- Written by V.K. Ibrahim Kunju Minister for Public Works
As we successfully complete five years of effective governance, Kerala has come a long way from what it was before. It is gratifying for me to be a part of this government under whom the state has witnessed growth and development at an incredibly fast pace. Much progress is seen in matters of basic infrastructure development and the consequent growth is reflected in all activities of the state. This change is indisputably enjoyed and acknowledged by the public. Going back five years in time, to when this government came to power, one cannot but remember the dilapidated form in which the roads of the state were handed over to us. The journey from that run-down condition to the topnotch roads that we have today has not been easy and much credit goes to all those, whose sincere effort and toil have been the reason for this. In just five years time, the UDF government has made a mark by transforming the PWD department from being a constant target of warnings from the court of law and sharp criticism from the media to becoming the most consistently performing wing of the government of Kerala. And behind this success is a story of hard-work and dedication. All works across the state are rapidly progressing and development is fast. Even more importantly, activities are not confined to just PWD roads. Many corporation and panchayat roads, under poor conditions, have also been renovated and reinstated to traversable condition. Along with these activities, all the newly sanctioned roads and bridges are also being completed within the stipulated time. The UDF government, under chief minister Oommen Chandy, is focused on a growth pattern with emphasis on basic infrastructure development. This responsibility was trustingly handed over to the PWD ministry and, in keeping with the expectations; this work has been promptly and properly completed.
It is this consistency i n commitment and reliability which has once again brought to us an outstanding review in the appraisal survey conducted by the planning board. While the previous year’s project expenditure was 300 percentage above the provisioned amount. this year Without the wholehearted support extended by the honorable minister for finance, such performance would not have been possible. This hike in expenditure once again ascertains the government’s commitment towards ensuring development. While it is becoming increasingly difficult to undertake projects without being victimized for malpractice, the fact remains that the PWD department has been able to do it. We owe it to the sincere support extended by the other departments, the co-operation and support from our officers and the progressive outlook of the Chief Minister. It is with this support that we have gone on to take up more longterm and short-term projects with an aim to give the state a much awaited face-lift in terms of infrastructure. The greatest achievement of the past years is the fact that we have been able to strategize, plan and set in motion many projects with a clear and well-defined futuristic vision. Yet another landmark activity was the revisal of the PWD manual which was put together 40 years back in 1972. The revised manual saw a complete revamp of existing obsolete road construction methods and is focused on the importance of quality management in road construction and in the excellence in administrative and technical activities. This has undeniably contributed in accelerating the departmental activities and in ensuring transparency in its activities. Still not having recovered from the minor malfunctioning and the hitches posed by KSTP phase - I, a second phase of the same was not in any way anticipated. However, the government has successfully revived this project. The total expenditure of the project being 2403 crores, the government has signed an agreement with the World Bank for a financial aid of 1166 cr. The project is all set to be completed. In addition to the plan of taking up 8 roads, covering a total distance of 367 kms, and upgrading it to international standards; the government also proposes to carry out heavy maintenance work on a stretch of 1006 kms in the state. The KSTP – Phase II will undoubtedly be a landmark in the history of infrastructure development in the state. The new light metro project is yet another example of innovative means to improve basic facilities. With the initiation of these projects in Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode, the transport system of the cities will be made easy and would consequently contribute to its modernization. The state’s road development projects stems from the realization that the present roads and development schemes does not meet the needs of the everincreasing traffic density of Kerala.
The government plans to spend a total of 5100 crores on various chosen stretches which when put together will make 1204 kms. This project aims at upgrading all the major roads of the state to international standards. Of this, 551 kms of road is being improved under the annuity scheme. The 892 crore worth first phase of the project is already underway. The capital city, Trivandrum, flaunting wide and well maintained roads, fly-over, clearly marked out foot paths for pedestrians and properly demarcated parking areas is an excellent model for how city traffic can be made easy and smooth with proper infrastructure planning and development. This model operating under the BOT system has been found effective and is being extended to other cities too. It will be implemented immediately in Kozhicode. In Kozhicode, the first phase of land acquisition has already been completed. Very soon other cities and towns of the state including kottayam, thrissur, malappuram, kannur and kollam will also be enjoying the most modern infrastructural facilities. Our government clearly understands the fact that road development is not to be confined to towns and cities. It is as part of our vision for extensive and comprehensive development that the roads under local self governing bodies are being upgraded to the status of district roads. This effort is first of its kind in the history of Kerala and aims at revamping a total of 8570 kms of roads in the state to the finest standards. Preliminary studies on the same are being completed with support from the World Bank. In addition to this, the government has also taken up the development of thousands of panchayat roads under the one time maintenance scheme which speaks for our commitment to ensure the best quality roads in the state. Yet another project aimed at comprehensive development is the coastal corridor stretching from Vallarppadom container terminal via Ponnanni up to Kozhikode. This would be a milestone in the developmental history of Kerala and bears a cost of 2000 crores and is believed to have an impact on both tourism and defense sectors. Works under this project are already in progress. The sea-port airport road is another instance. The second phase of this project which was held up has been resumed from its sluggish state. Now, work is in fast progress. The second phase, bearing a cost of 883 crores, includes development of the road up to Nedumbassery airport and also the four-laning activities of the roads completed under the first phase. Introduction and use of the most modern technology in the construction and maintenance of roads was a matter of discussion in the department meetings.
