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Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Vishwamitri project: Opposition asks for tender rethink, utilisation of previous money spent on consultants

The VMC is yet to implement the order of the National Green Tribunal, passed earlier this year, directing the civic body to undertake specific planning and restoration of the river.

By: Express News Service | Ahmedabad |
Updated: July 31, 2021 9:49:48 pm
Vishwamitri rejuvination projectThe project was announced by Chief Minister Vijay Rupani in 2019, following heavy flooding in Vishwamitri in Vadodara district and city that year. (File)

The decision of the Vadodara Municipal Corporation’s Standing Committee on Friday to clear a proposal to award Rs 4.83-crore contract to a Bangalore-based consultation firm to prepare the Detailed Project Report (DPR) of the Vishwamitri Rejuvenation Project has attracted the ire of the opposition and environmentalists.

The VMC is yet to implement the order of the National Green Tribunal, passed earlier this year, directing the civic body to undertake specific planning and restoration of the river. Opposition leader Ami Ravat of the Congress has demanded that the VMC revises its tender to ensure that the two previous consultations done for the river at a cost of Rs 1.3 crore are used to avoid wastage of funds.

The proposal from the Futuristic Planning Cell of the VMC, placed before the Standing Committee on Friday, stated, “The tender process was initiated on March 12, 2020, and three consultancy firms expressed interest, of which two consultancy firms qualified. Their bids were received on October 26, 2020, and a Bangalore-based firm, which quoted a fee of Rs 4.83 crore was chosen over a Surat-based firm which had quoted Rs 5.76 crore.”

The project was announced by Chief Minister Vijay Rupani in 2019, following heavy flooding in Vishwamitri in Vadodara district and city that year.

In her letter, Ravat has pointed out that the VMC has previously prepared two project reports for the Vishwamitri project to be undertaken along the 19-km river course in the city and raised questions about the money spent on consultation firms without the project taking off on the ground.

“There is a fresh proposal again for the entire river course from Pavagadh to Khambat. If the intentions are genuine then it is a welcome step, but it seems like this entire DPR has been deliberately timed to avoid the implementation of the NGT orders within three months. The scope of work should be modified if the VMC has genuine intentions about the project. The VMC has paid almost Rs 1.3 crore to consultancy firms already to prepare project reports for the river within the VMC limits alone, the cross-sectioning was undertaken and soil testing was also carried out in the past along with other important basic aspects. Why should these be repeated again if it was already mapped for the 19-km stretch.”

Ravat has said that the VMC can use the available project reports for the 19 km stretch within the city in order to avoid duplication of work and reduce the tender cost accordingly. “In addition, the civic body has also given Rs 30 lakh for the design of a crocodile park previously. Another consultant was hired under the Smart City project for preparing a river rejuvenation plan. Deductions should be made for all the data that has already been prepared and the fresh consultancy should be handed out only for those parts that have not been surveyed before. The timeline for the payments shown is unrealistic and it would be impossible for the consultant to adhere to the same if an exhaustive study is done. The previous consultant took two years to study the 19 km stretch in detail,” Ravat, who has been part of committees to restore the Vishwamitri river, said.

Ravat has also demanded that the VMC should ideally have a separate River Development authority with multi-disciplinary experts to execute the process and avoid futile spending. The proposal will now be placed for deliberation before the General Board that will meet in August. The petitioners of the case heard by the NGT, Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, have already initiated a formal action to be taken against the VMC for non-compliance with the NGT order after red-flagging the civic body’s pre-monsoon cleaning activities along the river course, earlier in July.

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