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Water scheme hangs in balance

Pure water is still a distant dream in the city. Indecisiveness over floating a fresh tender or revoking the cancellation of the contract of the laggard consortium has cast a shadow on the future of the Patna water supply project.

The deadline barely four months away, the project under the Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) has made little progress. The Bihar Urban Infrastructure Development Corporation (BUIDCo) cancelled the contract of the consortium of Geo Miller & Company Private Limited and Gammon India Limited following poor progress of the scheme. The firm completed only 20 per cent of the work in two years and four months.

When BUIDCo sent intimation about termination of the contract to its parent body, the urban development and housing department, the matter was put on hold. Department minister Samrat Choudhary claimed that the matter was under review at present following a request by Gammon to revoke the termination order.

“BUIDCo cancelled the original contract of Geo Miller & Company Private Limited and Gammon India Limited following slow progress of work. Gammon has recently requested us to allow them to continue with the construction of overhead water tanks at 35 locations and they have assured us that they would complete the work within 18 months,” said Samrat.

Acting as the nodal agency, BUIDCo had selected the consortium of Geo Miller & Company Private Limited and Gammon India Limited in February 2012 for execution of the Patna water supply scheme at an outlay of Rs 548.83 crore. The consortium had to construct overhead water tanks at 72 locations but land could be provided at 19 places. Work was in progress at 18 locations.

The minister claimed that complete termination of the consortium would not be financially viable. “If we issue fresh tender under scheme, the project cost would escalate by around Rs 300 crore. But the consortium of Geo Miller and Gammon India has assured us that they would complete the work at 35 locations at old rates. This, in turn, would save us the extra Rs 300 crore in the project cost,” said Samrat.

Sources in BUIDCo said the penalty amounting to over Rs 4 crore has been slapped on the consortium of Geo Miller and Gammon India over the past two years. The new water supply scheme assumes significance because the existing defunct network of water supply is based on extraction of ground water, which dries up the water table. Under the project, the city has been divided into two zones for construction of overhead tanks — north and south. The Delhi-Howrah railway tracks are dividing line.

The parts of the city to the north of tracks are supposed to be supplied water from Ganga. The southern part would be supplied groundwater through new tubewells and reservoirs to be constructed.