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New GHMC wing to deal with nala encroachments

New GHMC wing to deal with nala encroachments
Highlights

A Only Rs 122 crore JNNURM funds used out of Rs 266 crore A A Centre not to release unused funds after the...

A Only Rs 122 crore JNNURM funds used out of Rs 266 crore A A Centre not to release unused funds after the deadline A Nala widening work moving at a snail's pace due to squatters

Mahesh Avadhutha

new ghmc

Hyderabad: The State government recently gave its nod for a separate land acquisition cell in the GHMC to deal with encroachments on storm water drains and nalas. This decision, authorities feel, will help to expedite the nala remodelling work which has been going on a snail's pace for the last few years.

However, it needs to be seen how much of the project would be completed before the deadline - March 31, 2014 set by the Centre for the utilisation of the Rs 266 crore Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) fund.

It may be mentioned here although the works commenced some six years ago, the civic body could spend only Rs 122 crore of the funds (less than fifty per cent) meant for the purpose. Observers term this project as a very significant one because unless the storm water drains are widened, once and for all, many of the low-lying areas in the city will continue to be at the risk of inundation due to heavy downpour during monsoon.

Hundreds of encroachments on these nalas in the past few decades have hampered the widening work. Although the civic body has come forward to give structural compensations and alternative housing under JNNURM scheme to those who lose more than fifty per cent of the land, the squatters (unlawful tenants) have turned their thumbs down to such proposals.

The absence of a separate revenue cell to hold continuous negotiations and convince the squatters and local politicians compounded the woes of the civic body. The over burdened town planning staff of the corporation could not allocate sufficient time for the purpose as well. The staff is mostly busy in inspections and other related works. As a result, only a few of the encroachments, numbering more than thousand, were removed in the last few years.

In case of the primary nalas namely Balkapur nala, Kukatpally nala and Murki nala, around 732 encroachments are yet to be removed. On the other hand, more work needs to be done at secondary nalas located at Banjara Hills, Yousufguda, Punjagutta Indira Park, Gandhinagar, Yellareddyguda, Nagamaiah Kunta and Erramanzil.

Civic authorities could dislodge only 71 out of a staggering 801 total encroachments built on them. While the remodelling work to an extent of 23 km should have been completed on secondary nalas by now, the corporation managed to complete only 20 per cent of it.

In this backdrop, the government's decision to constitute a revenue cell especially to deal with nala encroachments assumed importance. Authorities, however, are least perturbed with less time available on hand to complete the nala widening works. A separate land acquisition unit, besides whole lot of incentives like permanent accommodation under JNNURM housing scheme, payment of Rs 10,000 to each family for six months to settle down with their business or job at new location etc. will help in a big way, they averred.

According to civic officials, there is also a possibility of the Union government giving a relaxation of up to six months, if more than 80 per cent of the work was completed by March 31. This is a project concerning the lives and safety of the citizens on a long term and hence, the Centre is likely to give a kind consideration to any request from the State government for additional time, they felt.

Meanwhile, M Ved Kumar of Forum for Better Hyderabad opined that the administration should take this as a big challenge and ensure that JNNURM funds do not lapse. He laid emphasis on proper displacement of the squatters who have been residing in these areas for generations. "There is also scope for irregularities like diversion of funds or payment of compensation to fake names and the administration should be extra cautious in this regard," he said.

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