilometres of nala length out of a total 390 kilometres needed in the last 14 years.
The town planning department identified 12,153 major and minor encroachments on city nalas, totalling a length of 390 kilometre. Of them, the Corporation has decided to remove encroachments on 46 critical bottlenecks stretching 15.9 kilometre at an estimated cost of Rs 230 crore in an emergency mode. Out of 715 encroachments identified on nalas, the town planning wing has only removed 184 in the last two years.
Since land acquisition has been progressing at a snail’s pace, the Corporation cannot complete any of these projects within the stipulated time. The GHMC and the Hyderabad Metropolitan Development Authorities (HMDA) have barricaded several narrow stretches and started work at multiple locations. However, all these infrastructure works have been halted mid-way due to the underlying war between both departments, forcing the commuters to bear the brunt – causing traffic delays, loss of time, prolonged commute time, delays and other emotional traumas.
If there was hope that an intervention at the highest level would bring an end to this, you are sadly mistaken. Though GHMC commissioner Mr Dana Kishore has intervened in this issue, it has yielded no results.
The SRDP works are being taken up totally at 20 junctions across the city with a sanction of Rs 2,631 crore in five packages.
The Strategic Road Development Plan (SRDP), which is the most significant dream, and promise of Mr Rama Rao to the people of Hyderabad, has been hit so severely by these inter-department fights that it could, if not quickly brought under control, not only sabotage the project but also threatens to possibly erode the political image of Mr Rao.
The engineering wing officials are blaming the town planning unit for not acquiring lands for vital projects like nala widening, which has not moved an inch since last year. Over the four years, the department managed to only acquire 1,000 properties as against the over 8,000 properties needed to acquired for the completion of the project.
This has lead to open confrontations between departmental heads during a recent review meeting, wherein the head of the engineering wing accused the head of the town planning wing of deliberately projecting engineers as “under performers”. The underlying war between both wings has been forcing commuters to suffer severe traffic snarls, inundation and bumpy rides ever since the rainy seasons started.
Due to the apathy of the superiors in the corporation taking note and address this issue, the average speed of vehicular movement has come down to less than 5 kmph during peak hours.