Guwahati, Wednesday, August 8, 2018
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No end in sight of Guwahatians’ drinking water woes
AJIT PATOWARY
 GUWAHATI, Aug 7 - The much awaited respite for Guwahatians from their drinking water-related woes may remain elusive for a longer period because of the failure of the authorities concerned at the highest level to take the much-needed steps in appointing the right people to fill up the top posts of the Guwahati Jal Board and the four under-construction water supply projects, said experts here.

It needs mention that the Guwahati Development Department (GDD), through the Guwahati Metropolitan Development Authority (GMDA), undertook three water supply schemes covering the entire length and breadth of the city and one more to cover the entire North Guwahati town. These are known as the Guwahati South West (GSW), Guwahati South Central (GSC), Guwahati South East (GSE) and North Guwahati (NG) Water Supply Projects (WSPs). The Guwahati Jal Board was also set up to monitor the operative activities of these water supply schemes, while separate project implementation units (PIUs) were formed for monitoring construction of each of the projects.

The JICA-funded 38-million-litre per day (MLD) NG WSP and the 191-MLD GSC WSP were sanctioned in the 2010-2011 fiscal. Dr Ashish Bhutani was its first PIU director.

Work for executing both the projects started in 2012. US company Louis Berger, Japanese company Nihon Suido and Delhi-based Shah Technical Consultant were appointed as the project management consultants during Dr Bhutani’s tenure. These companies became the engineer of the projects by forming a conglomeration.

Dr Bhutani also appointed the Japanese company NJS as institutional capacity development consultant for these projects.

Work to execute the GSCWSP was awarded to three contractor firms – Jindal (water treatment plant and intake well), Gammon India (construction of seven reservoirs at different locations) and IVRCL (distribution pipe network).

Construction of the treatment plant, reservoir and intake well of the NGWSP was awarded to Jindal and construction of its distribution pipe network was awarded to Biswa.

Dr Bhutani was transferred on deputation to Delhi after completion of the allotment of the above works of the two projects. He handed over charge to Prateek Hajela. But soon, Hajela too was transferred and Amit Shah assumed the responsibility of PIU for the projects. Implementation of the projects attained momentum under his stewardship.

But suddenly he was reverted to his parent department on the advice of an additional chief secretary. Then Dr Rabi Kota was brought into the scene. But he also failed to do justice to the projects because of his over-engagement in six other departments. Subsequently, a powerful lobby at Dispur decided to relieve Dr Kota of his charge as PIU and to bring in Vankatasan, an ex-chief engineer of Tamil Nadu Water Board as project director of the JICA-assisted GSC and NG Water Supply Projects in September, 2017.

Vankatasan was engaged against a monthly remuneration of Rs 3 lakh, besides other perks. But he too failed to do justice to the projects and ultimately both the projects suffered badly and works on the projects are now on the verge of being stopped. Vankatasan recently submitted his resignation and left the city without formally handing over charge. This has made the projects suffer badly, said knowledgeable sources.

Thus far, about 45 per cent of the works of both the projects have been completed. As per the initial deadline, the projects were to be commissioned by the end of 2016.

The estimated cost of both the GSCWSP and the NGWSP is Rs 1973.55 crore. So far an amount of Rs 567.89 crore has been spent on these projects.

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