ALREADY BESET by a host of problems phase three of the Narmada project is now threatened by a new snafu. The Urban Water Supply and Environment Improvement Project (USWEIP), of which Narmada-III is a part, has exceeded budgetary allocation even before physical work has commenced on the mammoth infrastructure development programme.
As things stand now the Asian Development Bank-assisted Rs 671.72 crore USWEIP has vaulted expenditure limits by ten per cent, or nearly Rs 68 crore.
The startling revelation came at a meeting between Philip Fields-team leader of the Project Management Consultancy overseeing USWEI Projects in all four beneficiary cities, Bhopal, Indore, Gwalior and Jabalpur-and an IMC team headed by Mayor Dr Uma Shashi Sharma on Thursday afternoon.
“The project is already overbudgeted (sic) by 10 per cent and the figure is likely to go up further after the tender process is completed. The question, then, is will ADB provide the extra money? At the moment the answer is no”, Fields, a qualified engineer, bluntly told the meeting, that witnessed attendance by Municipal Commissioner Vinod Sharma and manager, Project Implementation Unit (PIU) Prabhash Sankhla.
Fields cited the unresponsiveness of contractors as one of the main reasons for the Indore edition of the ADB project going fiscally overboard. “Problems with contractors led to tenders being re-invited and this led to not only a hike in costs but also delayed the project”, he pointed out. “Already there’s skepticism because of the slow pace and if there’s no progress in the next six months then there’ll be a real problem”, said Fields at the meeting.
He advised the Indore Municipal Corporation (IMC) to focus on finding the exact reasons for the contractors’ apathy and to ensure prompt payments.
“If they are not sure about getting the money obviously there’s little chance that they will want to carry out the works”, he pointed out.
The PMC boss declared that it was up to the three agencies involved, ADB, the State government and IMC, to coordinate things so that payments were not delayed.
Fields said although unsatisfied with the progress the ASDB was still pushing through. “We’re not satisfied with the progress but we’re pushing through”. He, however, expreesed admiration for reforms carried out by the IMC. “Reforms proposals submitted on paper are always ambitious. But the IMC has done well to fulfill a large portion of what it promised.
USWEIP Project Implementation Unit manager Prabhash Sankhla: It’s a little premature to say the project has exceeded the budget.
The final picture will emerge only after major tenders are cleared. The technical bids for the Rs 20 crore intake well and Rs 31 crore filter plant will be opened on October 12. Furthermore a notice inviting tenders for a Rs 250 crore package for laying gravity rising, raw water and clear water mains will be floated on October 7. Only after this will the fiscal position become clear. Also, escalation costs amounting to 5 per cent have been included in the project estimate.