Challenges: KRFB and TRDCL had to submit substantial justifications for this and get this ratified through a long process. The decision came for criticism from various quarters and those who took a positive decision had to go through the pains of various enquiries to establish the required transparency.
The Client understood the negative aspects of the DPR specification and gave TRDCL the nod for use of interlocking blocks coated with polymer to give a pleasing colour as well as provide the best safety and experience to the pedestrians.
Landscaping: Landscaping and arboriculture were limited to planting of 1234 trees in areas where space outside two metre footpath was available. TRDCL, however, have already planted more than 2200 trees. Of these, more than 1800 have grown above 12ft in height and a girth of 50cm. This way, the development activity has actually added much more greenery than what has been there before.
TRDCL also added lush green traffic islands to add to the junctions making it one of the most homogenously beautified city. In some of the traffic islands, TRDCL has planted fruit bearing plants and bushes, with the idea of attracting local bird species. It has been found that Trivandrum City hosts around a thirty different species of birds on a daily basis and around a dozen species on seasonal basis.
Challenges: Many residents and owners of properties adjoining the roads did not cherish the idea of a tree growing right in front of their property, as it would block the elevation of their buildings. Such a sentiment was in total contrast to the public perception of high environmental awareness of the local people.
In addition, school children and public broke off the shoots and stunted the growth in many places. This has to be attributed to indifference, lack of sensitivity and civic sense.
Some overzealous people, and those who wanted to establish their role in the newly developed beautiful avenues, planted their own trees, often in contravention of IRC and MORTH codes in terms of species and distance between trees. TRDCL had to get this removed to plant its trees. Obviously, this could only be achieved by treading on somebody’s toe. Pruning the trees planted by us itself came under attack by the self appointed environmentalists, which made us suspend the activity.
Provision of flowering plants on medians and traffic islands also was a challenge as very often the plants were stolen. TRDCL had to replace them at its own cost to ensure sustained maintenance.
Street Lights: The project scope included development of 17.173km of existing roads into four-lane and 5.735km into six-lane roads. 19.4km were to be developed into two and three lane roads. The four and six lane roads were to have median and bi-arm street light poles in the median with 250W high pressure sodium vapour (HPSV) lamps to provide an average 15 lux at the road surface.
TRDCL sent enquiries to five major street lighting vendors to submit proposals which would help TRDCL supply a better system than what has been specified in the DPR. TRDCL identified three key differentiators for the lighting system: Fixtures to be energy efficient; Technology not to be obsolete during the fifteen years of its O & M period; and cost of fixtures should be optimum and spares should be made available at reasonable cost.
The result was the introduction of GPS enabled servo-controlled lighting system. TRDCL opted for conventional fixtures after closely examining solar, metal halide lamps and LED lighting. These technologies were high on cost of ownership, as well as not dependable, in contrast with the hype that accompanied them. The products selected with HPSV lamps and GPS enabled system gave the project the following benefits;
b. Facility to monitor the street lights from a central office, using a laptop, through web enabled control system
c. Switching on and off based on astronomical clock
d. Stepped control which allows reduced illumination during lean traffic, say between 2-5 am
e. Circuit health report automatically comes on mobile alert
f. Control unit tampering reported automatically on mobile
g. Facility to prepare various statistics about the street lighting system
Signal Systems: The DPR listed 37 junctions that had to be signalised. Since Kerala State Electronics Development Corporation Ltd (KELTRON) is the pioneer and leader in manufacture of traffic signals, the DPR was prepared in consultation with them. The traffic signals provided are GPS enabled, working fully on solar power.
This too has the following advantages:
a. Saves a modest 8000 units of energy per year
b. Power breakdowns do not affect the traffic signals.
c. Since these are GPS enabled, it is possible to set the signals in a corridor so that vehicles travelling at predictable uniform speed can get green at all junctions along the corridor. In technical terms, this is called “Green Channel”
TRDCL chose to colour the signal poles green to avoid clutter of colours in a junction. The junctions itself are small and a number of yellow coloured poles (as recommended by IRC guidelines) would crowd the junctions and be a psychological aggravator of behaviour. Green poles have merged with the landscaping and have given the junctions a feeling of space and belonging.
Full Footpaths for Pedestrians unlike in many other cities in India
Heritage: The DPR did not touch upon the various aspects of heritage value that we may come across in the work. These included century-old milestones, chumadu thangi (head load supporter), the RR Lamp, the fire hydrants on the roads that were more than a century old, etc. TRDCL took initiative to rehabilitate or restore most of these. The RR Lamp is one of the most beautiful of these. It happens to be the first street light in the State of Kerala, dating back to 1839. We have also restored the old milestones made of solid granite.
Cleanliness and Hygiene: Periodic cleaning of drains which forms part of the responsibility of the concessionaire, has convinced the public that they cannot thrive in the shadow of incompetency of the administration. People who used to discharge household waste and even sewage overflows into the roadside drains, now face criminal action as TRDCL keeps vigil and reports to the Corporation of Thiruvananthapuram. The Corporation takes strict action, and this keeps violators at bay. The net result is that TCRIP streets do not smell!
Regular cleaning and removal of debris and fine sand keeps TCRIP roads always looking fresh.
High Level of Service: The fallout that has positively affected the lives of the public, without even their knowledge, is the high level of service. TCRIP Street lights and signal systems can never be caught idle, as the minimum turn-around time in case of a failure is two hours.
Perception of Outsiders: The City improvements have not received the kind of recognition it deserved from the Government as it has not done much to drive home the good work done by the PWD through KRFB and the concessionaire. Nor is that extra mile walked by TRDCL in satisfying the public expectations and giving attention to detail– which are outside its scope of work– given the needed recognition. However, the support from IL& FS has helped TRDCL deliver a project that is for its outstanding quality and sensitivity.
The bottom line, rather, the most satisfying outcome to the concessionaire, however is the tremendous appreciation the project receives from visitors and people who return to the City and notice the transformation.