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Outsourcing Jhelum Dredging Blunder: Experts

Posted on April 18, 2017

By Mudasir Yaqoob, Greater Kashmir

With authorities failing to increase carrying capacity of river Jhelum, experts have blamed outsourcing of dredging process saying “it has proven to be sheer wastage of money.”

Experts maintain that viable option to increase Jhelum’s carrying capacity is to revive the erstwhile ‘Circle for Dredging’ in the Irrigation and Flood Control department. The Circle existed prior to 1986 and had proven to be an effective and economical option.

The official records state that in 2010 the then government had purchased two dredgers which were pressed into service to dredge the outflow flow channels of Jhelum at Sopore and Baramulla.

The records further state that the cost of dredgers was recovered within few months of their working.

“Sand and silt dredged out from the river was sold and this facilitated recovery of cost of dredgers and maintenance charges besides generating revenue for the state. These dredgers are still functional and are in a condition to work smoothly for next two decades,” said an official.

One of two American Dredgers from the Ellicott Dredge Company

In 2015, the then Chief Minister, Mufti Muhammad Sayeed had directed the authorities to purchase two more dredgers to ensure enhanced and effective dredging of Jhelum.

“The late Mufti was against outsourcing the dredging project. He had told officials that the cost of two dredgers would be around Rs 10 crore. He had a vision that cost of these two dredgers would be recovered by selling of dredged sand within a few months. He had also told officials that the machines will remain public property for decades apart from acting as revenue generator,” said an official, who was privy to that meeting.

He said subsequently the Irrigation and Flood Control department had floated tenders for purchase of two more dredgers. However, after his (Mufti’s) death, the officials in civil secretariat turned down the proposal and outsourced the project.

“The proposal to buy two more dredgers was a far sighted idea for equipping the existing fleet in Irrigation and Flood Control department. The two dredgers would have doubled dredging process. Unfortunately, the authorities outsourced the dredging at a cost of Rs 44 crore and the experiment failed. This speaks poorly about the vision of the authorities,” said Ajaz Rasool a hydraulic expert.

“The Kolkata based firm was given a contract under terms and conditions to complete the project within one year to which they have failed, using poor quality Chinese made dredgers, and executed only seventeen percent of the assigned work. The authorities, instead of giving them an extension should have penalized the firm for inordinate delay and taken action against them for not achieving project targets,” he said.

He added that the dredging done by them has not even achieved even one percent of benefit towards remediations and risk of flash floods. “The object of contract has thus not come to fruition. Srinagar is still at the risk of floods as it was before the initiation of dredging in 2015. It has proved to be wastage of public money and time,” he added.

“When it comes to safety of life and property of public at large, there must be no second thought but to execute the project effectively by or before the deadline. To have our own dredgers was a great visionary decision. Some incompetent officials fail to understand it,” he said.

The official, who had opposed the idea of outsourcing the dredging and later tightened the noose around the Kolkata based firm to complete the project on time, was surprisingly attacked.

“The honest officials were removed from the position where their honesty doesn’t suit some seniors. In brief, from outsourcing of dredging to selection of officials to monitor it, everything has only a bad picture to represent the authorities,” said an official.

Chief Engineer Irrigation and Flood Control department Muhammad Hanief Lone said “we have asked the firm to expedite dredging or face action.”

Source: Greater Kashmir

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