Repeated missing of deadlines for projects aimed at treating 30% of sewage generated in Delhi calls for “examination of the decision-making process” within the Delhi Jal Board (DJB), the Yamuna Monitoring Committee has told the National Green Tribunal (NGT).
In a recent report to the Tribunal, the two-member committee formed by the NGT said the delay prompts the need for a “complete overhaul of internal oversight systems, and the present establishment does not seem to have the capability to do this effectively”.
It was referring to the delays caused in the Yamuna Action Plan-III (YAP-III) projects, which includes setting up sewage treatment plants at Rithala, Kondli and Okhla, and developing the Coronation Pillar STP, which account for a treatment capacity of 279 million gallons per day (MGD) or “30% of the total sewage generated in Delhi.
The Tribunal had directed the DJB to complete setting up STPs by December 2020, but the committee said in its report that the projects have continued to miss the timelines and are now expected to be completed between June 2021 and January 2023. “The Board does not have a strong project monitoring mechanism and no accountability is being assigned to the Project Management Consultants (PMC) — external consultants, paid from project funds — or construction agencies, who are bound under the terms of contract to achieve the milestones within prescribed timelines,” the report said.
It added, “Lockdown due to Covid-19 and paucity of resources were being repeatedly cited as responsible for revising timelines. The latter was not understandable as the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) had assigned project funds in advance.”
The committee stated that delays in the YAP-III projects were cited as cash flow constraints, faults on part of the contractor and delay in tree felling permissions. Tree felling permission to set up STPs under the project took 8-14 months, with some still pending approval with the Environment Minister, as per details shared by the forest department with the committee.
NMCG informed the committee that as of March 2020, it has released Rs 398.50 crore for the project, against which Rs 311 crore was used, assuring that it would continue to release funds in advance. “DJB, on its part, clarified that though there is a separate account for YAP-III projects, diversion for salaries, etc has been permitted in emergent situations. It has, however, been denied that there were any delays in release of funds to the contractor hampering his work,” the report said.The panel noted that funds should not be diverted from specific project budgets and NMCG should exercise tighter control on maintaining separate accounts for YAP-III projects.
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