Saturday, February 27, 2016

Ways And Means To Get Better

Members of the Kerala Urban Development Society offer their suggestions for the improvement of Kochi

Photo: (From left) Sooraj Sasikumar, Anup Joachim and Kenny P Joy. Pic by Ratheesh Sundaram  
By Shevlin Sebastian
Anup Joachim can never forget the time when his late mother, Prof. Mercy Williams, the Mayor of Kochi (2005-10) had to go to Thiruvananthapuram to get around 25 signatures from various departments to make an official trip to Europe, which was being paid for by the hosts. The Chief Minister gave the final signature.
To do something, you need permission from too many agencies,” says Anup, a Kochi-based patent lawyer. “When a project gets passed, it happens only in January or February, while the funds get lapsed at the end of March. The processes should be speeded up. Only one or two permissions should be needed, to avoid the enormous waste of time and energy.”
So, when Anup's US-based friend Abraham George Vatakencherry, a teacher, suggested that they start an organization to provide suggestions for urban development, the former did not hesitate. “Abraham is a city enthusiast,” he says. “He keeps track of all the developmental activities in Kochi. So we decided to do ahead.”
Abraham gives his own reasons. “The future of Kerala depends on how quickly our cities can adapt to meet the challenges of the globalized world,” he says. “Kochi is not only competing with other Indian metros in IT, biotechnology and tourism, but with major South Asian cities as well.”
So the Kerala Ubran Development Society (KUDS) was set up in 2009, with Anup as the Secretary. On February 12, in the presence of Mayor Soumini Jain, KUDS has started a Centre for Advanced Research in Urbanism.
The strength of our team is that it is multi-disciplinary,” says Anup. “We have urban planners, lawyers, architects, businessmen and financial consultants.”
One of the key issues for the state, as well as Kochi, is the disposal of solid waste. So KUDS has come up with an application, ‘Ciolve’, a Mobile Redressal System. “Suppose, there is waste in your locality which has not been collected,” says architect Kenny P. Joy, a member of KUDS. “You can send photographic evidence, along with the location, to the Corporation and they will send somebody to collect it immediately.”
Of course, this depends on Corporation officials co-operating with KUDS. “There are competent people in the Corporation,” says Kenny. “But the system is bad, which is why they tend to become complacent. But change is coming to Kochi. The Metro rail, many new flyovers, as well as the Smart City will have a good impact. The Goshree Bridge has been made, while the Children's Park has been renovated. Soon, there will be a change in the mind-set, also.”
KUDS has teamed up with leading urban planners to give suggestions on setting up minor satellite hubs, as well as a walking plaza on MG Road. “Another aim is to make Kochi the state's first solar city,” says Sooraj Sasikumar, KUDS member. Initially, there are plans to set up solar lights, as well as toilets, at public places, including Subhash Chandra Bose Park, the Nehru Park, at Fort Kochi, the Jankar Jetty and the Fort Kochi beach.
There are ideas for an Aerotropolis (a development zone around the Kochi airport). This will be done in consultation with Dr. John D Kasarda, the pioneer of Aerotropolis projects across the globe.
What is heartening to see is the sincerity of the members. And unlike most middle-class people, who shy away from public involvement, they have stepped forward. “We felt that being involved is far better than just criticising from the sidelines,” says Anup. 

(The New Indian Express, Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode) 

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