June 20, 2011
A scheme to clean up major tourist cities ends up in the country’s dumping ground

There is a strong perception that the crisis of policy implementation runs deep across all the levels of governance from the Union to the State and further to the local government level. This perception is reinforced in the recent findings of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) in its audit of the “Eco City” programme run by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) under the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests.

The programme financed through CPCB funding of Rs 30 crore remains unimplemented and funds remain unspent even though more than four years have passed since the proposed deadline of the programme. Municipalities in six cities- Ujjain, Puri, Tirupati, Kottayam, Vrindavan and Thanjavur- were to implement the programme by end of the financial year 2007 but all of them, except municipality in Tirupati, failed to complete any of the proposed projects. At Tirupati, only three out of six projects were implemented. While all the projects were to be completed on an average of six months, they overshot their deadlines by at least four years without any sanction of extension by the CPCB. The CAG also observed that the CPCB did not show any interest in reviving the projects after September 2008.

No commitment was taken from local bodies to match the funds and works taken under the project remained incomplete in all the six cities. An amount of Rs 1.88 crore was lying unspent with state pollution control boards (SPCBs) for over seven years. In addition, according to the memorandum of understandings (MoUs) the SPCBs were to keep a record of the interest accrued on the sanctioned amount. The interest was to be adjusted while releasing next installments. However, only the boards of Kerala and Orissa disclosed the interest accrued and that too only once in a span of seven years.

Details pertaining to each city throw up many more irregularities conducted in the process.

Puri: This temple city by the shore is famous among Hindu pilgrims which is why it was chosen under the “Ecocity Programme”. Construction of cement concrete drain with cover slab along the roads around Jagannath temple, improvement of drinking water point at lions’ gate near the temple and improvement of public toilet near Narendra tank were scheduled to be completed between August- December 2006. However, the detailed project report submitted by the Puri municipality was not found up to the mark and the final report was only approved in June 2006 after a delay of more than two and a half years. Despite the initial non-approval, the CPCB sanctioned Rs 56 lakh as advance to the Orissa SPCB in March 2003 in complete disregard to the regulations . Despite the financial support, the projects remained incomplete.

The last review was done in August 2008 when it was decided that Orissa SPCB would seek commitment from Puri municipality for completion of the projects and would identify more schemes to be included in the “Ecocity Programme” notwithstanding the fact that previous plans had not fructified yet. No further progress was reported till February 2010. In reply to CAG, the Ministry of Environment and Forests said there had not been any significant progress in the case and that since Puri is also covered under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM), the “Ecocity Programme” was therefore being closed and the Orissa SPCB is being persuaded to return the unspent money along with interest accrued. But it’s not clear whether the incomplete work is being included in the JNNURM.

Kottayam: Rejuvenation of Mundar river and renovation of Kacherikadavu boat jetty canal for Rs 1.29 crore were the two projects selected with March 2005 being the scheduled date of completion. The CPCB released an advance of Rs 21.55 lakh to the Kerala SPCB in March 2003 without approval of the detailed project report by the expert committee while another amount of Rs 42.78 lakh was released between April 2006 and July 2007. In December 2008, the Kerala SPCB sent a revised proposal of Rs 40.94 crore for completing both the projects. In reply to CAG in Feb 2010, the Ministry of Environment and Forests said most of the schemes in Kottayam had been completed and matter is being followed for completion of the rest. The reply was not supported by completion reports and utilisation certificates from the Kottayam municipality and hence unreliable.

Ujjain: The CPCB released Rs 67.42 lakh to Madhya Pradesh SPCB in March 2003 for implementation of “Mahakal Core Area Development” project at a cost of Rs 11.70 crore. The Ujjain Municipal Corporation (UMC) took up a sub-component “Excavation/embankment of Rudrasagar” of the project on priority to be completed by March 2004 which was extended to March 2005. In July 2004, utilisation certificate for Rs 63.21 lakh was submitted. However, an inspection team of Madhya Pradesh SPCB was not satisfied with the desiltation operation. Despite this, CPCB authorised the Madhya Pradesh SPCB to sanction another Rs 14.23 lakh to UMC. In July 2005, SPCB recommended “Ecocity Programme” to be discontinued because of unsatisfactory implementation of earlier projects. So, the sanctioned projects remained incomplete and the amount of Rs 73.58 lakh already spent on the project was wasted.

As in the case of Puri, the Ministry of Environment and Forests replied to CAG that there had not been any significant progress in the case and that since Ujjain is also covered under JNNURM, the “Ecocity Programme” was therefore being closed and the SPCB is being persuaded to return the unspent money along with interest accrued. But it’s not clear whether the incomplete work is being included in JNNURM.

Vrindavan: CPCB released Rs 43 lakh to Uttar Pradesh SPCB in March 2003 for implementation of three projects under the “Ecocity Programme” including improvement of 2 km stretch from Kaliadaha Ghat to Kesi Ghat of Parikrama Path, improvement of Banke bihari area and development along the road connecting all major pilgrim spots and restoration of Gandhi Park. However, none of the projects could be taken up because the Vrindavan Nagar Palika Parishad was not able to provide commitment for its share of 50 per cent as agreed in the MoU. Thus the entire amount of Rs 43 lakh was lying unspent with the UP SPCB for seven years.

Thanjavur: Renovation of four old tanks was recommended under the “Ecocity Programme” but after various half-hearted attempts, no funds were sanctioned for the project.

Tirupati: CPCB sanctioned three projects including covering of storm water drains on three sides of Govindarajaswamy temple, construction of water pipeline between Koneru and Narsimha and desilting of drains in the core area. In August 2008, the Andhra Pradesh SPCB intimated that the projects were complete. Other three proposals sent by it under the programme were not sanctioned by the CPCB.

The CAG report indicates that even the well intended projects like the “Ecocity Programme” with potential of making a drastic change may end up being a failure due to lack of bureaucratic will.