It is in one such meeting that the concept of concrete roads came up. As part of an effort to understand the concept further, I had accompanied our officers to Mumbai. It has been identified as a very effective method and is being implemented in the state with the first project being the Kalamassery-Manalimukku road. On the success of this first phase, the concept will be extensively implemented in other parts of the state as well. The convenience that bypass roads offer to long-distance travelers cannot be ignored. Though this concept has always been well received and many projects had been initiated, most of it was progressing at a crippled pace. This government aims to revive these works and complete it at the earliest. It has been agreed by the state to bear 50 percent cost in the construction of bypass roads, the rest of which will be met by the centre. This decision has given the much-needed impetus to the progress of works on these highways. The kollam bypass and the Alappuzha bypass will bear a cost of 253 crores and 206 crores respectively. Work in these areas have begun. The Kazhakkuttam- Mukkola bypass in Thiruvananthapuram is yet another feather in our cap. The Union Ministry for surface transport and highways have given the approval started the work. The department is proud to have set an example with the way in which we completed all the maintenance works on the sabarimala road before the most busy mandalakaalam , in the last five years. We have already done the works costing 518 crores for the last five years.On top of this, heavy maintenance works bearing a cost of 135 crores are also underway in this area. With the completion of the pilgrim centre at Ranni,most of the hardships faced by the sabarimala pilgrims would be resolved. Along with the development of roads, buildings and bridges, efforts are underway to modernize and upgrade the department, based on a progressive approach. With such an outlook, it is not surprising that the PWD is the first government department to initiate e-tenders and e-payments. And with this revolutionary step , the much criticized tendering methods are being made transparent and effective. Instigation of this corruption-free tendering procedure has received much approval and appreciation from all sides. The tendering formalities for works bearing a cost of more than 25 lakhs are to be done through e-tendering. The contractors are saved from their regular visits to PWD offices and find it easier with their payments being automatically transferred to their accounts under the e payment scheme. Today, there is a heightened awareness on environmental and energy conservation issues and the heavy implications that the construction sector has on it.
In response to this concern, the government has put together the Green Building policy emphasizing on the need for sustainable development. It aims to achieve energy efficiency, effective waste management, consideration of natural resources and minimum use of fossil fuels. As a first step in implementing the green building policy, PWD will initate two projects; one at Trivandrum P.M.G. junction and the other at Neriamangalom. We also aim at ensuring facilities for rain-water harvesting and solarization in all government buildings. As part of our efforts to popularize and encourage the green building policy amongst private sector constructions, the government is offering many benefits including tax rebates. Heritage is the most integral aspect of a society; it is the thread which runs through generations and keeps the system together. History sleeps in many of the age-old buildings in the state; the maintenance and preservation of which is the need of the hour. The PWD department has come forward to take up this responsibility. Such heritage buildings of historical importance have been identified and steps taken to renovate and re-instate them to their lost glory. All works will be in line with their traditional architectural style; without any alterations from the original design or disturbing its ethnic beauty and uniqueness. Of the different buildings taken up for renovation, the work is almost completed at the Kuttalam palace and attached buildings. At Fort Kochi rest house, Thrissur town hall and Koyilandi court building, work is underway. As for the rest of the buildings under this category, experts in this genre of construction have been assigned the task. Development is dynamic and if we do not keep pace with the changing concepts and advancing technology, we will be left behind. We need to know and understand how the rest of the world works, what are the latest technologies and developments in the field and how can it be customized to meet our needs and requirements. For this to happen effectively, we need to communicate and co-ordinate with the public, the media and the officers of our department. It is this understanding that led to the concept of Infrastructure Conference. Introducing our officers to the most recent technologies across the world and improving their understanding of the developments in the industry is the main aim of the conference. This conference which brings together some of the most sought-after management and technical experts in the industry has been a great success in the last two years. This was followed by ‘Perspectives’, a seminar conducted in coordination with the Kerala Working Journalists’ Union (Kesari memorial trust). These seminars and conferences provide guidelines and serve as the foundation stones for furthering developments in the PWD department. The officers are introduced to new and revolutionary ideas, which in turn give the department a new lease of life. We have set the ball rolling for fast and far-reaching development. The last five years have witnessed swift and steady growth in the infrastructural development of the state. We have effectively and efficiently played our role in being a part of the developments happening across the globe. The activities of the last five years have revolutionized the infrastructural conditions of the state and we have been able to make a mark of our own. I am proud and honoured to be a part of this team leading Kerala through an era, which will surely be earmarked as a golden one in the pages of its history.