370 cr WB funding will strengthen COVID fighting efforts: Abid Rasheed

Kashmir Magazine


KM: Can you tell us how Rs 370 crore funding will strengthen the health care infrastructure in J&K?


SAR: J&K ERA is implementing the World Bank-funded Jehlum Tawi Flood Recovery Project (JTFRP). It was started in 2016 in response to devastating floods of September 2014. It has a component for contingency component response should any such emergency response be required, the funding from component VI can be utilized. We invoked it. Government of J&K wrote to Department of Economic Affairs who took up the case with World Bank and got approval for utilization of USD 50 million (which is about Rs 370 crores) for COVID response of the Govt. COVID-19 has emerged as a major healthcare challenge all over the world. It has become a major challenge for health care systems all over the world. J&K ERA in consultation with the World Bank has worked towards organising the funding which will help to augment the COVID response. The Jammu and Kashmir Medical Supplies Corporation (JKMSCL) has been incorporated as Project Implementation Unit for implementation of this funding. Besides strengthening the government’s COVID response, the existing resource will be reinforced to provide health care facilities to people of Jammu and Kashmir at a different level. The funding will be used to procure critical care ambulances, high flow oxygen devices, oxygen concentrators, infusion pumps, Doppler machines, operation tables, hydraulic operation tables, state of the art ultrasonic equipment, CT scans, cardiac monitors, etc.


KM: Drainage in Srinagar was badly affected by the devastating floods of 2014. Has it been covered under JTFRP project?


SAR: Srinagar city is continuously expanding, in fact witnessing urban sprawl. Many areas which were low lying areas are now part of the city and get inundated or witness flood-like situations in the event of continuous rainfall. The first thing which comes into focus, in such circumstances is the drainage of the area and whether it is connected with the drainage network of the city. Earlier also ERA had come up with major drainage projects in the city under Asian Development Bank funding which is providing relief to lakhs of people from overflowing roads and alleys. However, there were some missing links. So Four major drainage projects worth Rs 133 crore have been taken up by ERA now. In South City Padshai Bagh, Natipora, Nowgam area which was first hit by floods in 2014. In these areas, a shower was leading to the roads inundated. HMT, Shalteng, Nowgam are also covered under the new drainage projects. At present construction is going on three projects and quality checks are being conducted at all levels.

These projects will touch the lives of inhabitants of these areas, making a very positive difference in the quality of living. I am very hopeful that J&K ERA will complete these projects ahead of the set timeline.


KM: Is there any issue of funding for the ERA projects?


SAR: I am happy to share with you that there has been no such issue. Government of J&K and Finance department has played a very positive role in this multilaterally funded project. These are resource-rich projects, they just need timely implementation. We always endeavour to clear the bills on time. The prime focus of this project is to ensure that quality works are executed with a special focus on preventing time & cost overruns. The disbursement schedules are shaped up well in advance so that the targets are met well in advance.



KM: Many are of the belief that projects in J&K are not completed on time despite liberal funding?


SAR: Innovations have been a tradition in ERA since its inception in 2005. Even today we are utilizing some technologies which are being used for the first time in J&K. We have devised a specific mechanism to monitor and evaluate the projects on a weekly basis so that deadlines are not missed. We can check each physical and financial work supported by photographic evidence at the click of a button. We have used the Management Information System (MIS) for scientific monitoring mechanisms.



KM: How is River Morphology studies of Jehlum and Tawi rivers useful in flood management?


SAR: River morphology studies of Jehlum and Tawi rivers were one of the main components of JTFRP project. It was carried for the first time in J&K. The studies were carried out to check river gradient, embankments status, the population on river banks, water flow speed and other technicalities. The study was outsourced to international consultancies following due process, to rope in international expertise in the area of flood management. Our task was to get the studies completed for effective river management by the Flood Control Deptt.


KM: Roads in J&K particularly in the valley get frequently damaged during the harsh winters. Is ERA using any better technology for road construction which can withstand harsh winters?


SAR: JTFRP has a component of the construction of bridges and roads which were damaged in 2014 floods. About Rs 400 crore has been earmarked for construction and up-gradation of roads. Rigid Concrete Pavement Technology is being used in these roads projects on a major scale, for the first time in J&K. ERA is employing global best practices in construction/infrastructure development of the World Bank-funded JTFRP. The roads constructed with Concrete Rigid Payment Technology will last for 30 years. Suffice to say this is future of road construction technology in J&K and can withstand our harsh winters, with cardinal features of longevity, low maintenance and a much better experience for the general public. Public support and encouragement for such innovations have been very forthcoming in all areas of operation.


KM: Is there any scope for livelihood generation in the world bank funded JTFRP?


SAR: JTFRP has a separate component for Restoration and strengthening of livelihoods for 15 Million USD; 90 Crores

Some industries were part of traditional livelihood generation in J&K and became part of the identity of Jammu and Kashmir at the global level. For example, the silk industry from J&K was known all over the world for its quality. For the revival of the industry, Rs 16 crore civil works of Rajbagh silk factory were completed. We also ordered modern silk machinery for the factory from Surat and Mumbai so that the industry is revived to its full potential. Likewise, Papier-mâchié is a world-famous art and J&K has earned a name in it and we identified these clusters by roping in artisans. We are trying to link up the traditional handicrafts and handloom industry with e-commerce platforms for a global linkage. Similarly, in Noor Bagh area many families are involved in embroidery. We are trying for restoration and strengthening the livelihood. J&K has a wide range of goods that are unique to it, but branding of the products has a potential for big improvements. We have hired an international consultancy for branding of traditional handicrafts of J&K. Handholding of these artisans for betterment of the livelihood is the need of the hour.


KM: Can you tell us something more about how World Bank project has cemented the disaster Management efforts of J&K Government?


SAR: J&K has multihazard risks. We have witnessed major disasters like 2005 earthquake, 2014 floods, Urban Fire emergencies are common in winters. We have to augment disaster management capacity. We have setup early warning system, the Integrated Operational Forecasting System (IOFS). We have institutionalised a decision support centre for Disaster Risk Management. The Emergency Response Centres will run on automation that we have got developed. If there is a disaster trigger, it will activate all stakeholders. River Morphology studies will help in flood management of rivers. We have to commissioned studies for revision of Building Codes & material specification to revise and update our infrastructure development techniques due to risk of natural disaster. We have handed over Rs 26 crore equipment like underwater cameras, boats, jackets and other related equipment which were given to SDRF. We have recently handed over 17 quick response vehicles to F&ES department. They will help us to reach out to buildings in congested alleys during fire emergencies. Overall we have covered wide areas whether it is civil infrastructure, studies, scholarly interventions, and livelihood generations. I would particularly like to share with you after approval of Hon’ble LG for procuring medical equipment at a cost of US dollars 50 million , the efforts of health department to strengthen COVID-19 efforts will get augmented in a big way. J&K ERA wants the J&K Medical Supplies Corporation Ltd to provide benefit of these approval to the general public in an honest , efficient and prompt way


KM: Any message you want to give people of J&K.


SAR: We operate in a spirit of participatory governance. The best developmental initiatives are where people become part of it and participate in implementation. Any Governance model which has public participation is successful. Our endeavour is wherever we take projects, we take everyone along. We try to engage public through all means like social media. I request the general public to participate and reach out to us on social media, email, phones for suggestions, feedback and grievances. We have a robust public feedback mechanism and grievance redressal mechanism. Our portal www.jtfrp.in can be accessed for such purposes. We have made a lot of proactive disclosure of information in the interest of probity, transparency and accountability towards the general public.