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March 11, 2011

I recently started working on an urban poverty scoping exercise with a representative from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. As part of this project, I have had the opportunity to meet with many urban planners, government officials, academics and civil society workers all over the country. I have learned a great deal about the obstacles in providing basic services to the urban poor. The common woe amongst all stakeholders that I have spoken to remains the lack of capacity required to dispatch services in an effective manner. Thus, when I asked these stakeholders which area under poverty alleviation requires intervention, many pointed out that a focus on capacity-building could help make poverty reduction programs efficient and targeted to achieve more success in shorter periods of time.

The 74th Constitutional Amendment mandates the local government with the responsibility of urban poverty alleviation. However, many municipal governments have shown incompetence in utilizing funds appropriately. Mr. Ajay Suri, Regional Advisor for Cities Alliance, stressed that municipalities are starved for skilled urban planners, economists, statisticians, researchers, designers and architects to take on the role of urban development. While money is abundant, the technical assistance required to implement projects and disseminate funds are not available, due to which poverty alleviation programs, such as Basic Services to the Urban Poor (BSUP, under JnNURM), do not always achieve their goals. A recent article in the Indian Express stated that The Intergrated Housing and Slum Development Program, which is another sub-mission under JnNURM, has utilized less that 50% of its allocated funds on projects. According to housing minister Kumari Selja, one of the reasons for under-utilization of funds was lack of capacity of local bodies to implement projects.

Over the past year, the GoI has established five new urban institutes in Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Chattisgargh. These institutes are intended to be the training grounds for new generations of urban planners, research organizations, and consultancies that provide technical assistance to cities. Unfortunately, working for the municipal government is not looked upon as an attractive profession. Furthermore, organizations such as the National Institute of Urban Affairs struggle with retaining young professionals due to the diverse and attractive employment opportunities that they are presented with. There is dire need for experts in municipal governments, without whom no amount of money or schemes can fully achieve success.

Vaishnavi Narasimhan

March 10, 2011

As Tamil Nadu gears up for the much awaited elections now scheduled to be held on April 13, 2011, speculation hits new levels. “Who will win this time?” and “Will DMK retain its power?” are the nature of questions that … Continue reading

March 8, 2011

Increasing population and traffic have always been the biggest concerns in developing cities. Chennai Metropolitan Area with an aggregate population of 70.41lakhs (2001 Census) is very dense within the corporation limit. The city has a very diverse transportation network with … Continue reading

March 7, 2011

In December 2010, Reclaim Our Beaches (ROB), a local youth initiative in the city, contacted Transparent Chennai to see if TC could, in any way, help strengthen a proposal that they were sending to the Chennai Corporation on the need … Continue reading

March 4, 2011

The much talked about elevated expressway from Chennai Port to Maduravoyal finally gets Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) clearance from The Ministry of Environment and Forests. For those who were unaware of this project or the recent developments, snapshots of maps … Continue reading

February 24, 2011

The Government of India launched the National Urban Sanitation Policy in 2008 to achieve 100 per cent sanitation coverage in Indian cities, through methods that encourage community participation. In this regard, the Ministry of Urban Development also allotted Rs. 13 … Continue reading

February 22, 2011

Whenever there are any potholes, or water stagnation or any services that disturb the functioning of the road and reduce mobility, the public tends to blame the Chennai Corporation. The Chennai Corporation is to maintain all city roads as per … Continue reading

February 9, 2011

Rodriguez (2010) in his paper ‘Claims for Survival’ written on behalf of the Dakshin Foundation observes that one of the major problems that has hindered the articulation of clearly defined rights for traditional fisher folk is the absence of data … Continue reading

February 8, 2011

This post in an excerpt from a Media Voice Magazine article on Chennai’s SWM crisis. Read more in the March issue of Media Voice Magazine. The informal sector in SWM refers to scavengers and rag pickers that are involved in … Continue reading

January 24, 2011

Policy makers and planners often neglect local conditions and local knowledge while formulating plans and policies for their region. Consequently, when plans do not reflect ground realities, they fail and cause opposition from the local communities. Hence it is important … Continue reading