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How VMC’s detour on GIS freeway may prove costly

Posted by egovernance on November 2, 2006

How VMC’s detour on GIS freeway may prove costly

Express News Service

http://cities.expressindia.com/fullstory.php?newsid=207730

Vadodara, november 1: Though the Vadodara Municipal Corporation may think of putting a stop to the digging up of main city roads for the next five years, experts believe it will not mean an end to civic problems.

The civic body was offered free software for installing Geographic Informatics System (GIS) some years ago, but it missed the chance. Efforts in the direction stopped at compiling database of just one of its 12 administrative wards. With no centralised data of underground city utilities, engineers admit that most decisions about repairs and laying of fresh water and drainage pipelines are dependent on past experience or remain ad hoc in nature.

Though VMC’s e-governance project continues to progress at a snail’s pace, the civic body did have a chance to obtain free software worth Rs 25 lakh from the US government a couple of years ago.

The town planning department was offered the GIS software and a sponsored training trip to Honolulu for its officials. But with controversy stalking the department, it was one plan which met with a quiet demise. While refusing to come on record, concerned senior VMC officials admit that due follow up was not done with the US government and, as a result, the software now has to be purchased.

Urban planners advocate the use of GIS, as it reduces duplication of works, accurately records services, and fault detection remains very easy due to the readily available data. More importantly, it also could put an end to corruption, expecially in civic works, where lines for drainage or water supply are routinely contracted out through tender process.

In VMC’s case, data from ward number 6 was compiled for six services when the software offer came. Data of the existing water supply network, drainage, streetlights, roads and also gas supply was compiled for the ward area spread over 20 square kilometres. Strangely, though the engineers supplied the data for the software, they reportedly refused to certify it. ‘‘There was plain neglect in procuring the software free of cost. Now no one is interested. Also, it will expose the contractor-engineer-politician nexus as the data will show lacunae in many works,’’ said a senior town planning official on grounds of anonymity.

While presently, 16 of VMC’s top engineers, including the chief—city engineer V N Tailor—are busy thinking of defence tactics following show cause notices for alleged irregularities and neglect in road repair works, the lack of centralized data on city utilities is coming to the fore.

Adding to this, with frequent internal transfers, the task of repairs becomes long-drawn out and also susceptible to irregularities, admitted a senior engineer.

While not aware of what happened earlier, when contacted Vadodara Municipal Commissioner MK Das said the GIS system was very useful in town planning and for repairs and recovering property tax. He said he would look into the matter.

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