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Info Connect | March 2014

Urban infrastructure in project management

With an increasing share of the Indian economy generated within urban areas, cities symbolise much of the optimism and opportunities of the country. Most of the new jobs and growth in gross domestic product (GDP) in India are expected to take place in cities. In addition to accommodating a doubling of urban residents over the next couple of decades, urban infrastructure will have to link urban and rural areas much better. Infrastructure services are in demand, and that demand will grow anywhere from two to five times over the next 20 years, depending on the sector. Outdated infrastructure cannot absorb this anticipated growth in population and increased economic activity, and the level of investment made during the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) will have to be increased even further going forward.  

As cities in India begin to develop and implement urban infrastructure projects with private sector financing, the issue of project management capacity has come to the fore. Projects enable service delivery improvement and in consequence, human development. Project preparation is a key building block in encapsulation of a project and must therefore be carefully prepared with sufficient rigor and necessary details on inputs, processes, outputs, and outcomes. A project report must also ensure appraisal, approval, and subsequent project implementation in a planned manner. On the ground, it is however observed that project reports are hurriedly prepared, consultant driven, and do not stand the test of rigor in the field, particularly during implementation. As well, little or no attention is paid to operational aspects and post-implementation maintenance. As a result, post approval ownership of Detailed Project Report is seen as being limited. Although the Government of India (GoI) might not be able to pay for the required level of investment, money alone is no longer considered the real challenge affecting urban development. Urban management poses the biggest challenge to developing quality infrastructure that can sufficiently respond to market demand for basic services and economic activity. Demand for services-especially basic services-will increasingly comes from the poor, who make up the majority of the population in both rural and urban areas, and from the emerging middle class.

 

Proposed action points for expediting urban infrastructure projects in India.

 
     
  • The following actions points once implemented could help in debottlenecking infrastructure projects and help ensure timely project implementation within the stipulated budgets. These steps include:
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  • Establishing a three-tier project/program management office (PMO) structure throughout the country to monitor infrastructure projects
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  • Optimising the procedures for transparent bidding criteria
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  • Developing an efficacious dispute settlement mechanism
 
     
  • Formulising project management training for professionals:
 

- Further strengthening India's Vocational Education and Training program to impart project management knowledge to working officials having varied experience.
 - Foster collaboration and cooperation with educational institutes to counter the insufficiency/ shortage/ paucity of professionals well equipped to handle infrastructure projects.
 - Encouraging further development of in-house academies and structured training programs

 
     
  • Introducing a single window clearance mechanism to make the regulatory approval process more effective
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  • Adopting a unified unambiguous transparent transport policy for movement of project materials especially the ODCs (oversized dimensioned consignments). Further, designing an efficient transport and logistics system to enable faster project implementation throughout the country.
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  • Managing and sharing the exhaustive list of empanelled vendors (equipped with project management discipline) with giant Government organisations and PSUs on their respective internet websites.
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  • Promoting balanced Public Private Partnership (PPP) in infrastructure sector for faster implementation of projects.
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  • Promoting joint evaluation of project design by project owners and contractors for value engineering.
 

Source: PMI KPMG Study on project schedule and cost overruns, 2013

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