The Salaulim Water Treatment Plant in Goa is the most visible face of the controversial Rs 1031 crore water and sewer upgradation project funded by the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) involving Louis Berger, a US-based consultancy firm that allegedly bribed officials to bag a project in the state. While the plant — which is Goa’s largest regional water supply project — is expected to provide water 24X7 to the entire south Goa, locals living close to the project claim that the “poorly planned” project does not even cater to villages within five kilometre radius of the project.
“The areas from which the water is being drawn are not being supplied water through the project and have to make do with tanker water during summers,” said Manoj Paryekar, social activist and former sarpanch of Walkini, a village close to the plant. The ambitious project has already seen a cost escalation from Rs 74 crore in 2007 to Rs 138.50 crore.
“The government is spending so much money on the project. There are seven panchayats and one municipality located in a 10 km radius of this project which will not get a drop of water. They will have to rely on tanker water. What is the use of such projects which do not help areas in which they are located,” said Subhash Phal Dessai, BJP MLA from Sanguem, where the project is located.
Dessai said that villages like Kurdi-Vaddem, Neturlim, Molkornem, Rivona and Cavrem-Pirla, which had given land for construction of a dam on the river 35 years ago would also not get any water from the project.
While officials at the project site said that the work would be over in two months, locals dismissed the claim, adding that work will take another one year to complete.
The project, which started in April 2011, was expected to be completed in the next 30 months.
“A lot of work remains to be done. The quality of work is also shoddy. The silt from the hillocks is seeping into the water making it turbid. The contractors are doing nothing to stop this soil from getting into the water,” said activist Manoday Fadte .
Interestingly, at the project site spread over two acres there was only one member from the Project Management Consultancy team to supervise the quality of work that was being undertaken.
While refusing to speak on record, officials of the Public Works Department and the Water Resources Department claimed that the government was working to address all the problems faced by the locals in the area. The state government had in September 2007 signed a contract with JICA to get a loan of Rs 847.50 crore to augment its water and sewerage system at the cost Rs 1031 crore.
The project was given to a joint venture of SMC and SPML Infrastructure and was being monitored by a Project Management Consultancy consortium headed by Louis Berger.
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