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Kerala - Kottayam Printer Friendly Page   Send this Article to a Friend

LDF Municipal Council to introduce user fee regime

By George Jacob


KOTTAYAM, JAN. 25. Their colleagues may still be wrangling over the approach to be adopted in development activities in other parts of the State, but the LDF-controlled Municipal Council at Changanassery has already decided to usher in the `user fee' regime.

The first among these projects would be that of a recreational facility that will be implemented on a Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) basis. The project is being taken up at the 11-acre Poovakkatu chira on the MC Road, which comprises two acres of land and nine acres of water body.

The chira, which was once the largest water bodies of its kind in the low-lying areas of Changanassery, used to meet the needs of the local people. It was also well-connected to the `kayal' areas and this used to ensure clean water throughout the year.

However, the past many decades saw the `chira' being put into disuse. Thanks to the many development projects, the flow of water into the `kayal' part was disrupted and the area slowly got covered with water hyacinth. Later, a two-acre area, which had MC Road frontage, was reclaimed and a park set up. The Rs. 1.33 crore project, now finalised by ICICI-Kinfra under the tourism enhancement programme, envisages a floating restaurant, boating facility, a health club, jogging track, musical fountain and an open air theatre for presenting cultural events; fee will be imposed for availing the facilities.

The municipal authorities have for the past many years been trying to turn the `chira' into a recreational facility, but they could not move ahead on account of the financial problems.

"We had included the project in our 2001 budget. However, we had to pass through a number of obstacles before we got the go-ahead signal from the State Government. As far as I know, this is the first and only project of this kind in the State. Attingal and Tirur municipalities also are implementing projects on BOT basis, but they are shopping complexes," the Municipal vice chairman, Mathews George, said.

The Municipality has already invited financial and commercial proposals for the project through competitive bidding. The parties can be individuals, partnerships or joint stock companies. It would impose an initial charge of around Rs. 5 lakhs towards the initial expenses needed for the project finalisation, Mr George said.

As per the proposal, the parties would have to pay an annual fee of Rs. 2.25 lakhs to the Municipality. There would be an annual increase of 10 per cent in this fee.

The new approach to developmental projects or utility services at the local level have many critics. A similar project in the neighbouring Kottayam Municipality has run into rough weather. Interestingly, here it is the LDF members who have taken up cudgels against the UDF-controlled Municipal Council for bringing in the user fee regime.

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