Smart City projects get city budget push
Various schemes under the Urban Development Ministry’s Smart City Mission got a major push in the 2017-18 Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC) budget. Highly-placed sources in GCC told Express that the Central tranche of `380 crore reached the civic body recently and a chunk of this year’s budget had been set apart for it. “Priority will be on completing the construction of the pedestrian plaza and two multi-level car parking facilities in T Nagar,” the sources added. Other projects in the pipeline include solar traffic signals, wifi corners, e-toilets, LED lights and digital sign boards.
In the absence of an elected council, the GCC commissioner D Karthikeyan, as special officer, passed the status quo budget which was largely kept under wraps since the Model Code of Conduct was in force due to the April 12 RK Nagar by-poll. A senior official from the civic body said the budget’s focus areas had not shifted much compared to last year. Over `5,000 crore had been allocated for the GCC’s functioning. However, there was no clarity on whether it was a deficit budget. Construction of roads and storm water drains continued to dominate the expenditure sheet. Last year, out of total funds allotted (`5,123 crore), nearly `2,585 crore, that is 50.4% was used for these two departments.
“Apart from funds allocated in the budget, we are planning to use funds from the World Bank and Kreditanstalt fuer Wiederaufbau (German Development Bank) to complete ongoing work in the Coovum and Adyar basin,” said another senior official. The department is also planning to extend the integrated SWD project along Kovalam and Kosasthalai basins. With bridges in Anna Nagar, Thirumangalam and parts of central Chennai opened, the focus is expected to turn to Elephant Gate Bridge in North Chennai. This worn out structure connecting Walltax Road and Raja Muthiah Road is set for a facelift. At present, entry of heavy vehicles remains prohibited. “Once the Centre’s 50% share reaches us, we will begin operations,” said a civic body official from the Bridges wing.
Contrary to the State Budget for the fiscal which earmarked more than 30% of the estimate for education and health, the GCC continued to push these sectors to the sidelines. It was learnt that less than 10% of the total estimate was earmarked for these two departments. An official from the health wing said the low-budget allocation would not affect the operations of Amma canteen due to sufficient funds from the State.