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Clean water hope hits roadblock

Residents have a longer wait ahead of them for clean and round-the-clock water supply to become a reality.

The Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission’s Patna Water Supply Project was approved in 2012. The project was supposed to complete by this March, but three months beyond the deadline, work is hardly at a close.

On Monday, urban development and housing minister Samrat Choudhary said it was time to take some stern decisions to bring the government’s project back on track.

Among the new measures is to float fresh tenders for the project being carried out by Bihar Urban Infrastructure Development Corporation (BUIDCo).

The Rs 426-crore project entails the construction of 72 overhead water tanks in different areas of Patna and laying an 850km pipeline. Land transfer and tardy work are holding up the project, too.

Residents are far from pleased. “In several areas in Patna City, the water is contaminated. Every other day, there are protests and roadblocks against the poor supply. In such a situation, if a project aiming to provide clean and steady water supply is delayed, it is unfortunate,” Ravindra Kumar, a resident of Khajekala, said.

Geo Miller and Company Pvt. Ltd. and Gammon India Ltd. were given the contract for the job that would help provide Patna clean water. But only 20 per cent of the work has been done. At present, 26 overhead water tanks are under construction and of 850km of pipeline, only 169km has been laid. Till now, the Centre has released Rs 107 crore of its share of Rs 213 crore for the project.

Choudhary said: “The work is going on at a very slow pace. One of the major reasons is land transfer, but a lot was expected from the companies too. They have not been able to deliver that. So, the department has decided to float fresh tenders for areas where land transfer has not been done. New companies would be chosen for the remaining work, which means the project would take some more time to complete.”

BUIDCo sources said the state government had been seriously mulling a change of contractors.

An official said: “The project is moving very slowly. The state government had been thinking of cancelling the tender to the companies and get fresh firms for the job. But then the whole process is technical and time-consuming.”

For that too, the government has taken a decision.

Minister Choudhary said: “The companies working on the project now would be given a deadline to finish the work, failing which they would be blacklisted. The department is thinking about a deadline of December this year or March next year. In this time, fresh tenders for areas still untouched would be issued, most likely by next month.”

Land transfer has been a major problem for the project, as several of the plots required belong to different agencies and departments.

A source at the BUIDCo told The Telegraph: “The plots where overhead water tanks would be constructed belong to different government and private agencies, including Patna Municipal Corporation and private or government schools. These have to transfer the plot to BUIDCo, the work of which is stuck because of red tape. The work of Geo Miller and Gammon is also not up to the mark. So, for the work left, the department would award fresh tenders to companies.”