Just ahead of his retirement Metropolitan Commissioner Rahul Asthana interacted with media. Here are some of the questions he answered.
Do you regret leaving MMRDA while quite a few projects will be completed this year?
It would have been nicer to be present while projects attain completion. However, I am happy to have taken many a project to the completion stage. The Eastern Freeway will be completed by March-end or early-April. The Milan ROB will be completed before monsoon and the Sahar Elevated Road will be operational by October after Terminal-2 is completed. The SCLR is also heading towards the yearend completion. We are confident the Metro-1 corridor from Versova to Airport will be completed by August and the rest of the corridor up to Ghatkopar by December end. The Mono Rail project is, of course, aiming at September completion.
While leaving MMRDA what solutions would you suggest ensuring smoother traffic scenario?
I think the city should follow Singapore pattern. Buying cars there isn’t very easy; in fact, it is very expensive. Besides, there are huge road taxes, congestion fees. At times, people park their cars kilometers away from their destination. After all there will be a limit to elevated roads in a city like Mumbai.
What is an ideal way forward for MMRDA, in your opinion, once these projects are completed?
In my opinion, the MMRDA should concentrate on regional and transport infrastructure and not look at any other infrastructure development.
What is the future of Metro-2 project?
Personally, I think Metro-2 should be underground. I also feel Metro-2 should be extended up to Dahisar. We have also identified land for a car depot at Dahisar.
Is there any escalation in costs of Metro-1?
Escalation, if any, in costs will be dealt with according to the Concession Agreement.
What about the Mono Rail Master Plan?
Mono Rail is a feeder service. The success of such a feeder service will largely depend upon the development of Metro Rail network. Also the experience of running the entire corridor from Chembur to Sant Gadge Maharaj Chowk via Wadala will guide us as to the success of the Mono Rail.
What will be the focus area for MMRDA once these projects are completed?
We will continue to focus on the transport infrastructure of the city and its metropolitan region. While we will spend Rs.1,542 crores on projects in the city, an amount of Rs.1,922 crores will be spent on projects in the metropolitan region.
What do you expect from the Budget?
I think it would be prudent to make financing of projects a little bit easier – this will help securing loans and attaining financial closures. As far as MTHL is concerned the concessionaire would need to bring in about Rs.4,000 crores after he receives contribution from MMRDA and the Viability Gap Funding. MMRDA is ready to guarantee banks up to 90% of the loan amount in case of defaults. I feel the banks should rest assured about the repayment of the loans after this guarantee.
The bidding process for the Mumbai Trans-Harbour Link Project will begin in May. Through CIDCO we are assured of 70 hectares of land and for the remaining 30 hectares of land we have held series of successful meetings with land owners. We have mutually agreed to compensate them on the formula which will be arrived at while deciding compensation for the land owners in case of the new airport.
How about MMRDA generating revenue through yearly taxes from the areas where it is appointed special planning authority?
It’s not at all a bad thought. However, as of now MMRDA is sitting over a pretty large land bank, but, yes maybe after a decade or two such taxes would be necessary. We have also suggested for development charges. Of course, all that is for the government to decide in appropriate perspective.
Would you say you are happy and satisfied while leaving MMRDA and say “Karun Dakhavale”?
“Karun Dakhavale” would be a little apolitical. But I am happy to have brought many a project to their logical conclusion!