Fate of Kochi smart city projects in balance – ET RealEstate

KOCHI: As the deadline for completing projects under smart city ended on March 31, chances are high for Kochi losing some of the mega projects.

According to the officials with Cochin Smart Mission Ltd (CSML), the Union government hasn’t given any instruction regarding extending the deadline.

Of the total projects worth Rs 1,754 crore, works to the tune of just Rs 584 crore has been completed even after five years since starting smart city project in Kochi.

“We are going ahead with the works which we have already been started. Still, the fate of some of the projects which are yet to be started is in the balance,” an official associated with CSML said. “Works of smart roads, including that of Abraham Madamackal Road, will be completed by the end of the month. Works of other roads also are progressing,” the official said.

Though the CSML authorities awarded the work on Rs 166 crore vacuum sewer project to be implemented in West Kochi to a private firm, the work couldn’t be started due to protests from the local residents.

The sewage project aims at collecting and treating sewage from all the households and other establishments in five divisions of Kochi corporation in Mattancherry and Fort Kochi areas.

When the private firm, to which the work was awarded, conducted soil inspection at the proposed site for the plant near Fort Kochi Taluk Hospital they had to stop the work due to protests by local residents.

They fear that their drinking water sources will be contaminated if the pipes carrying sewage leaks. According to the officials, the plant works on vacuum system.

“Using the force of vacuum the waste is drawn into the plant through the pipelines. If there is any leak in the pipeline, the system will stop,” an official said.

Though several rounds of reconciliation talks were held, the authorities couldn’t break the deadlock.

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Kerala HC asks government’s decision on rent waiver for IT companies – ET RealEstate

KOCHI: The Kerala high court on Wednesday asked the state government to inform whether it has taken a decision on the plea of IT companies operating out of SmartCity in Kochi for rent waiver in view of Coronavirus recession a.k.a the Great Lockdown.

Justice Anu Sivaraman asked the government to inform its decision after considering a petition filed by four IT companies based out of SmartCity Kochi, which is an IT special economic zone (SEZ) in which the state government is said to own a 16 per cent stake.

During the hearing, a counsel representing Smart City (Kochi) Infrastructure Pvt Ltd submitted that it is a private company and the state government’s order of April 27th for rent waiver to IT companies is not applicable to it. Such a waiver can only be availed by IT companies operating in buildings owned by the government. Notification issued in favour of SmartCity clearly identifies it as a private company, the counsel argued.

On a petition filed by the four companies, the court had recently passed an order directing the state government to consider the representation filed by the companies seeking waiver of rent and other financial benefits in tune with the government order of April 27th.

Rent, maintenance, and electricity charges for two months have not been paid by the IT companies yet, the counsel representing SmartCity submitted. The government’s order only exempts payment of rent. Being a private company, SmartCity cannot function if the IT companies do not pay rent as it has to pay staff and contractors owing to the government’s order that employees cannot be laid off, the counsel told the court.

The counsel representing the IT companies submitted that there is ambiguity on whether the government’s order is applicable in the case of these companies and the government’s decision is expected. The chief minister himself is acting as the chariman of SmartCity and the government holds 20 per cent of the shares of SmartCity. We all were under the impression that it still is under the ownership of the government. Therefore, there is ambiguity in whether the petitioner companies are bound to pay the rent in view of the government’s order, the counsel submitted while seeking three weeks’ time so that the government takes a decision. Following the submission, the court asked the government to inform its decision.

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