Political slugfest puts two key water projects at risk

Delays May Set PMC Back By Rs 100 Crore
Politicians’ ego hassles and unnecessary delays have jeopardised two major water inititaives in the city -24X7 water supply and the Bhama Askhed project.The projects, which currently cost more than Rs 2,800 crore and Rs 380 crore respectively , may see a cost escalation of nearly Rs 100 crore.

State government authorities recently issued a `stop work notice’ to the 24×7 supply project’s works. Following this, building of overhead tanks has stopped. This has also raised many questions on the proposed overhaul of pipeline works, worth Rs 1,800 crore.

The Bhama Askhed project has barely moved forward in the last one-and-a-half years, adding to the water woes in Ahmednagar Road areas.

Sources said the competition over taking credit for the 24×7 water supply project led to ego hassles among leaders of different parties, including BJP and NCP . The matter then had to be taken to the state assembly .

“The issue was raised in the assembly during the last winter session and action was initiated this budget session. State-level leaders want to prove their might by stalling the project. It may adversely impact the initiative’s fate. Civic officials have been left with no option but to wait for a green signal from the politicos. The delay in these two projects will increase the projects’ cost for the Pune Municipal Corporation,“ the source further said. PMC sources expect no immediate relief.

Citizens’ activists say playing politics with the city’s essential services are a bad sign for the future.

“Political interests may be served due to stalled works but not public interest. The 24X7 water project is important to streamline the distribution network,“ member of Sajag Nagrik Manch Vishwas Sahastrabuddhe said. Sahastrabuddhe added that if the cost of the project increases, the funds must be recovered from politicians. Talking about the other key project that has been stalled, the Bhama Askhed project, a senior official from the civic body said only 40% of its work is complete. Requesting anonymity , he further said, “The project is funded under JNNURM scheme.Instalments are to be issued according to the performance and status of the works for this project. The delay in project will affect the availability of funds.The scheme’s account will be closed, and no money can be taken after March 2017.“

The pipeline work has been stuck since May 2015 after villagers agitated against it and demanded compensation for their land and damaged machineries. Shiv Sena MLA of Khed constituency Suresh Gore had then taken up the issue of the farmers’ rehabilitation. NCP leaders also staged agitations against the project, making it a political issue and opposing the BJP-led state government.

“Government authorities have raised questions on the validity of 1,303 land records and doubted if compensation can be given to these land owners. More than 7,000 people, including farmers from 35 villages, are suffering due to poor compensation,“ Gore told TOI. He added that the issue would be taken up during the ongoing budget ses sion of the assembly .

Residents say they have no choice and have to see their money being wasted. Ashish Mane of citizens’ forum Vadagaon Sheri Nagrik Manch said, “The administration is helpless against politicos. Politicians are not worried about the rise in prices. The only ones to suffer are citizens. Firstly, they have no water, and secondly , their money is being wasted,“ he said.

Head of the PMC’s water department, V G Kulkarni, said the civic administration has put forward its side of the story to the state. “We will wait for the state’s order and act accordingly,“ he said.

Source : TOI