Sunday, January 10, 2010

A day at the SPARC office, part 3

Later in the day, we found out that Sheela was still not close to being done with her conference call. While contemplating what to do next, wait for her and be late for family dinner, or leave, we spoke with Avery again. It was once again a very informative conversation. Throughout our stay with SPARC there was repeated mention of the Orissa Project. We did not know what this project was, so we asked her for more details about the project. She explained that right now SPARC is in the process of bidding on redevelopment projects, which will take place in one city in Orissa, Bhubaneswar. SPARC is now in the process of bidding on an upgrading project in Puri, Orissa. (We were just recently told about this program application.) The central government of India (GOI) is going for a slum-free India under it's soon-to-be-released Rajiv Awas Yojana plan. However, as the final plan has not yet been released. Avery mentioned that with a major focus on speed, there may be less of a focus on quality. But this is yet to be seen, and Avery continues optimistic.

We asked how this is possible, as redevelopment in Mumbai is taking decades? It’s a political move, to be able to say that within one’s time in office, the politician can claim their achievement within his or her term. We wondered about the logistics, such as surveys and building models and such. Avery explained that the project in Orissa is going to be very similar to the project in Pune. The kinds of buildings that will be built are different compared to the ones in Pune, because there is far more land available in Orissa. Pune has just finished the surveys, designs, and biometric IDs, but have not yet started construction. Orissa has one year to go from surveys to finished construction. Although this is a very short timeframe than one would like, this will be possible because the general plan is still the same: the general implementation and financing (in this project, the JNNURM projects in Pune and Orissa don't use a market component, the breakdown is about 50% central gov't, 10% beneficiary, and 40% shared between the state and the municipality). Moreover, the move from kaccha (informal) to pakka (formal) houses, construction of sewers, and bringing the roads to code will be also done, just as in Pune. In the Orissa project, SPARC was a bidder and has won the project. So, now SPARC needs to complete all of this in one year. One of the reasons SPARC got the project was that it had a model that it could draw from in Pune, which was approved by the state government in Orissa. By using the same model in Orissa, the state would be able to utilize the central resources to redevelop.

An interesting highlight in this conversation, which we believe can be understood for most locations, is that people on the ground floor will be allowed to stay in the same location with upgrades. However, others will be rehoused to different locations, such as in the apartments above the ground floor. Not being able to stay on the same plot of land can be a site of tension.

Mahila Milan acts as go between for the residents and architect, and relay the messages of what they have learned through cooperation to other communities. Avery said that in this way, Mahila Milan also explains that although the residents might not be living on the ground floor, the lofts that they would be provided has more floor space.

We do not have much information on this subject matter, but we think it is important to share that Avery briefly touched on another SPARC bid that is currently taking place in Bangalore. SPARC is likely to get the Orissa project because there are not many builders wanting to put in so much effort for a project that might not turn a large profit. In Bangalore, however, there may be a bit more competition because the bid is solely for conducting a survey project over 6 months. There may be more competition because the project is calling for a system in which the ID cards which contain all the biometric information of residents be swipable. So there are probably going to be a number of IT companies bidding for the project. Bangalore has many tech companies that can do this task far better than SPARC, but SPARC still provides a higher expertise in conducting the surveys themselves. In an unpdate received from SPARC, we were informed that they did not win this bid, but they are happy to hear that anohter CBO has and that they will be including some community mobilization components as part of their surveying.

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