PHE Minister’s claim to complete Tawi Lake project in 4 months falls flat

Abandoned by I&FC Deptt, work yet to be resumed at Tawi Artificial Lake project in Jammu. —Excelsior/Rakesh
Abandoned by I&FC Deptt, work yet to be resumed at Tawi Artificial Lake project in Jammu. —Excelsior/Rakesh

Gopal Sharma
JAMMU, Dec 30: Despite claim of Minister for PHE, Irrigation and Flood Control, Sham Choudhary to complete Tawi Artificial Lake Project within four months, the work on the prestigious Lake Project, which had been abandoned about two and half years back, was yet to take off  by the concerned agency.
Official sources told the Excelsior that the officers of the I&FC department at the helm of affairs failed to convince and again rope in the contracting agency M/s GVR Infra Project Ltd to resume the abandoned work for long. After long and hectic round of meetings with the company management, they were now managed to brought the contractor back to resume work at the site after signing fresh MoU.
Minister for PHE, I&FC on October 5, 2017  had claimed that work on the project will be completed within four months, but even after about three months of  his commitment, the work could not be resumed, indicating that his words have fallen flat.
The Excelsior team which visited the site today, found that no machinery and material have been moved to the site and moreover, no work force has been engaged to complete this work within the given time frame as claimed by the Minister concerned.
This important Tawi lake project which has already jumped more than half a dozen deadlines, is unlikely to be completed even before June 2018, keeping in view the  slowest pace of work being witnessed on the said project for the last few years. Amidst speculations of abandoning  this project a few months back, the Minister had claimed that this important Jammu centric project  will not be abandoned and will be completed within 3-4 months.
On this prestigious project, seven years have already been exhausted by the Irrigation  and Flood Control   Department. The work on the project was scheduled to be completed in July 2013. Since then, it has jumped several deadlines and moreover, the new Government also not showed much interest in the early completion of this project, despite the fact that out of Rs 70 crore sanctioned amount, Rs  58 crore already stood  spent on it by the Department. About 90 % work claimed to have been completed on the project by the agency.
Chief Engineer, I&FC, Jammu,  KK Mangotra when contacted claimed that work on the project has now been resumed. He claimed that they have been able to bring back the contracting agency. The M/s GVR Infra people have tie-up with another private agency in view of some financial crunch. On December 22, the work was restarted and the work on re-erecting broken pier has been launched. Some material and machines have also been moved  and people have been put on the job to break the damaged pier.  Some more machinery is being moved to the site  and the work is likely to be completed by the end of March 2018.
He claimed that it is not possible to complete it within four months as per Minister’s claim (by the end of January-2018).  But interestingly, contrary to the claim of the Chief Engineer, no work has actually been launched at the Tawi project.  No one was found initiating work at the damaged pier and the things were lying the same way.
Replying to another question, the Chief Engineer said that the work on raising gated- structures on Nikki Tawi side will also be started shortly and this work has already been completed on Baddi Tawi side. The number of gates on Nikki Tawi side is almost double the number on the Baddi Tawi side. They have been fabricated at the site only.
Another senior official  said that the company M/s GVR Infra Project Ltd after completion will run the project for one year and after imparting training to the department staff will handover to it for operation to the Department. This is clearly mentioned in the agreement with the company. He said one pier developed damage due to flood after 2014 and is slightly tilted. It is responsibility of the contracting agency to reconstruct it. All the 20 gated structures on Nikki Tawi have been fabricated. It will take about one and half month to raise the same. The pier will be repaired within two months,” he added.
He pointed out that the pace of work on this project went slow after the then Congress Minister Taj Mohiuddin was transferred to Health Department  and further after 2014 floods. He said suspension of  funds was also problem for the agency and moreover, the new dispensation also did not show much interest. Even no repair work was initiated on the damaged site.  He said work was launched on this project in 2010 and it was scheduled to be completed in 2013, about 4 months ahead of its given schedule. But unfortunately this project fell victim to political wrangles.
As per the MoU, the  Company  will operate this barrage for one year as it is turn- key project and based on run of the river scheme. It is not proper to say that project is not viable. M/S GVR Infra Ltd will run it successfully for one year and it has agreed for any defect liability for next two years. Moreover, an amount of Rs 8 crore of the company is lying with the I&FC Department.
The official further revealed that I&FC Department is monitoring the entire work on the project, including the construction of auto-mechanically operated gated-barrage having length of 370 mts and height of 4 mts with sluice gates across river Tawi, one kilometer down stream of the main Tawi bridge with RCC base, spill way, gang way, guide bunds etc for creation of pondage up to Gujjar Nagar bridge.
He said the  length of barrage on the Nikki Tawi side is  about 240 mts. It is only due to change of course by the river since decades. There will be 20 such gates with dimensions of 10 mts width and 4 mts height each.  Total length of barrage/ lake will be 1540 mts, up to Gujjar Nagar bridge while the pondage of nearly 0.0011 Million Acre Feet (MAF) water will be created. In case of flood, all the gates will be opened and it will take three and half days to again create pondage maintaining height of  4 mts.
He said that out of the total Rs 70 crore project cost,  Rs 25 crore is Central assistance, Rs 25 crore has been awarded by the 13th Finance Commission while rest, Rs 20 crore have been arranged from the  State Planning department.